◊ Dear microburins,
Should this blog carry a safety message? ‘May contain burin spalls’? Meantime, Microburin is in north Northumberland on a commercial stint for a change. Be off with you, altruism!
A post-free month, and then two come along all at once! I dare say there’s a third fermenting somewhere in the back of my gaseous, bubbling, overly-knapped, conchoidially-fractured, corticated and (breath) patinated mind.
Microburin is coming up for a breath of Spring air and a transition to other duties—back to the lithics lab and conference planning. Many of you know I’m a voluntary editor for Council for British Archaeology Yorkshire and voluntary chair for the refreshed Teesside Archeological Society (now with on an upward-trending membership again). I’m proud to contribute to both organisations.
Much of the winter was spent editing CBA Yorkshire’s FORUM YORKSHIRE archaeological journal. This is a new series that sits between the informality of past magazine-style annual publications and the more traditional county and thematic periodicals that we must complement. I think we have found our sweet spot whilst maintaining a standard that attracts a broad range of well-written articles spanning the variety of archaeology in the county—academic research, commercial developer-led, educational and community.
In this year’s volume 2 (for 2013), while somewhat volatile in terms of the readiness of committed articles and their respective back-end project progress, I think we have managed to create a portfolio that does justice to the scope of activities happening across our Ridings. The excellent contributions under two banners, in particular, give us a unique mix and presence in the publication record: Communities In Action and Behind The Scenes give voice to multifaceted community ventures, some completed and others in-progress, as well as demonstrating some of the inner mechanics of the archaeological discipline and its many allied specialisations. I am particularly pleased to host papers from the Archaeology Data Service (ADS) courtesy of Catherine Hardman and Potted History—artisan archaeological potter Graham Taylor who continues to supply expertly researched and skillfully rendered replica ceramics to the likes of Stonehenge visitor centre and many museums. His grooved ware renditions are, simply, huge in every respect!
The debate between the value-by-weight of print versus electronic publication is one side of the story. With a typical 50% of CBAY Membership who are Internet-enabled, paper still holds a special value and a relied-upon communication vehicle, no matter the increasing postage costs. Rural Internet (broadband) access, most especially across a County with profound wi-fi topographic dynamics—the utterly urban to the completely rural (BT and UK Government take note)—are veneered with a generational capability in terms of computing confidence. With a demographic, also nationally typical, that sees a majority membership over the age of 55, we are far from a tipping point wherein “online” would be a reasonable expectation for all. Let me ask: how comfortable do we all feel with the corporate/banking/government coercion toward a ‘paperless’ life, especially when so many transactions rely upon proving identity and residence by virtue of providing original paper records? We’re in a quandary. Moreover, the Heartbleed openSSL security bug debacle hasn’t helped. Who is safe as the first hackers and abusers are arrested?
Hence, CBA Yorkshire have agreed upon full, free open access to our journal after a grace period of one year—green access level. FORUM YORKSHIRE vol 1 (2012) is therefore available online now, tied to the publication of vol 2. We’re using ISSUU as an e-publishing vehicle and maintain a PDF download using Dropbox. As time allows, our plan is to host all papers via ADS too in PDF-A archive format. It will take a little time to prepare this, with due diligence.
The second major effort has been TEESSCAPES, the e-Magazine of the Teesside Archaeological Society. Our presence on the Internet—Email, Website, Facebook and Twitter—have been innovations only recently, literally the last year or two. We started with email using the fantastic MailChimp cloud technology. Our website, hosted on WordPress, appeared just before Christmas. Grasping the social media bullet, Facebook came next—we achieved over 158 followers within a two weeks (I need to shout out here: that was jaw-dropping!) and the comment “at last! TAS joins the 21st century“. That’s my favourite. Girding ones loins, knowing how social media requires regular monitoring and messaging, Twitter followed to complement the suite. And now Facebook and Twitter are integrated into our website alongside regular news posts (backed up with email campaigns).
The major benefit is to reach an extended audience of tens-of-thousands in an instant. While Facebook’s reach is increasingly limited, by function of the drive for advertising-based commercial “promotion” (i.e. you have to pay), Twitter still allows an awesome capability. So, for example, using vehicles (and hashtags) like #YorkshireHour, @RyedaleHour and several others across Cleveland/Teesside and the north-east of England, a lecture invite can reach an audience of over 25,000 people, in a split second. We have garnered quite a few new members, and many more interested followers, as a proven result. All praise for social media, say I! (But not Facebook).
The latest edition, TEESSCAPES Spring 2014, also includes two great articles on top-of-mind topics by guest writers. David Mennear, an osteo-archaeologost and TAS friend, guides us through the complex but thrilling world of human origins and the latest discoveries in Georgia and South Africa. Meantime, Kim Biddulph of @SchoolsPrehistory gives us a taste for what the forthcoming inclusion of Prehistory in the English National Curriculum means in terms of teaching readiness and the impact on seven-year olds—this is not far short of a curriculum revolution, accounting for the missing million years of hominin and human presence in Britain. Schools Prehistory provide advice and wonderful resources for teachers.
