Tapping into the Wonders of the Internet

by Emily

Why start a public blog, allowing me to embarrass myself (or worse) in front of people who would otherwise never know of my existence?

Simply put, there are conversations I want to join and tools I want to learn to use. The DigiWriMo idea seems like a good way to get motivated, get company, and set goals. It is also a great opportunity to do my favorite thing: make lists.
Goals, ahead!

1) I hope to practice writing relatively short form pieces on topical issues, methods, and books. I hope to learn from the examples of my favorite group and individual blogs in anthropology and history like Savage Minds, Context and Variation, the US Intellectual History Blog, and active history.ca. Their authors’ thoughtful book reviews, discussions of teaching and public outreach, and pieces on issues of public interest reach across the particularities of subfields and show how academic thought and the “real world” are connected. This is a skill that, of course, I would like to develop.

2) I’d like a space to practice and discuss experimenting with new tools for visualization and outreach. In archaeology, digitally recording, analyzing, and visualizing data is a regular part of the research process, from georeferencing historic maps to GPS-based field collection to database creation and statistical analysis. Using GIS has gone from a specialization to a basic skill. Using digital and online programs to share is something you’re less likely to learn on a project or in class, at least in my experience so far.

Why does everyone love WordPress so much? What can we do with programs like Viewshare or Omeka to tell the stories of smaller sites? For example, what can I produce for the local historical society I work with to add to their website? (Last summer, working on an online exhibit using Google Sites and Viewshare taught me that learning curves always make things take longer than you expect – in fact, I’m still not finished. The more motivation to try, the better.)

3) There are great conversations going on over Twitter and various blogs about teaching, with people sharing their ideas, their successes, and their self-critiques. I would love to join by reporting and sharing my trials and results when I teach classes or work on public programs.

4) A couple of non-academic blogs I follow post frequent roundups of interesting links. These posts are usually among my favorites every week, and they introduce me to new sites, writers, and issues. I plan to do the same.

5) The volume of writing DigiWriMo requires will allow me to write some posts to keep waiting in the wings. I’ve been meaning to start a blog since last summer, but committing to write every few days, or writing extra posts for when I can’t, has been intimidating. I won’t be posting 1500 words a day because, first off, that’s more than anyone would want to read, and second, I’ll be accumulating some spare posts.

6) Dissertations require focus, but sometimes tangents are so interesting! I’m very concerned with class and labor issues in the US today, not only a century ago. I love reading a good work of medical anthropology, straight up ethnography, or even popular nonfiction that really resonates. I adore cooking and food history. I look forward to dipping my toes into other areas while…continuing to swim in the pool of historical archaeology? I don’t think that metaphor works.
Do you have any recommendations of people to read, tools to use, and practices to follow for a beginning blogger?