March 6, 2011

Collaboration Abounds: Savage Minds - Neuroanthropology - Middle Savagery

There's a lot of good stuff to check out lately in anthro/archaeo blogging world, that's for sure. The first stems from the idea that Rex at Savage Minds came up with a few weeks back: love letters to anthropology. Various people responded to this collaborative call--including Rex himself--and Daniel Lende put several of these together at Neuroanthropology. Definitely worth taking some time to read through...and think about how and why we're all doing this anthropology thing.

Next, Colleen Morgan posted a roundup of her "Blogging Archaeology" carnival, which is in anticipation of a session on blogging and archaeology at the 2011 SAA meetings in Sacramento (some of my friends are going to the SAAs this year, and they better go to this panel and tell me how things went). There are all kinds of reactions and opinions about the potentialities and drawbacks of using blogs as a communicative tool--or even a research tool. Some folks are more optimistic than others...but that the whole point. It's about discussion, connections, chucking ideas out there and seeing what happens.

Anyway, what I like best about this is that there are groups of people putting ideas together and making projects like this. These discussions take a form that is quite different from the presentation style of the usual "debate" in an academic journal (or even conference), in that they are bit looser, more informal, maybe a little less refined. I like these open conversations, since they show some of the process at work. Sometimes, when we're looking at finished ethnographies or archaeological monographs, it's not easy to see how the project went from the madness of fieldwork and research to the final version (which is cleaned up, edited, and presented in a very neat manner). Grace Krause from the MSU Campus Archaeology Program sums this up pretty nicely:
Much of the information and opinion expressed on blogs is transient and will never be formally published, but this does not mean there is no value in fast-paced reporting. Rather, blogging represents a missing link in the academic thought process that was rarely seen before the rising popularity of digital media. This is what is happening, this is what we’re thinking about right now as opposed to waiting months or years for an official publication, if it ever comes. Blog entries are Polaroid pictures of archaeological ideas, instant and unpolished, but nevertheless the perfect way to watch those ideas germinate and develop over time.
Maybe, after all, some of these types of discussions will make us all start rethinking the FINAL PRODUCTS as well. Who knows? What I like best of all is that I can wake up on a Sunday morning and check out what all of these people are thinking, writing, and exploring about anthropology and archaeology while I'm eating my cereal. Super cool.

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