Jason Antrosio has composed a short report on the "Anthropology Blogosphere 2013 – Ecology of Online Anthropology". I appreciate his kind words about my work here, and love how he has connected the new media activity of many prominent anthropologists, the move to open access by Cultural Anthropology, and the increased activity of social media networks dedicated to connecting anthropologists. It really is an ecology with many niches for people to increase their engagement and connections across fields.
I've enjoyed reading your blog for awhile now as I like the anthropological take on genomic data. A post back in February ( http://johnhawks.net/weblog/reviews/neandertals/neandertal_dna/1000-geno... ) was accompanied by some of the more attractive bar plots I've seen (nice alpha, great fonts) -- can you divulge what software you used?
Thanks for the kind words!
These and most of my graphs are done with Mathematica. The fonts are in the PT Sans family, which are free from Google Fonts. The color scheme is stock. I composite almost all my graphs in Illustrator and in particular add nearly all the data labels that way, even though I could do them programmatically, I find it easier to just label by hand.
This post on heritability has some xy plots also from Mathematica:
Paul Krugman comments on how the growth in academic blogs in economics is a continuation of publication trends that long predate the World Wide Web: "Our blogs, ourselves".
First of all, policy-oriented research was never as centered on refereed journals as we liked to imagine. A lot of the discussion always took place via Federal Reserve and IMF working papers, and even reports from the research departments of investment banks. The rise and fall of Fed policy via targeting of aggregates, for example, was not a debate played out in the pages of the JPE and the QJE.
Second, even for more academic research, the journals ceased being a means of communication a long time ago – more than 20 years ago for sure. New research would be unveiled in seminars, circulated as NBER Working Papers, long before anything showed up in a journal. Whole literatures could flourish, mature, and grow decadent before the first article got properly published
It's a model worth examining, as Krugman notes the effect of blogs is to broaden the conversation to people who once were locked out of these conversations, but who are nevertheless affected by them.
Anthropologist Barbara J. King has begun a stint as a writer at the NPR science and culture blog, 13.7. In her introductory post, she gives a prècis of the field for the readers:
Anthropology asks some big questions about how this state of affairs emerged. How did Homo sapiens come to be the primate for whom social meaning-making is as natural as bipedal striding, technology making and communicating through endlessly inventive words and gestures? In what ways do we overlap with, and in what ways do we diverge from, other primates in this regard, indeed from other animals generally? How has our evolutionary journey been shaped by our interactions with the other animals who share our habitats, and who — in many cases — approach their lives as thinking, feeling beings in their own right?
Stephen T. Casper writes on "Why academics should blog", with an interesting historical perspective. Once upon a time, faculty clubs, dining facilities and pubs provided venues for young scholars to find mentorship and advance within an institution.
Those informal activities reduced over time, as scholarship within fields (particularly in the sciences) became more professionalized, the job market was nationalized, and -- most important -- women entered the academy in large numbers. Informal lunch tables full of men were the standard 50 years ago, but are fundamentally outside my faculty experience. It's not something I really have thought much about.
Increasingly, there were few facilities beyond the regular colloquium (cookies, tea, and coffee inclusive) where young faculty could engage with senior faculty within their university. The disciplines became bizarrely more disciplined. The reading groups within departments often found themselves short of faculty. Cross-disciplinary work became harder to maintain – especially as the universities began to adopt corporate models of scholarly production that quantified output in teaching, research, and grants.
In other words, academia became less like a calling and more like a job. By analogy, does that mean that blogging is the new calling?
Strategically, young scholars and scientists saw that it was in there best interest to look outside of universities to likeminded partners who could carry on the business of collaboration (which was often intellectually fulfilling even as it was productive in research, grant success and citation). In other words, further social pressures pushed colleagues apart. It became harder and harder to ask colleagues: “will you read this article” or “do you have time for lunch to discuss ideas.” Not that the answer was invariably no – it wasn’t. But because it had become evident that what most academics required was a ‘college of one’s own’ – yet the pressures of teaching, engagement and productivity within the university were headwinds against the formation of such a culture.
Signs point to yes.
Anyway, I think this is a perspective worth more thought. Aside from my graduate students, I spend vastly more time and effort mentoring friends and junior colleagues at other institutions than at my own. Anthropology is a national market, and my close academic friends are everywhere. Even my close friends outside anthropology are everywhere, many of them in the science blogging community, but others in more traditional academic roles. Online communication has given me a vastly richer network of academic interactions.
Scicurious has written a very nice howto giving concrete advice about blogging a conference: "How To Blog a Conference". Lots and lots of good ideas and advice in her post. I admire anyone with the discipline to take notes and do interviews at a conference. It's all I can do to keep up with the schmoozing.
But I would say that the process Sci followed is an excellent strategy for networking and training yourself as an effective communicator of your own science.
Recently Jay Rosen tweeted (via Storify):
8. Instead of the readers, the viewers, the listeners or the audience, call them "the users." This helps correct the imagination. #media140
This gave me an idea, and I went to my server logs to confirm it. I now have more people using my bibliography and following the bibliography feed than are reading all but my most popular posts. Most of the bibliography users are regular return visitors. The pattern contrasts with the highly-read posts (like the gay caveman post, for example) which are widely linked and found by many first-time visitors to the blog.
It is very interesting how a deep site can accrue many different layers of users. I have many long-time readers who follow feeds to particular topics, others who hit the main page twice a day to see if anything's new. Consistently, the "Neandertal DNA" topic runs near the top of my access list, but it is rarely linked or found by new visitors, nor is the feed followed by that many regular readers. Instead, I suspect that much of the interest in this topic comes from college and high school students who find my site and use the topic entry as a way to research reports.
Multiple layers of users. My content goes back 7 years here, and every day people find posts from the first days of the site right up to now. This could be easier, and maximizing the utility of the site for the users is a huge ongoing challenge.
On the topic of the archaeology of South Asia, I want to point readers to Sheila Mishra's blog. She has picked up a number of topics of recent interest, including the earlier Acheulean dates by Pappu and colleagues, the comparison of terminology for Stone Age sites in India versus other regions and the issue of continuity between Acheulean and Middle Paleolithic within South Asia. It's a brief and nicely-referenced source of information and I look forward to seeing more.
Following up on Nicolas Laracuente's Storify collections of tweets from the SAA meetings, I wanted to point to his compilation from the Blogging Archaeology session. It was a great session, organized by Colleen Morgan, and covering a whole range of activities from outreach, documentation, and academic research using social media and blogs.
I spoke last night at a session of a class on science communication. It's interesting just how much blogging and other social media have begun to form a seamless set of approaches, capable of bringing people into the world of science. To see this conversation happening at mainstream (and let's face it, kind of crusty) scientific conferences is pretty energizing.
I may have more to say about the Blogging Archaeology session, but at the moment I'm sunken under a pile of pending projects.