Yesterday I was invited by Doug’s Archaeology to take part in an archaeology blogging carnival in advance of the “Blogging Archaeology” session at the Society for American Archaeology (SAA) conference held in April 2014. Each month leading up to the conference, Doug will pose a question for participants to discuss on their own blogs. These individual posts will then be compiled at the end of each month on Doug’s blog.

This month’s question is twofold:
(1) Why blogging? – Why did you, or if it was a group- the group, start a blog?
(2) Why are you still blogging?

(1) Well, I originally signed up for a WordPress blog in 2009 but didn’t start posting anything until nearly three years later. In 2009 I was still trying to finish up a PhD that had dragged on far longer than I’d originally planned. Between the PhD and field work opportunities unrelated to my dissertation that I nevertheless found difficult to say no to (bills needed to be paid), I never found the time or the motivation. In the months leading up to my PhD submission date I was so sick of looking at my thesis and academia in general I imagined I wouldn’t want to think about anthropology/archaeology for a good long time afterwards. Once the thesis was submitted, however, a strange thing happened. Freed from the centripetal force of my dissertation I began exploring the vast array of archaeology and anthropology blogs that had proliferated on the web in the years since I’d last been paying attention. I was impressed -and a bit intimidated- by the variety of topics covered and the quality of many of the blogs I encountered. I soon found myself re-engaged with many of the wider issues that first inspired me to become an anthropologist in the first place. It was then that I decided to start doing something with my long-dormant blog.

At the time, however, there already existed a number of excellent bioarchaeology blogs that enthusiastically covered the discipline (Powered by Osteons and Bones Don’t Lie, for example) and I wasn’t sure I could add anything new to the conversation. Rather than attempting to cover all aspects of bioarchaeology, I ultimately set myself the more modest goal of focusing on my own particular research interests and activities in the field.

(2) Ideally, I wanted my blog to be a place to develop ideas surrounding my own research interests in a less restrictive (i.e. non-academic) environment and also in a way that’s accessible to the public. In practice, however, many of my posts from the field are simply brief updates on the week’s activity. I’ve used a few of my posts as the basis for conference presentations that will ultimately lead to publications and larger research projects, but it’s not always easy finding the time and inspiration to write, especially in the off-season when there is less happening and the obligations of everyday life intrude. I’m envious of the ability of other archaeology bloggers to post so regularly and write so well. It seems to take me forever to put my posts together and some days I find getting anything written at all is like pulling teeth!

Learning to write for non-specialists is an undervalued skill in academia but a new generation of open-access, digital archaeologists is helping to change this attitude. I’ve always enjoyed sharing the work we do as archaeologists with the public, whether it be through open-day site tours, or day school lectures. Blogging is simply an extension of this inclusive ethos. As the son of two working-class parents, neither of whom finished high school, I’m proud of what I do and the opportunities for travel and cultural exchange my profession has afforded me (I’m certainly not in it for the money!). As such, I’d be lying if I didn’t also acknowledge the ego-rewarding aspects of blogging and the potential career benefits a public presence on the web can provide.