Pic: Image credit goes to Iva Says
The other day I was awake far too early, sitting on the couch with a cup of coffee and trying to wake my brain and body up for what was going to be a very hot fieldwork day (I can confirm it ended up being an extraordinarily sweaty day). As is my morning routine, I was browsing the Twitter news on my phone when suddenly a notification popped up from the legendary Alex Fitzpatrick of Animal Archaeology
Humbled to be included amongst some very fine company, Alex has nominated Bones, Stones, and Books for the Sunshine Blogger Awards (2018)! This really does feel like a big honour! I love to write and have been told since I was a kid (seriously – I’ve been writing stories since grade 2) that I’m a talented writer. Through this blog I decided to use my skills in a way that would hopefully benefit others – by sharing information and advice and opening up archaeology to the public – and to be recognized for that is a really special feeling.
The Sunshine Blogger Awards are really cool – they work on a pay-it-forward community system, in which once you’re nominated you then nominate other bloggers whose writing you find interesting, inspiring, positive, informative, etc. Anyone whose work you believe should be shared with the world! When you’re nominated you have to write a blog post mentioning your nominator (the one and only Alex Fitzpatrick), listing the rules of the awards (which you’re currently reading), answer a list of questions from your nominator, nominate 11 other bloggers, and come up with a list of 11 questions to pass on. You also need to include the Sunshine Blogger Award logo as either your featured image or somewhere within the blog post. There is no specific logo, a Google Search will give you many different options to choose from. So, without further ado, let me answer the questions Alex put forth (in my characteristically wordy manner, no doubt):
What are the main aims for your particular blog?
I’ve got pretty broad goals with my blog. And I swear every week a new goal pops up. As of right now, my goals are:
- Open up the hidden curriculum behind being an archaeology student/early career archaeologist (I’m a First-Gen everything, so I want to share everything I’ve learned along the way to try to help others like me who might be struggling to find their path through the academic and early career forests)
- Open up archaeology to non-archaeologists who want to know more about it and to demonstrate just how much you can do with archaeology, from aiding to climate change studies/policies to examining pop culture to using scientific instruments to study tiny little objects.
- Showcase myself – my skills, my knowledge, my interests, in the hopes they lead to wonderful professional opportunities!
Why choose blogging as your form of communication?
I can’t stand the paywall – the structures in place that keep archaeology largely behind closed doors. Not only from non-archaeologists, but from archaeologists as well (e.g. I don’t work in academia which severely limits my access to current research articles). Because a lot of my archaeological interests involve public perception of archaeology/archaeologists (e.g. archaeologists in pop culture, pseudoarchaeology), I see a lot of problems coming up as a result of the paywall. For me, blogging is one way to work around the paywall and bring archaeology/archaeologists to the public. Honestly, I could write on my blog the exact same thing I could write in an academic article. The pro of writing it on my blog instead is that it would be far more accessible. I’m working on prepping a research publication right now, but even for that I’ve chosen a journal that is much more like a blog rather than a “traditional” academic journal.
What is one positive thing that has come from blogging?
My goal of helping break down the hidden curriculum is being achieved! I’ve lost track of the private (and public) messages I’ve received from archaeology students, early career archaeologists, and even students/ECRs in non-archaeology fields who have told me that my unsolicited advice posts have really helped them out. It’s an incredibly uplifting feeling to hear that I’ve been able to make a positive impact on others.
…and, what is one negative thing?
Being a woman on the internet involves calculated risks every. single. post. I don’t hide the fact I’m a woman; in fact I’m usually pretty loud about it because I want to raise awareness for equity and equality for women. But in doing so I’m also opening myself up to the very sexist, gendered attacks I shout about putting an end to. I’ve got one internet stalker who frequently writes comments to my blog and/or email with all sorts of ridiculous comments designed to try to make me feel inferior as a woman (e.g. the images below). I’ll keep shouting so that the generations of women behind me don’t have to. But it certainly is exhausting to constantly see these kinds of messages popping up.
How do you feel about science communication/academic-based blogging?
I love it! I think it’s such a fantastic idea and should be a part of every type of science, for the reasons I mentioned about fighting the paywall and bringing research to the public. Non-scientists are interested in science! Non-archaeologists are interested in archaeology! So why not share it with them through accessible scicomm/blogging? One of the issues in the current political climate is that the public distrusts science/scientists. So let’s open ourselves up and invite the public to be part of science by sharing our work with them.
Do you think there are some ways that scicomm/academic blogs can improve, in general?
To be 100% honest, I don’t think scicomm should be mandatory for all scientists to participate in. Scicomm uses a very special set of skills and talent in communication and interpretation. It’s actually really difficult to do! So I think to improve scicomm/academic blogs, make sure you’ve got the right people scicomming and writing. People who are passionate and love sharing their work with others in accessible ways. In addition, recognize scicomm for the skills and knowledge it requires and pay scicommers for their work, just as you would pay any other colleague! Scicomm deserves a LOT more recognition and respect than what it currently receives, and I would love to see academic and non-academic institutions taking it more seriously.
Who is your target audience for your blog?
Anyone who wants to know more about archaeology and bioarchaeology (though I admittedly don’t write a lot about my bioarchaeological work because it’s sensitive)! So non-archaeologists, archaeology students, and early-career researchers. Literally anyone and everyone.
How do you decide what you’re going to write about?
In all honesty, the vast majority of my posts have come to me as shower thoughts. Sometimes it’s something that I think is really interesting and would like to explore more for myself. Sometimes posts are inspired by comments I’ve seen elsewhere on social media. It’s mostly about what I think would be a) fun for me to write/explore and b) would be interesting for someone else to read and learn from.
How has your career and personal life changed, if at all, since starting your blog?
Personally, I’m far less introverted than I once was. Having a blog has made me much more comfortable opening myself up, whether it be sharing information about my personal life or sharing my research/work. I’m more comfortable with self-promotion too. I think self-promotion is really important, especially for women, so I’m far more willing to take that risk and shamelessly self-promote myself through blogging and other social media. And professionally, I’m starting to see a lot of opportunities open up! I’ve made some wonderful friends/contacts through my writing, been invited to participate in podcasts and writing for other websites, and now I’ve even been invited to give a public lecture about one of my favourite research topics (pseudoarchaeology)!
Is there any story behind the name of your blog?
Nope. When I decided to start a blog I needed a name for it and it literally came down to the fact I liked the way “Bones, Stones, and Books” sounded when I said it out loud.
What is some advice that you can give someone who wants to start blogging?
Turn your blog into whatever you want it to be! You know your own interests and writing habits better than anyone else, so write whatever and whenever you want to. When you’re writing about something you’re interested in, your passion will show every time. Not sure how to get started? Don’t worry, I’ve got a blog post for you 😉
Like Alex mentioned, it’s difficult to think of 11 bloggers who aren’t already nominated. Especially since she nominated bloggers I would have nominated! So I’m not listing 11, instead there are three websites that come straight to mind and that I want to draw your attention to because I think they’re doing really fantastic work:
The Questions I Want to Ask:
What inspired you to start your website?
How would you describe your website in an elevator pitch?
What part of your website are you most proud of?
Is there anything you would like to include more of on your website?
Is there anything new you would like to one day try with your website (e.g a new feature, add a podcast, etc.)?
How do you promote your website?
When working on a new post, what is your writing process like?
Are there any forms of outreach that you’re interested in trying/doing more of, besides your website (e.g. presenting at Comic Cons, hosting a Youtube Show, etc.)?
What kinds of movies/books/music do you like (comics are included)?
When you were a student (at any level), did you enjoy being in school?
What is a field of study outside of your own that you’re interested in?