Like Lazarus? Big changes and a potential resurrection for the blog..

Just when I was thinking I had probably said goodbye to the blog, life changed in a good way.

I’ve just accepted a two-year Post Doctoral Research post.

At Durham.

This obviously means some big changes. Not least of which will be me moving long distance, again. For the start of November. But this time, M might come with me (but not to start off with). So we might totally decamp from Southampton, where we have lived since 1999. It’s odd, in all my recent wanderings I have somehow felt safer because there was always that home to come back to. So though this time I won’t be changing countries, it feels just as scary as moving abroad.

But also not: I was born in Middlesbrough and lived there ’till I was 8, so in some ways I will be going home. I am so excited about being able to share that landscape with M: he’s only visited twice before when we have gone up to see family there. He doesn’t know the Dales, or the Moors… but he soon will.

The project is really exciting, it’s a Leverhulme funded investigation of the landscape archaeology of the Great Depression in North East England. It has everything I love: innovative use of GIS, social archaeology and landscapes, politics and identity. I really feel like it is a return to my roots, to the work I was so proud of doing at Greenham and a chance to really find my voice again. The PI is an academic that blogs, Dr David Petts. He also tweets, and there is going to be a ‘public’ side to the project, though the exact shape of things is yet to be determined.

So unlike Crete and my more recent commercial activities, I will be doing things I can and probably should talk about here! I am so excited, and I already have a reading list a mile long, especially for the public archaeology side of things as that’s an area I know I need to catch up on in terms of recent thinking and practice.

So more soon, in my now long established blend of personal, geekery and academic(ish) ramblings…  In the meantime expect a lot of #packingdread type tweets… and lots of househunting and moving information requests…

Blogging Archaeology: My Best and Worst

I missed the boat with January’s question from Doug, but I am going to answer it quickly anyway, because it made me think.

What are your best (or if you want your worst) post(s) and why? Compare and contrast your different bests/worsts.

My ‘best’ post in terms of pageviews is this one:

https://girlwithtrowel.wordpress.com/2008/03/31/stonehenge-excavations/ which is related to my only brush with the media frenzy, and is also the first and only time I have worked under a press embargo. When I was finally allowed to tell everyone what I had been up to, my blog was linked by the discovery channel, which generated a lot of hits very fast, and no single post has beaten that one.

My ‘best’ in terms of comments is this one:

https://girlwithtrowel.wordpress.com/2011/06/28/bunnygate-my-two-pennies-worth/ which isn’t surprising because it was my clumsy attempt at voicing an opinion on a temporarily hot topic. My blog doesn’t really generate a lot of comments, which is fine, it’s not why I write.

My favourite posts are these two:

https://girlwithtrowel.wordpress.com/2011/03/29/childhood-books-prehistory-and-place/

https://girlwithtrowel.wordpress.com/2010/07/30/peat-poets-and-pollen/

because my writing here is about different things than my day job, it’s a space to explore this more woolly stuff. The responses I got to the post about books and places were helpful to me in understanding my own position, but they certainly aren’t my ‘best’ blogs by the usual metrics. I am proud of them though, of my writing, of the chance to talk in the first person for a change and to explore my standpoint and worldview a bit. I think this is still sadly missing from mainstream academic practice, something I also wrote about here:

https://girlwithtrowel.wordpress.com/2008/02/20/lost-voices/

My ‘worst’ blogs? Well there are plenty that have no comments, plenty that have no, or not many views. But like I said, I don’t blog for the metrics. I write as a way of writing myself, and to share personal and professional news and thoughts with friends and colleagues. My ‘worst’ blogs are ones like the one I am putting off writing at the moment, where I feel I have to apologise for hiding from things for a while so me and my brain can figure some stuff out. So, I’ve been hiding since New Year, and should have written this at least 2 weeks ago (sorry Doug!) but I’ve been focused on getting to work, and working out what happens next with my life (still don’t have a clue, sorry Mum!) once the post-doc ends…. For those reasons I am probably not going to manage to answer the February ‘question’, but I hope to be firing on all cylinders again by the time March comes around.

Blogging Archaeology: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

Yet again I am sneaking in just before the end of the month with my response to the December questions raised by Doug for the Blogging Archaeology carnival leading up to the SAA meeting next year. Here is Doug’s prompt for the month:

The Good- what has been good about blogging. I know some people in their ‘why blogging’ posts mentioned creating networks and getting asked to talk on a subject. But take this to the next level, anything and everything positive about blogging, share your stories. You could even share what you hope blogging will do for you in the future.

The Bad- lots of people mention it feels like talking to brick wall sometimes when you blog. No one comments on posts or very few people do. What are your disappointments with blogging? What are your frustrations? What do you hate about blogging? What would you like to see changed about blogging?

The Ugly- I know Chris at RAS will mention the time he got fired for blogging about archaeology. It is your worst experiences with blogging- trolls, getting fired, etc.

