Colleen Morgan is getting ready for the SAA conference session on blogging. To open up the session to people beyond those who can get to the USA, she’s asking a series of questions to the world at large. Her first question is:
The emergence of the short form, or blog entry, is becoming a popular way to transmit a wide range of archaeological knowledge. What is the place of this conversation within academic, professional, and public discourse? Simply put, what can the short form do for archaeology?
This is a topic that’s being discussed elsewhere. At Ether Wave Propaganda (h/t Jonathan Dresner) Will Thomas notes that blog entries are creating extra interest in papers. At AoB Blog for Botany, we’re finding that the blog is increasing interest in articles. So what is it that helps?
First up there’s the simple act of telling people that there’s research out. This is why there isn’t just a blog for the Annals of Botany, there’s also a Facebook page and Twitter account. These aren’t replacing other methods of communication, they supplement them and they work.
Another issue is that there are serious academic concerns that can be aided with discussion that don’t belong in a journal. Exhibit one is Mick Morrisson’s post on a Digital Archaeology Workshop. Nearly every academic is going to have expertise that’s unique to their department that is also shared with other people around the world. A blog is a tool that can open discussion with colleagues around the world. I’m sure Mick could write up his blog post in long form with references and submit it to a subscription only journal with a readership that’s well over 100 people, but would the extra effort be worth the extra (or just different?) response?
Which leads me to the third point. Short form doesn’t apply to just blogging. It applies to comments as well. We’re used to the 20 minute talk at conferences. Social convention means you don’t hear 20 minute rambling replies at a conference unless the rambler is old and the original speaker is young. Even then the ability to reply without pause for breath, coherence or mercy doesn’t work. Likewise blogs also offer opportunities for short comments and if you see a long rambling reply with CAPITAL LETTERS
liberally sprinkled around, scroll on.
Blogging is written, so there’s a tendency to see it as a competitor for academic publication. Instead the short form means it can be more interactive and discursive. For an example follow the many links in Bora Zivkovic’s post Roosevelts on Toilets for discussion about what blogs can discuss and an example of an event becoming a matter of serious and passionate debate. Blogs are more a complement to conferences. Just as one conference doesn’t really preclude the existence of others, so too blogging is not going to replace any conferences. At least not till you can download alcohol and brief but embarrassing romantic encounters over the internet.
The trip to Durham midweek was fun. I went up to see Dr Peter Heslin, give his talk: “The Emperor’s New Sundial: Domitian and the So-Called Horologium Augusti”. The Horologium Augusti is something I’ve never really understood. It’s supposed to have been a massive sundial on the Campus Martius built by Augustus. The problem is I’ve never been able to find any useful details to see how it worked. It turns out that this is because despite the presence of many curly mathematical symbols, the proponent, Buchner, didn’t provide enough detail to explain it. The whole sundial was debunked in an entertaining way, but it did also raise the serious point that the peer-review system isn’t working as well as it should. If you have the chance to see the talk you should — it’s very good.
As for Durham itself, both the Classics and Archaeology departments were very friendly. There’s a lot of interesting people there and I’ll have to make a point of going back. My photos were a disaster though. I was tired and had the shakes. The cylinder above is the only good photo I got in two days.
I’ve been sent a Call for Papers for The International Conference on the Arts in Society. My initial feeling is to ask where else the Arts would be. I mention it as Theme 5 Audiences includes: Virutal audiences, blogs, cyber-art and performance. I was about to suggest that a panel of bloggers might be interesting. Then I saw the registration fees. Student registration is $377. I have no idea what the aim of the conference is, but a charge of $226 for “virtual registration” (i.e. you don’t actually go) would suggest that participating with society isn’t one of them.
Today is the first session of the SEAC conference. They started with a meet ‘n’ greet last night. I’m not there, I have work to do. This will be the first year in quite a while when there isn’t a new book published at the meeting. Normally the proceedings of a conference are refereed and then published two years later. However the 2003 conference was a micro-conference so the papers are getting bundled into the 2004 volume, which is due 2006. Readers who work in the sciences may find this hard to believe, but this is considered speedy.
