Blogging the environment
John Waters’ recent radio comments about blogging and the Internet have been widely commented on in the Irish blogosphere. Twenty Major has the Newstalk interview here. Notwithstanding the fact that Waters’ tirade should be taken with a pinch of salt, and, unconsidered as it is, the interview did give us some food for thought, particularly in the context of science blogging. As a publishing medium, the internet has a low barrier to entry, meaning that at minimal cost millions of amateur historians and concerned amateur environmentalists have an ever growing public voice – and in some cases credible fora to widely disseminate ill-informed opinion or badly researched and sometimes eccentric ramblings. Thus cyber-sceptics like Waters have a wealth of examples to illustrate their notions of the ills of the internet.
The field of Archaeology has grown into a professional and respected science, but much popular archaeology on the internet is presented by amateurs. By way of an example, Archaeology online has a feature here on how Biblical Archaeologists need to fight back against the crackpots and ideologues:
“Noah’s Ark. The Ark of the Covenant. The Garden of Eden. Sodom and Gomorrah. The Exodus. The Lost Tomb of Jesus. All have been “found” in the last 10 years, including one within the past six months. The discoverers: a former SWAT team member; an investigator of ghosts, telepathy, and parapsychology; a filmmaker who calls himself “The Naked Archeologist”; and others, none of whom has any professional training in archeology….. ” (more here).
Closer to home we read that the M3 Tara-Skyrne road is part of a great Opus Dei led conspiracy to provide convenient access for the Pope on his visits to his Holy soldiers in their shadowy headquarters at Lismullen. Many, but not all, of the environmental blogs we come across while tag surfing on WordPress are either climate change/global warming diatribes or detractors of same casting doubt on the proponents of the theory (or interminable lists of the small things you can do to prevent global warming).
There is, of course, huge value in the continued dialogue between professionals and amateurs, and there is no doubt that there are a great many excellent, well-read and well-informed amateurs and respected scientists writing on the internet – but it’s not always easy to discern the sincere, informed amateurs from the con-men and vested interests.
This new media means that all professionals need to rethink the ways that they research, write about, and present our natural and cultural heritage. One of our principle goals with this blog is to disseminate the results of our work and to inform our stakeholders on archaeological and environmental issues and new knowledge. It presents a number of distinct challenges, however. One of principle challenges is in trying to present our research in detail without boring our growing readership. We recognise that, unlike a specialist magazine, many of our readers are not environmental scientists or archaeologists and we do hope to entertain as well as inform.
What we also hope to do on this blog and with other digital media in the future, is ensure that our work does not end up solely in the ‘gated communities’ of the online journals or multi-national media companies. We will continue to publish summary versions of our work and (on occasion) detailed reports and papers. We invite other colleagues, and interested and informed amateurs to publish suitable material here if they wish. We also welcome suggestions as to how we can improve this resource.
As professional archaeological & environmental consultants we need to do a better job of involving the public in what we do. We should be sharing our data using the new media as broadly as possible. That’s the best way to confound the sceptics and con-men.
There are a number of great blogs and articles on the subject of archaeology and the internet. We’ve listed a couple below.
And Dr. R. Scott Moore has some more good links on his ancient history ramblings blog