Hello world. My name is Jenny, and I am a blogger. There, I said it. You may only know me from my podcast “The Struggling Archaeologist’s Guide to Getting Dirty.” I sure do love that podcast, it’s a pretty fun excuse to talk about things that interest me in history and archaeology and talk about my own experiences in the field. I started it hoping to provide people out there like me (you know, with a sense of humor) a different perspective on the academic world, once with a little less jargon and a little more fun. As my super cute slogan goes, I want to educate through living and laughing. But one measly podcast just wasn’t enough for me, so now I have a pretty cool tumblr blog and my own website.
I started blogging because after three years of graduate school I was sick of reading nothing but academic journals rife with pomp and indignation, and wanted to show the world that smart people can also be real people. Not that I don’t appreciate the traditional academic perspective. Access to scholarly research provides every person the ability to be taught by many of the best minds in the world; I wouldn’t trade that or my own education for anything. But I had help translating the canon of Anthropological theory into the common tongue. What about people who just want to learn about history because they love it, not because they’re writing a dissertation?
This was what inspired me to begin writing about history, science, and archaeology in my own voice. Challenging though it may be, I have thoroughly enjoyed being a part of the community of online educational bloggers out there, and plan to continue for years -nay- decades to come. So what’s the deal with this declaration or my love for the blogosphere? Well, I recently realized that I had been missing out on the amazing blogging carnival begun last November by Doug Rocks-Macqueen, of Doug’s Archaeology, in preparation for the blogging archaeology session coming up (very very soon) at the 79th annual SAA conference in Austin, Texas. Why didn’t I, an archaeology blogger, know about an archaeology blogging carnival you ask? Because I am me, and this is what I do.
If you listened to my first ever podcast episode then you know what I’m talking about. I told a delightful anecdote about how I function in the world, based on the first time I went to ballet class as a little girl. Sitting in the changing room I pondered when someone would be coming to bring me my black leotard and pink tights as I sat, completely naked, watching the other little girls getting changed and heading out to the dance studio. I was confused as to why they were making me wait so long for my uniform, but I waited still… until my teacher came in (doubtless after she’d been told there was a naked girl sitting in there by herself) and informed me that we were supposed to have brought our own clothes with us. So I gracefully put on my corduroys and sneakers and clodded through my first ballet class, while the other girls sniggered at me. This is how I enter most situations, as whatever manual for how things work in the world that everyone else read months ago has probably not been given to me. I am busy, I am clumsy, I am trying, but I guarantee that if everyone else is doing it then I most likely have no idea what’s going on yet.
So now that that’s out of the way, what is the purpose of this post? Doug proposed that every month of the carnival, bloggers tackle specific questions to be shared through his site and their own blogs. Many responded and took part in a great discourse. Having been oblivious, as usual, I missed out on all of the awesomeness. Thankfully, you can still find past questions and entries here should you wish to read or even go back and write something for the carnival. I may do the same in time, but with the SAA conference quickly approaching (which I am very excited to attend), I thought I’d tackle the last question before I pack up my wagon and head to Austin (literally, I drive a wagon, don’t judge). So…the task is to write about the future of blogging, and where we would like to go as a part of it.
Blogging for the Win
The future of blogging for me will always revolve around bringing important educational material to the public and remaining my true and authentic self in my interactions with them. When I came up with the idea for the podcast, I was in a holding pattern in my life, not really sure of how to move forward. I had just finished supervising a field school and teaching Anthropology 101, and I knew that more than digging or researching I really loved teaching. I was good at it, and I was capable of connecting with people because I’m a charismatic person. A lot of this comes from my past as a theatre geek. A well-trained theatre geek, mind you. I understand the power of performance, which is why it’s one of my most powerful weapons in the big bad world of professional smart people. I went to an acting workshop once where the teacher told us to look at ourselves like we were blenders, and to be honest about what kind of blender we would be advertised as in a store. I know it seems silly but the point is rather profound: what kind of blender are you? Is it the same kind of blender you’re trying to sell?