So today I’ll probably be grouchy because I’m missing out on sites like the one below. It’s a Nuraghe a
Bronze Age tomb fortified dwelling. Not missing them so much that I’d actually pay to go to Sardinia though
Nuraghe Palmavera. Photo by Dave2002.
I put forward an abstract for this because I wanted to show the Faculty of Arts that I do appreciate the work they do. I thought I’d needed to do this as I’d rather forcefully given my opinion about the forthcoming Festival of Postgraduate Research. I thought I was able to offer a paper because I was told it was an interdisciplinary conference. With hindsight I should have asked which disciplines it was inter. It turned out to be a very English Literature based conference. My grasp of English Literature goes as far as alliteration. It’s on my exam certificate ‘E’ for English. So it could have gone very badly.
It actually went amazingly well.
I’m giving a paper tomorrow at 14:30 at De Montfort University. It’s called: Not all of us have Apple Macs: Inter-operability and web publishing for journals. The conference is Text and Context: Scholarly Editing in the 21st Century and is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.
What I’ll be talking about are the benefits and pitfalls of electronic publishing. There are three main strands. One will be that electronic papers need to meet web standards so people can read them. Second a web paper can be commented on in situ which is a useful academic thing to do. Finally Open Access is a Good Idea which aids scholarship. You can read the whole thing for yourself.
I’m also inviting you to take part.
The plan is to look at the live copy of the paper during the talk between 14:30 and 14:45 BST. If you get a comment up before then I’ll try and throw it into the audience for discussion. I cannot be certain that internet access will be available, but you can also take part in another way. It is possible that the conference proceedings will be published. If this is the case I’d like like to include the comments as part of the paper. By my reckoning if that happens then that makes you a co-author which you can add to your own publication list if publication happens. If you add a comment to the paper I’ll assume you’re aware of this.
I don’t know if the conference proceedings will be Open Access, though I throw down the challenge. Feel free to berate my naivety or applaud my god-like genius and agree with me, especially the latter.
Handshouse Studio have a site that’s worth looking at. They’re the people who designed the sand system for the NOVA documentary on Raising the Obelisk / Secrets of Lost Empires. I have to admit I wasn’t impressed by the documentary. I thought there was far too much faffing around and the experience of the workers seemed to be ignored. Luckily for me I saw the system in operation at the AIA conference in January and I was much more impressed. They had an excellent model which gave me much more confidence of the physics of how the system worked. Crucially, the people demonstrating were the people who designed the system and they did a much better job of it than the TV crew.
Their site also shows some of their other work including the Bushnell Turtle. It’s an excellent way to lose an afternoon when you should be working.
I managed to do the Newcastle conference in as a day-trip. It involved a 3:30 departure and I didn’t get back till 1:30 the following day, so technically it was only a 22 hour trip. Like last year it was a good event. Not one of the papers gave me the urge to yell “For Godssake step away from the lectern and stop stealing the oxygen!” Which is always a good thing. The hosts were as friendly as ever. I can’t recall anywhere that I’ve been to where I’ve thought the hosts unfriendly, but Newcastle strikes me as a department sited on a natural spring of hospitality. It’s probably right next to the other two springs which must provide the endless supply of red and white wine that they seem to have. The only disappointment was the relative absence of classicists giving papers this year. Fortunately the archaeologists and historians made up the shortfall without a noticeable drop in quality.
I’m off to Newcastle-upon-Tyne today for their Postgraduate Forum conference. I went last year and was slightly shocked to discover that I was the only person giving a talk who didn’t have some sort of Newcastle connection. I’m hoping this year that there’s a bit more enthusiasm from outside. The reason I’m returning is that I enjoyed last year’s event hugely. It’s a very friendly department. As a bonus there were no bad talks.