Responding here to another of Colleen Morgan's queries about archaeological blogging, leading up to the SAA session in a few weeks (a few weeks? wow, I'd better get to work...). This week's question is about the risks and consequences of blogging.
Putting one's ideas out in public is always risky. I'm a tenured full professor, and I'm pretty secure about my abilities and contributions. I don't have many of the worries and risks that students, junior scholars, and others may face. I often shoot from the hip on this blog, and when I say stupid things, sometimes I get called on it. That's fine with me. But younger and more vulnerable archaeologists often think twice about making public statements that aren't fully insulated with academic context (that is, conference papers, journal articles, etc.). I can't seem to get my students and colleagues to contribute to my project blog about Calixtlahuaca, which in turn reduces my own contributions, since I view it as a PROJECT blog, not as a personal blog. The end result is a somewhat desultory entity that I'm not too proud of.
Or to take another example, many of the more interesting comments on this blog are posted by "Anonymous," who is either a busy person, or a bunch of different people. I guess some folks do not want to risk exposing their identities, even on something as transitory and trivial as a blog comment. Perhaps some of these people are students in a politicized department, or perhaps they are just busy professionals who don't want to spend the time to register for comments.
There are some very real risks to blogging from agencies and governments that are responsible for funding and overseeing archaeological research. And to prove my point that these are real risks, I will say that I don't feel comfortable talking about this issue in public. Sorry, but transparency only goes so far. Wow, this is starting to sound like a redacted text.
Here is another kind of risk. I finally started a blog that deals with my research on comparative urbanism. My goal is to promote a comparative, historical approach to cities and urban phenomena, and I think this will interest various people. This isn't a single academic discipline, though, and I can't predict much about the size or nature of the audience. Maybe nobody will care about this stuff. Maybe I will be sorely disappointed that my work in this area, which I consider interesting and important, is just not something that others want to hear about. In this case the very fact of starting that blog is something of a risk for me.
As for unexpected consequences, one things stand out. When I started Publishing Archaeology, I focused pretty heavily on open access issues. I was very pleased when Steven Harnad and Peter Suber, my two heroes of the open access movement, both commented on my posts. Harnad has continued to post comments occasionally, usually to set me straight when I say something bone-headed about open access.