I took this lesson to my career and decided that instead of following the traditional path I was going to do something different, because I am different. I have never fit in with the crowd, and why would I want to anyway? I am Jenny McNiven, I have the word “nerd” tattooed on my foot, and I don’t care who knows it. I decided to be a performer, and a writer, and a teacher, and an archaeologist, because those are my greatest strengths and passions. That’s my blender, baby. So here I am, with a podcast and a blog. I get to teach, and write, and make people laugh, and be myself, and share what I love with the world. Pretty sweet right? Well, yes, but as my childhood idol Ariel would say- I want more!
Going forward I would like to become more involved in the blogging community and with my readers/listeners. I have loved hearing from people who enjoy what I do and have learned something from me, but as one might expect the world of a blogger is a solitary one. I podcast alone, and I spent a lot of time researching and writing alone. Sound familiar to anyone? Those of us on the outskirts of the blogosphere need to do a better job of including ourselves in discussion and sharing our work on other blogging and social media sites. I am getting to know a few of you, but I would like to know much more about the community of bloggers and readers out there.
I need to write more. Obviously. I love the interface I get on tumblr for writing my own posts, sharing those of others, and throwing up pictures, quotes, or videos that I think are interesting and relevant to my field. But there are times when the allure of writing a paragraph about a news piece I found is much greater than sitting down to create my own article from scratch. Busy and hectic as my life gets, I need to make more time to write really solid interest and news stories. I also need to share them on other blogs. Like I said before, I’m not good at knowing how these things work, so I have to sit down with a copy of “blogging for dummies” and figure out how to take my blog and podcast further.
I need to (gasp) quit clowning around so much. When I started the podcast I wanted to talk to my audience like we were two regular people just having a conversation about cool archaeology stuff. For the most part that’s what I do on the show, but I have of late realized that I perhaps I don’t need to be so… unadulterated, shall we say, with my inner monologue. I have a wide range of listeners, from the hobbyist to the academic, so it can be a hard balance trying to make the show accessible and still interesting to everyone. While I enjoy making irreverent jokes and getting sidetracked by random thoughts, I have a certain responsibility to the material I talk about and the people who have contributed to the corpus of knowledge I draw from to take my job as a steward of history a little more seriously. Also, I am an intelligent woman working in the sciences, and I don’t think I always come off as one. I would like to be a better representative of my field and those who have worked hard to give me the opportunity to succeed in it. A little less “jokey Jenny” and a little more “smarty-pants Jenny” in the future, got it?
What was that you said? Do I have anything new and exciting on the horizon? Well as a matter of fact reader, I do, how good of you to ask! I am constantly amazed by the changing mediums of communication and education in today’s crazy technology driven, reality t.v. watching, 140 character world. As a proponent of inclusive methods of teaching involving entertainment and experience I would like to adapt some of my methods of instruction to reach new audiences and get younger people excited about history, archaeology, and the sciences. Social media is one way to incorporate this that I plan on continuing. On a larger scale though, I’ve always wanted to be in pictures! I’m currently developing an educational web-series based on The Struggling Archaeologist podcast and blog. It will cover a range of topics from archaeology news and history lessons, to advice and “tales from the field” for up and coming archaeologists. I also plan on using the “special skills” section of my CV by creating comical scenes and interludes based on topics in history. Remember, my blender also has a theatre degree!
I believe that people aren’t meant to do just one thing in their lives. As bloggers we have the opportunity to impart our own unique skills and experiences into our professional life, and provide a new format for how people learn and interact with the academic community. Going forward I would like to see more people examining what they can offer the students of the world (casual and professional alike) that helps create a new and positive learning experience. Not every academic is a gray-haired, bowtie wearing lecturer (nothing against you bowtie guys!), we should be connecting to our audiences by being willing to step out of the box and be more than just a faceless repository for facts and figures. Be real, be the blender you were meant to be, and you may just make someone new sit up and take notice of the amazing and crazy world we write about every day.
Thanks for reading. I would love to hear from you on either of my blogs or through my email firstname.lastname@example.org. I would also love to feature some guest posts, or guest post on other bloggers’ sites, so feel free to contact me about getting our blogging groove on 🙂 If you’re attending the blogging archaeology session at SAA this week, I’ll be the redhead with the word “nerd” tattooed on her foot (no, that was not a joke). Please come up and introduce yourself, I’m really friendly, I promise!