November 21, 2010

Academic Blogging in Anthropology

Many scientists have realized that public outreach is imperative if we want to continue our research. After all, taxpayer dollars fund things like the National Science Foundation (which funded the majority of my dissertation research on migration to Imperial Rome), and the public at large wants to know what we do in our windowless labs all day. This week, I came across two different pieces on the topic - a link to a Nature article (via John Hawks' blog) and this year's keynote AAA talk by archaeologist Jeremy Sabloff, which I attended on Friday evening.

Sabloff entreated everyone to engage in more public outreach, pointing out that anthropology has no go-to public face, no academic or academics routinely asked to comment on newsworthy items. He further noted that many of us are doing a kind of outreach by blogging or tweeting about our research and our life in academe, which helps take us out of the ivory tower a bit. But these sorts of public, written expression tend to be looked down upon and can even hurt a tenure case. Sabloff wants those who are willing to step up and become a more public face of anthropology - and thinks that there should be some change within the discipline so that writing a blog, for example, is seen as public outreach and so that public outreach is seen as one of the many contributions an anthropologist can make, not just research and publication, which tend to form a significant chunk of a tenure case. Sabloff quoted Jim Peacock, a distinguished professor in my department at UNC and past president of the AAAs, who had previously noted that, rather than sticking to the adage, "publish or perish," we need to reconceive it as "public or perish."

And there you have it - I watch and review Bones so that one day I might be tenured faculty. That's where Sabloff was going with his comments, right?


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