One of the really common questions that I get when people learn that we have integrated blogging into our archaeological project is "does anyone read it?". To answer that question, I'll present some of my metadata from the blogs that we ran this summer as part of the Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project. As a bit of background, we began to run PKAP blogs last season. Several directors wrote on this blog here and we made available a separate blog called "Pyla-Koutsopetria Graduate Student Perspectives". I required my graduate students to write for the blog as part of the writing and reflection component of a class that our work in Cyprus counted for. The other graduate students wrote -- quite eloquently and prolifically -- on their own volition, except one who refused to write. This year, we created a separate blog for Senior Staff as our staff had grown and my blog had become "crowded" with my own threads and ramblings. The senior staff blog and the graduate student blog featured more or less regular activity from around May 10th to the last week of June. They were all multi-author blogs.
The PKAP Season Staff Blog was the most frequently updated with over 60 posts, but it had seven authors. This blog received almost 1000 hits (998) and averaged over 12 a day since its inception on May 10th. Several strands developed over the course of its short life -- including the Saga of the Sifters, the astute musings of our introspective camp manager, Scott Moore's traditional Twitteresque short updates, and our inaugural experiment with podcasts. We've had positive feedback, although a relative dearth of comments, on many of these strands.
The Graduate Student Perspectives blog had three regular contributors and produced correspondingly fewer posts (about 35), but these posts had substantially the same volume of readership with 991 hits since mid-May. The posts not only chronicled the work in the field, but also the travels and site visits by the graduate students on the island.
We attempted to run an Undergraduate Perspectives blog, but the undergraduates did not really take to it. They managed only 9 posts, but it was nevertheless encouraging to see that they had almost 500 hits (473) or over 8 views a day. On the surface, it would appear that the Undergraduate Perspectives blog would be worth attempting again next year and a little bit of encouragement on the part of the senior staff could perhaps help to produce a blog with a substantial readership. If we are to believe the experts, undergraduates are far more "wired" than their slightly more senior peers and have access to savvy audiences through their online social networks.
This blog, which basically mirrored my posts from the Season Staff blog and sought to drive traffic (as much as it was possible) received around 6,000 hits (70 per day) over this same time.
To sum up, the short term results for these blogs -- inasmuch as hits correlate with a real audience -- were quite encouraging. The interesting thing about the Graduate Student Perspectives blog is that it is in its second year and the posts from the 2007 season continue to be viewed. It attracts a consistent, if low level, flow of traffic. Part of the goal of the PKAP blog enterprise was to create an online archive for the project that prospective volunteers, interested observers, and our students could view in order to get a flavor for life on a small archaeological project. For example, we direct prospective graduate student participants to the Graduate Student Perspective blog to get one view on what to expect once on Cyprus. PKAP Alumi/ae also frequent the Graduate Student Perspectives blog (as well as the other blogs) to keep tabs on what is going on on-site each season.
On the other hand, the lack of comments on these blogs suggests that their audience is not fully comfortable with the interactive potential (i.e. Web 2.0) aspects of weblogs. They continue to appear to be rather static delivery of information rather than a dynamic medium that offers the wider community the offer to participate in the archaeological (as well as social, intellectual, and collegial (e.g. witty banter)) discourse. Some of this may be solved by the occasional "send us your questions!" post on the blog or even the tradition "open discussion thread". It may also be that over time our audience will become increasingly comfortable with the dynamic and interactive potential of the internet and the blog medium.
So, thanks for readings our PKAP blogs this year and look for them to return to life next spring. In the meantime, check back here and over at Scott Moore's Ancient History Ramblings for updates on the PKAP front.