In 2014 a panel of 25 senior scholars developed an ambitious array of “grand challenges” for archaeology (PDF), the “most important scientific challenges” that the discipline could or should address. Their report published in American Antiquity includes a host of fascinating if astoundingly broad subjects that confidently aspire to structure how archaeologists frame a grand narrative for the archaeological past.
This month archaeology bloggers are examining the “grand challenges” in their own corners of the discipline, many of which are not addressed by the American Antiquity paper (see the hashtag #blogarch). Inevitably such an ambitious project cannot hope to address all the questions that matter to various scholars and public constituencies, so bloggers are suggesting some questions that remain outside the panel’s grand challenges.
Much of the NSF project was greeted by a chorus complaining that the respondents to the paper’s “crowd-sourced” online surveys was demographically problematic: 79% of the respondents were from the United States; two-thirds were age 50 or older; and 62% of the respondents were male. Observers dissatisfied with the grand challenges in the American Antiquity paper argued that the questions reflected the survey respondents and scholars who authored the final “big picture” research questions (compare Diggin’ It and SEAC Underground). Read the rest of this entry
Last week the House Science, Space and Technology Committee convened to debate the existence of alien life. This is perhaps a compelling scientific question (formally the hearing was titled “Astrobiology: Search for Biosignatures in our Solar System and Beyond?”). Nevertheless, the committee’s current membership has normally been reluctant to acknowledge any rigorous scientific insight that might upset their narrow personal visions of the world.
The subject of this month’s Blogging Carnival is the good and the bad of archaeological blogging, and they may both revolve around how blogs represent archaeology as a rigorous and creative science. On the one hand, a popular digital discourse can produce a richer, more compelling, and still-rigorous archaeological scholarship that can shape and interrogate concrete policy-making. On the other hand, the blogosphere admits some observers who are dismissive of scholarly rigor and eager to champion a shallow populist notion of science. Read the rest of this entry
Last week’s American Anthropological Association conference perhaps once more confirmed that archaeology is a thoroughly public scholarship as the halls resounded with scholars theorizing activism and leading calls for revolution: increasingly more of us celebrate collaborative work with descendant communities, indigenous peoples, and social collectives beyond the walls of the academy. The embrace of civic engagement and public scholarship reaches well beyond anthropological archaeology circles, with a host of scholars and universities committed to reaching beyond narrowly defined “pure” scholarship.
There are many reasons to celebrate public scholarship, but academic culture profoundly influences what passes as scholarship at conferences, in employment, in peer review, and for promotion and tenure. The Society for American Archaeology conference in April 2014 will include a Blogging in Archaeology session that almost certainly will illuminate the political implications of public archaeology scholarship in the blogosphere and beyond. In the months leading up to the conference Doug’s Archaeology is hosting a “blogging carnival” that will include archaeology bloggers addressing the same questions each month (posts can be followed on Twitter at #BlogArch).
This month’s question is why do archaeologists blog? The host of bloggers that have responded to Doug’s question so far have provided thoughtful answers that I would echo on many counts, but the question also raises a bigger set of issues. First, why is public archaeological scholarship not always accommodated by conventional scholarly discourse? The easy answer in university settings revolves around academics’ traditionally cherished peer-reviewed scholarship, which blogs and digital public scholarship aspire to expand. Second, what defines the disciplinary boundaries of “archaeology” at all? Bloggers violate many of the conventional definitions of archaeology as the objective material analysis of antiquity, part of a broad expansion of archaeology in contemporary scholarship. Finally, how do universities in particular and archaeological employers in general (e.g., cultural resource management, cultural heritage industry) view blogs and public scholarship? Read the rest of this entry