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.Google+