As I eye up the forthcoming seasonal editions of the magazine, I am hoping (and perhaps you can help) for equally insightful and informal contributions that explain the inner and outer workings of archaeology and the significance of recent discoveries. Go on! Write for us? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
That’s it for now. It’s been a thrilling week on the back of a winter of gruel. Archaeology MUST REMAIN accessible to ALL. At whatever cost—surely?
If you’re a Twitterer and ‘into’ archaeological lithics and flint, why not join the weekly #FlintFriday celebration of beautiful flint—as well as good fieldwork, recording, curation and sharing? Do you have a favourite in your local museum or archive?∇
This week’s latest from @microburin…
Late Mesolithic narrow blade microliths from North Yorkshire archaeological excavation.
∇Please always ask permission to take photographs, and a scale is useful! Always report finds to the landowner (who remains the legal owner), the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) and Historic Environment Record (HER) or seek advice | See useful contacts and links »
∇Remember | if an artefact isn’t accurately recorded, it’s lost its context and much of its meaning for everybody else.
If you’re a Twitterer and ‘into’ archaeological lithics and flint, why not join the weekly #FlintFriday celebration of beautiful flint—as well as good fieldwork, recording, curation and sharing? Do you have a favourite in your local museum or archive?*
This week’s latest from @microburin…
*Please always ask permission to take photographs, and a scale is useful! Always report finds to the landowner (who remains the legal owner), the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) and Historic Environment Record (HER) or seek advice | See useful contacts and links »
Remember: if an artefact isn’t accurately recorded, it’s lost its context and much of its meaning for everybody else.
Updated | 6-Jun-2013 to add LSE blog link
Updated | 7-Jun-2013 to add “blogs as scholarly publication” link
For independent researchers, like myself, whether previously in academia and/or aspiring to be enrolled, or for community practitioners (I loath the term “amateur archaeologist“) or for members of the public where even access to public libraries is becoming an increasing luxury (if that library has access at all to academic journals, print or online)—open access is a friction point.
While governments, UK and Federal US included, are grappling with and legislating for open access to learned materials, funded by or as a part of publicly financed research, the incumbent publishing monopolies are lobbying to parry such initiatives based on “sustainable cost” doctrines, and their financial interests therein.
I can certainly vouch for the pain, being outside academia right now, that pay-wall “open access” causes. I subscribe to the few e-publishers and academic societies that I can afford—a gradually diminishing number since I don’t presently have a regular income stream. I am grateful, as a university alumnus, in having access to JSTOR, although in archaeology the titles which are freely accessible are far from comprehensive, especially for fields like Mesolithic archaeology—a discipline that also spans many specialisations in science and social science, the humanities, cultural heritage management (CRM) and derivative disciplines. I am even more grateful for the “green” and (very rare) “gold” open access vehicles that allow me either time-delayed or immediate access to scholarly material.
One thing is certain: I will likely be several steps behind those lucky enough to be within formal education or post-doc (yet paying excruciating tuition fees for the pleasure). Open exclusion is part of the reason. That feels neither fair nor productive—the public are an equal and obligatory participant, a partner in our shared heritage, moreso in the evolution and management of our shared environment, the collective owners of our cultural assets? The public are not a simple “consumer bucket” happy to receive amorphous outputs or media sound-bites. Exclusivity and access-by-means are surely forms of cynical discrimination unworthy of our societies, not least those that espouse a lifetime education and education-for-all ethos? Aren’t these educational aspirations also being subjugated to a market-driven “economic return” mandate, naive in its focus on immediacy and therefore myopic in leveraging the true meaning of past, place, presence, well-being and footfall for healthier (and less welfare-costly, more inclusive, more sustainable, more attractive) communities?
And yet, if I were to subscribe to the venerable Journal of Archaeological Science (publisher: Elsevier), by example, it would be beyond my budget (online access is a 5-user license). They are a respected and profuse publisher. If I were to pay-to-download every article they publish across monthly volumes in a given year, I would have to pay over $11,000 (obviously far more than the individual subscription, but it does illustrate my point around reasonable cost—many papers are only six or so pages). Something is amiss?
Any law of diminishing returns suggests a tipping-point between over-pricing in any given marketplace and realising income streams as a function of volume-based consumer viability—if not “popular” demand. I really don’t mind paying a few dollars/euros/pounds for a worthy, scholarly and life-changing article. I do, however, resent paying $31.50 per article or a mandate to cluster papers into discounted blocks that are still priced beyond my means.
These excellently written blogs go a long way to explaining both the terminology as well as the seemingly intractable issues that are not without tragedy. I highly recommend reading them. There are plenty more too.
