Sunday, March 30, 2014

Space Age Archaeology and the future: do I know where I'm going?

Not so long ago, I mused about my last ten years writing Space Age Archaeology. Today, in response to a question posed by Doug Rocks-Macqueen, I'm thinking about the future. What's my vision for the blog?

To be honest, I don't have a plan, and I've never really had one beyond each post. The future consists of the nebulous ideas and lists in my head of things I want to write about. Sometimes I think I should get some professional advice about design and marketing, and then I think it's all too much effort. I don't want to take over the world. It seems enough to have a place where I can write about my ideas with some sense of occasionally reaching other people who are interested, and where I am answerable to no-one but myself.

But maybe there will be outside constraints in the future. As we know, the academic world is now starting to take an interest in social media as a measure of impact. Once upon a time, blogging was a distraction from the main game, a frivolous pastime, and really rather suspect, almost indicative of a personal failing. These views always surprised me when I heard them reported - thankfully no-one has ever expressed them to my face! Now, there's lots of talk about academics being required to engage with the public/community through these avenues, and even more sinister hints of it becoming enforced and monitored.

Now I'm all for communication, obviously, but I don't know how I'd feel about having to meet someone else's expectations, or about the university scrutinising my fluid and organic meanderings around the online world. I think I would NOT LIKE IT AT ALL. I'm not doing this to jump through someone else's hoops.

On the other hand, it's nice to think that an activity I do mainly for pleasure may count in the mad scramble to punt something through the ever-changing goalposts of the academic world.

A couple of years ago, when I was reading around the area of archaeological blogging to prepare a paper for the first ever Digital Humanities Australasia conference, I found that no-one had really studied or written about individual archaeology bloggers. (This may have changed since). Almost all of the papers I came across dealt with institutional blogs based around a university department, a museum, or a project. To date I've seen nothing concrete about how the higher-ups in university administration and policy imagine academic engagement with social media, and I'd be surprised if a great many of them were actively engaged in the Versosphere themselves (I just made that word up - TwitterVERSE + blogOSPHERE. Naturally, it includes everything else). So it's important, I think, to have some data not just about the group blogs but also the individuals.

I also learnt recently, thanks to Noel Hidalgo Tan over at the South East Asian Archaeology Newsblog, that mine is a 'personality-based blog'. I'm not promoting a particular research project, or an organisation, or serving an identified community, so there are no mission statements or policies or performance indicators to consider. (Oh! The freedom!). Perhaps this makes it harder to have a clear vision of where the blog is going. And perhaps it means I don't really need one, either.

One thing is startlingly clear to me, though: we're not in it for the money.

*pours another cup of quince tea*