My reply:

The Good: This is a hard one to answer. This blog doesn’t generate a lot of comments or discussion, and it hasn’t ever led to a speaking gig or being asked to participate in something. It does give me a non-academic space to play with some ideas, a little corner to rant into when I feel like I am hitting a brick wall, and somewhere I can show off all my cool fieldwork pictures. Because, let’s face it, who doesn’t want to do that? I think the best moments for me have been when I have posted something personal or hard to articulate and got even just one reply that agrees with me, or encourages me. It helps knowing there are internet denizens out there who share my love of prehistory who also see links to their childhood reading, or who get how frustrating it can be to be pigeonholed as a methods or hard science person that doesn’t have anything useful to say about people in the past… I think as well that I wouldn’t tweet if I didn’t blog, and that twitter is by and large a wonderful place, where I get support, encouragement and random technical assistance from people all over the world that I wouldn’t otherwise ‘know’.

The Bad: Knowing where to draw the lines. This has always been a much more personal space than a professional one, but I am increasingly aware that prospective employers might look at it when considering me for roles. I’ve thought that perhaps it just should quietly disappear someday… I never know how much of myself I feel safe putting here. I’ve alluded in the past that I struggle a bit with mental health stuff at times, and that the blog tends to go quiet at those times because all I want to do is pour out all of the stuff… but that wouldn’t really be OK. I also struggle a bit with expressing my ideas here in a wider sense. I sometimes come back from conferences both elated and inspired but also deeply concerned with the future of what it is that we, as a discipline, do. But I’m early in my career (if indeed I ever develop one!) and I don’t want to put anyone’s nose out of joint. I wish I could be my bolshy 15 year old self at times, and demand that the world takes me as is, but at some point I got nervous about that.

The Ugly: Blogging can be a difficult place for archaeologists – horror stories about loony commenters with axes to grind, ancient aliens nuts, druids…. thankfully I’ve never had to deal with that, perhaps because I don’t seek to have any sort of ‘authoritative’ voice on here. I’ve also largely avoided the problems a lot of women seem to encounter… the only ugly moments have been realising when posting about feminism, that some of my friends are less than enlightened, which is a painful truth. Work seem blissfully ignorant of social media in general, which I actually think is a pity – I’ve tried to drum up interest for things like the Day of Archaeology, or using blogs as teaching tools, to be largely met with bemused looks. I know my students have found this by googling me, and that’s kinda cool, even if it contributes to the feeling of the need for self-editing mentioned above. So I think I get off pretty damned lucky on this front.

 

Blogging Archaeology: why on earth?

First of all, updatelet: I headed off to Italy in mid-September and was there until the start of November, and then I went to the UK for 2 weeks to have a bit of a rest. At some point soon there will be a huge #project52 update with fieldwork photos and stories. But for now, I need to write a short post if I am going to manage to join in an archaeology blogging carnival that Doug over at Doug’s Archaeology is organising ahead of the SAA meeting this year. Now there is no way I can get to SAA, but I can contribute to the session on blogging in archaeology by joining in here.

First up: as usual, a disclaimer. I’m not sure this is an archaeology blog. I didn’t set out to do that; it’s more that this is my blog, and that archaeology is a big part of me.

So! On with the November questions, before December arrives.

Why blogging? – Why did you, or if it was a group- the group, start a blog? 

I’ve rambled at length on here about why I got into archaeology, but not really in detail about how and why the blog got started. I did my MSc in Computing and Archaeology at Southampton, alongside my good friend and avid blogger Cas. At the time, she was a very active blogger and had a rich community of people hanging about on her site, talking about all sorts of things. I went to Italy at the end of my Masters to work on my first ever commercial geophysics project, and started using Flickr to share pictures with friends and family while I was gone. At the time, I used email to stay in touch and send out links to the pictures, but realised that a blog would be a much better place to do that. I think this is why this has never felt like an ‘academic’ blog. I mean, there have been times when I’ve commented on a current issue or talked a bit more in depth about my work, but essentially this is just me rambling at the universe, with mostly my Mum listening.

I think my tweets (especially when on fieldwork) and my flickr page are a bit more archaeology focused than the blog.

Why are you still blogging?

Looking back in the archives (eyes right people), I’ve been doing this since about this time in 2006. Ironically, I’d just arrived back from almost 2 months in Italy then too! I think my reasons remain the same: to have a place to dump my thoughts, to share what I am up to with friends and family, to reach out and talk to people I studied with or was taught by. When I started I was about to spend 3 years doing a PhD in a different city, living away during the week. Almost 3 years ago I moved to the Netherlands for a post doc, for at least 3 years, and the blog became even more important. I go through phases of writing almost compulsively, and phases where I don’t feel like I have anything much to stay, but I think one way or another the blog is going to keep going. I’m hoping that taking part in the carnival will give me some topics to focus in on, and to be more confident about writing about archaeology, especially when it comes to explaining my own ideas.