blog carnival/SAA session on Blogging Archaeology due to maternity leave, but I wanted to jump in and answer December's prompt before the year is out. Doug asks us this month to discuss the good, the bad, and the ugly about blogging. Having written a blog for over a decade (although PbO in its current incarnation is only about three years old), I can honestly say that the positives far outweigh the negatives. So let's start with them...
The most immediate and lucrative rewards for me have been related to my job. But first, a bit about how this blog began... Although I've been using social media as a platform for my ideas for many years, Powered by Osteons really took off with my "Gay Caveman! ZOMFG!" post in spring of 2011. This post was linked to by John Hawks and was StumbledUpon, tweeted, and Facebooked. As a result, I got a call from CNN seeking a comment for a news story. I was terrified--it was the first time anyone had been interested in my professional opinion (outside of peer review), and I freaked out a bit, dipping into my impostor syndrome fears, but ultimately gave the interview. This minor celebrity happened to fall right before the national physical anthropology meetings, so suddenly people knew my name and started introducing themselves. That's when I decided to keep up the momentum, writing new posts accessible by the public, giving interviews to trusted science reporters, and reviewing Bones to capture another audience.
Without belaboring the point, this sort of notoriety has greatly helped my job. Interest in my posts has generated interest in my publications, and vice versa. Several of my posts here have been cited in peer-reviewed publications, which tells me my colleagues find value in my blogging. My version of outreach is appreciated by my university, which has a large public archaeology program. Social media has even led directly to benefits such as: inclusion in Open Lab (which I plan to count as a publication for tenure purposes), a position writing for Science Uncovered, trips to several countries and US cities to give public talks about my work, research money through crowdfunding, good relationships with science journalists willing to cover my research, and the creation of a social-professional network that cross-cuts various academic disciplines.
That said, I am worried about the uglier aspects of use and abuse of social media. Just the other day, the Board of Regents at the University of Kansas severely curtailed the ability of its professors to use social media to speak their minds. This seems to have been in response to a particularly caustic and tasteless tweet a UK professor fired off in September. That is not the way I use social media (for this very reason), but I don't want to lose my job simply because I blog. What if my post on crucifixion is deemed controversial? Or my criticisms of maternity leave in this country irritate my university administration? I try to use social media as a professional, but I also blog without regard to the fact that I don't have tenure. I stand by my blogging and other outreach endeavors, and I'm not interested in living in fear of professional repercussions.
I'm looking forward to next month's prompt, and to being a little more coherent when I'm back at work and not typing in the dark while my three-month-old sleeps in the crib next to me.