14 December, 2013

Blog Carnival ; What is the good, the bad, and the Ugly of Blogging?

Over at his Archaeology Blog, Doug has posted the fantastic response to Why Blog Archaeology? He has also posed the latest question for the Blogging Archaeology at the 2014 SAA Conference Blog Carnival - What is the Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Blogging Archaeology?
The Good and the Bad form a nice clear dialectic, for the path of blogger has both yin and yang; it has satisfied my desire to express myself; however, this  has also become a burden, a duty, and a source of guilt. Blogging has empowered me, but with power has come responsibility; while blogging may be free, it is also by the same token valueless. It is seen as something light and transient, but its presence may be permanent and its effects long lasting.
As for the Ugly - it is rather lost without the Beautiful, rendering the question a little unbalanced, as one of the ancients put it;

When people see some things as beautiful, other things become ugly.
When people see some things as good, other things become bad.
Being and non-being create each other. Difficult and easy support each other. 
Long and short define each other. High and low depend on each other. 
Before and after follow each other. Therefore . . .  .
Extract from Chapter II, Tao te chingLao-Tzu, c. C6th – C4th bce[1] 
This is one of my favourite pieces of writing from the Late Iron Age, and like some other survivals from that period, it is remarkably profound, and reflects a strand of human culture that is concerned with nature of reality, in a philosophical, and not necessarily in a religious sense. 
It also admirably sums up the nature of the conflict between objectivity and subjectivity, a fight I am still engaged in two and half millennia later, and the primary reason I blog archaeology.  
What is neither good, nor even bad, but most certainly ugly, are my cartoons and satirical assaults on the faith based narrative that I experienced at Newcastle University.

The Ugly

As previously explained, this archaeology is blogged because I feel was blackballed by Dr Jane Webster of Newcastle University, losing my money, along with any prospect of academic publication and teaching as a future.  
This is the ugly side of blogging; warning people not to make the same mistake as I did. 
I was a grownup who had worked as professional archaeologist, and had done twenty years of preparatory research; I would not let my children go there, or wish anyone else anyone to waste their money or risk being stabbed in the back in its grotty soulless corridors. 
Badly drawn cartoons about badly drawn mental images 
I reached the conclusion that because many academics’ only experience of real archaeology was on training excavations as students, they tend to study things that archaeologists don’t find and not real data.
While the Tao [above] is evidence of genuine Iron Age cosmology, in Universities like Newcastle academics have decided to invent their own and project them onto prehistoric people and their archaeological remains. The notion of prehistoric cosmologies in this context is as real a hagiography of Santa Claus; ironically, for a School of Historical Studies, the Renaissance seemed to have passed them by. 
My connection with the North East arises in part arose in part from my father coming to Newcastle University to study Engineering because they did require Latin; 60 years later their School of Historical Studies still teach Latin can’t get their head around even simple engineering.
All very symmetrical, and illustrative of the wider decline of region, which historians might remember was the birth place of modern engineering, now a terrible place to study archaeology  - but a great place to get drunk. 

Real v Imaginary Archaeology
Blogging is one of the challenges to the traditional role [or perception] of Universities as the sole gatekeepers and merchandisers of knowledge; it has disturbed the established hierarchy of information.  With some long term planning blogs can become quite distinct little islands in the sea of information; try googling “Geoff Archaeology” “Hadrian’s Timber Wall”, or “Stonehenge roof”; or even “Don’t study archaeology at Newcastle”. 

I took this photo from a tower crane in 1986; it is the south side of my Culver St site in Colchester Town Centre following the excavation phase; the inside of Roman Town Wall forms the limit of the excavation at the top of the picture.  It was excavated By Colchester Archaeological Trust, and I had supervised several of the sites here, and this was a watching brief [!].

I have taken the trouble over 20 years to acquaint myself with a wide range of subjects to help me better understand the archaeological data I was responsible for. While I would not question peoples’ ability to read like an archaeologist, I believe the real trick is to learn to think like an archaeologist, and TSA is an approach to certain types archaeological data, - it does not work on text. 
Fortuitously, the comprehension of engineering and the notion that the physical evidence of buildings can be understood by the application of simple maths and mechanics is shared by colleagues in America, who realised this approach could be equally well applied to their own structural evidence.  
Real archaeologists know they destroy and transform those traces past they touch, and that what remains will be a reflection of whether their practice is good, bad or ugly

[1] From a translation by S. Mitchell 


dustbubble said...

More prehistoric cosmology:-
"When we pick up one end of the stick, we pick up the other."
Bet that one's been around since H.erectus at least.

Geoff Carter said...

Hi -, Good to hear from you; certainly been around since the dead discovered they don't bury themselves.

I guess here in Britain we are just lucky that our Prehistoric cosmologies were preserved in the archaeology, it must due to the brilliance of our academics; it is ashame we don't yet know about prehistoric songs, music and dance - but I'm sure it's only a matter of time....