Prof Julian D Richards (University of York) for posting it on Twitter today. York is also home of the Archaeological Data Service (ADS) who work continuously to digitise archaeological resources for the greater good. The authors of the ASOR blog need to be congratulated for a well-written and well-appraised status quo and portent for some difficult battles ahead.
This post might seem like preaching to the converted, the Internet-confident, the Web-proficient—but feel welcome to steal and share this with your friends, local societies and community groups who may not feel so comfortable with social media. Sharing is good, postage is expensive!
The vast selection of information, news and people-networking available on the Internet can seem daunting and it isn’t always easy to know what’s best, what other people rely on, who does what, and where. The heritage and archaeological world is no exception—the wonder of the Web is both a miracle in terms of what we all have access to, and yet frustrating by its sheer vastness. In this 5 Minute overview are some of my favourite places, and ones that let you discover other useful locations, tools, and people.
This is not an exhaustive (or exhausting) overview—it is an adaptation of something I did for friends at my local archaeological society. It’s never easy to put your hand up and say you don’t understand this world of social media. So, if you’ll forgive me skimming the subject, I do hope this is a helpful use of five minutes. Drop me a comment if I need to correct or embellish something. I think we’re all still learning—because this world is constantly changing too!
There are the strange names, some of which give a hint as to what they’re for, some rather bizarre—do you know your Ning from your Wiki, Bebo from MySpace, Facebook from Linkedin, Blogger from YouTube from Flickr, Tmblr, your washing machine and microwave?
Not to worry, many of the strange names make sense when their origin is revealed—none are rude!
To make a long story very short, these are most of the Internet resources that serve the archaeology and heritage sectors—and the principles apply to every other walk of life:
Blogs | and blogging start to make information more interactive still. “Blog” is short for “Web log” and you can think of it as cross between a website, a diary or journal, your own newspaper or noticeboard. The difference is that you make “posts”—like entries in a diary or postcards from a holiday—that can be read in chronological order with pictures, even video, and links to information. What’s more, people can leave comments (if you allow them to), subscribe to your blog to get posts by email or share a post in social media (see below). They’re also very easy to create and the “how to” videos and instructions are very good. The most popular and free blog tool is WordPress (look out for Francis Pryor’s below—the new chief archaeologist on Time Team). Blogger is another blog tool recently acquired by Google.
The remaining Internet type things are all about staying in touch with people and being able to share things quickly and interactively—whether messages, news, pictures, answers to questions—with friends or groups with a common interest. It’s about community. Here are the main ones you’ll find in archaeology. All are free but require you to register, like you do for an email account. Sometimes joining a group will be open, sometimes there’ll be a “manager”. Messages from sites like Twitter and Facebook can also be displayed on websites (see the CBA one below), and website links can be shared in social media messages.
And that’s really all there is to it—the rest is generally just about different names for the same or very similar things, or places to store and share documents like Dropbox and Scribd—all free!
Council for British Archaeology | CBA have just re-designed and re-launched their website. It’s a great place to read the latest news, find links to other information and resources, even download back copies of their research reports. What you can’t do is ask a question on the website. So CBA have a Facebook page and a LinkedIn page that anybody can follow and (with an account) interact with.
Past Horizons | One of the best online magazine sites covering the latest national and international archaeology and heritage news with occasional in-depth articles. Look on the right side of their homepage for a great list of blogs. They maintain a database of current archaeological field work opportunities around the world. Great for students looking for practical experience and volunteers seeking a new challenge. They also have a well stocked web shop selling quality archaeological equipment to a world market. This link looks like a website, but it’s actually a WordPress “blog” site. They also have a Facebook page—where humorous archaeology cartoons are often shared!
DigVentures | Your chance to work with some of the best field archaeologists in the land on some of the best archaeological sites in the world. Join them and take part in a groundbreaking, game-changing archaeological experiment as a key member of the team. Whether you’re digging on site with them or checking in from the other side of the world, with DigVentures you can share the excitement of discovery as it happens, knowing that without your support, it wouldn’t have happened.
» And here’s the “dog cam” video on YouTube! Enjoy…
In The Long Run | Francis Pryor’s blog on archaeology, rural life (he’s also a sheep farmer) and the lessons of history. You can enter your email address and receive his regular posts in your mailbox, although his WordPress blog site doesn’t allow comments.
Saxon Princess Excavation Blog | Steve Sherlock’s blog about the Loftus excavations and Saxon jewels at Street House (North-east England). Notice how the “posts” are grouped by calendar month in the side menu. If you leave Steve a message, he sees that and approves it to appear in the blog.
microburin.com | My own informal blog about Mesolithic archaeology in northern England and some ongoing projects. It’s a blog where you can register to receive post alerts by email. Under “Stuff to Watch” you’ll find more links to favourite things—sensible, entertaining and humorous. Again, notice on the right-hand menu area how “posts” are archived by month and by category (meaning subject). You’ll also see the community of “followers” and the blogs I follow.