As the PKAP season looms, we are beginning to think of all the little details that go into making our time in Cyprus as stress free and productive as possible. Over the past two seasons we have run a very successful series of weblogs. The various participants submit their blog posts from the field and have captured a whole range of archaeological experiences (see our Senior Staff Blog and our Graduate Student Perspectives Blog). This year we plan to encourage our large group of undergraduate volunteers to contribute to a "PKAP Undergraduate Perspectives Blog". While I haven't set up the space for it yet (but we'll announce it with great fanfare here when I do!), we thought it a good idea to make clear what archaeological blogging entails before we set loose a gaggle of eager undergraduates into the blogosphere.
From our perspective (and like any genre) archaeological blogging has certain rules and conventions about it. There are topics that are appropriate for a blog and ones that should be regarded as off-limits. On the one hand, this seems to hint at a kind of top-down censorship, and there is definitely some truth to that. But, on the other hand, part of the goal of the "field school" aspect of the project is to introduce students to the various expectations that condition behavior on archaeological project. This includes how to behave in the field (field procedures, methods, and processes) as well as how to talk about the archaeological experience in various venues. As an added layer of complexity some of our students this year will hail from a small, Christian college that has a rather strict code of conduct. I am vaguely worried that an innocent posting on some aspect of archaeological culture will get our students into real trouble when they return home!
So, below is my first effort at creating a guide to archaeological blogging for PKAP. Since more and more projects are blogging (I am excited to see that the blog for the Berlin-Kent Ostia Excavations has come back to life lately!), I thought that some of the guidelines would be helpful in creating a comfortable and useful space for students to document their experiences working and living together in our archaeological community.
I am sure these guidelines will get tweaked once my co-directors read them and we try to implement them in the field, but they are a start:
How to write for the PKAP Blog:
The various PKAP blogs are among the most unique aspects of our project. Our blogs inform our friends and families, bring the experiences of archaeology back to our colleges and universities, and become the face of our project on the internet. Our blogs also encourage us to think carefully about the processes and experiences of archaeological fieldwork as it takes place. At the end of each season the directors the project archive all the blog posts, and they become part of the permanent record of the project. Over the past few years, individual posts have become popular destinations on the web and continue to attract traffic even now. In fact, people remember well-written, exciting, and clever posts and bring them up to project members at social and professional events!
Like last year, there will be three individual blogs that capture various aspects of the project. A Season Staff Blog is reserved for the senior staff of the project. PKAP Graduate Student Perspectives captures the experiences of graduate students on the project. And our Undergraduate Perspectives Blog provides a venue for our undergraduate volunteers. On each blog, we group the posts under the individual bloggers name allowing visitors to explore the perspective of particular participants.
It's important to remember before you begin to blog that not only will a wide range of people read your posts, but they will become part of the permanent record of the project. Archaeological blogging requires a kind of honesty to confront the wide range of experiences that you will have in Cyprus and working together. It will also require a kind of discretion in that not all of your experiences doing field work and living and working together are appropriate for public consumption. If you have any question whether a topic, picture, or experience is appropriate for the blog, talk to a senior staff member before you make your post!
Here are some basic guidelines for blogging the PKAP experience:
1. Blog about fieldwork. Archaeological fieldwork requires constant analysis and is exciting. Attempt to capture that in your blog posts. But also be discrete. It is considered bad form to publish photos of finds or detailed photographs of your trenches. Keep photographs and descriptions of objects and features general. The proper place for detailed description of artifacts and features is in our formal publication.
2. Blog about Cypriot culture. PKAP hopes that you will think carefully about your experience of living in Cyprus, seeing the various archaeological and historical sites, and learning about the diverse culture and politics of the island. These things will be particularly interesting to your audience back home! But also be aware that Cypriots can read your blog as well. Most Cypriots can read English well and will find your writing through search engines and links. So, be respectful to the host country in your post and approach your efforts to describe your experiences on Cyprus with an open mind and a generous attitude.
3. Blog about living and working together. One of the most exciting aspects of archaeological fieldwork is living, talking, and working together. In past years, our blogs have captured some of the conversations, arguments, and discoveries that come from the intense experiences of living and working as a community of scholars. Before you blog on a funny story that your roommate told you or a heated argument with your trench supervisor, it's always polite to ask these other folks whether you can blog about what you have discussed. In general, people don't mind being blogged about, but sometimes people might want things to remain private. Be a courteous blogger.
4. Blog with pictures. Our blogging service allows us to upload photographs. Pictures make your blog more interesting and vivid! Be sure to ask people, though, if you can post that silly photograph of them after a hard day at work and refrain from posting photos of finds or features in trenches (photographs of people working in a trench are fine as are general work pictures). As a note, large, high resolution photographs will take a long time to upload on our slow internet connection.
Some more basic blogging tips:
1. Remember your audience! Try to write clearly and avoid emoticons and other internet slang. Some of our audience won't be familiar with these things and it will make the blog less accessible to our diverse audience.
2. Remember that people will read your posts! While it might be funny to recount a particularly raucous night on the town, you might not want your dear old aunt or zealous university administrator to read about these things. People will read your blog and if you say things that are inappropriate, it will come back to us and you.
3. Don't be intimidated by length. The great thing about blogs is that they can be as long or as short as you want them to be. A 50 word blog can be better, more vivid, or more revealing than a rambling 1000 word post. At the same time, you can write mini-essays, multi-part stories, or even poetry in a blog post without any problems. In fact, the more diverse, reflective, and earnest our blogs are the more people remember and appreciate them.
4. Lots of links. The very best blog posts have lots of links to other posts or even other blogs! Blogging is like social networking the more you reach out to others, the more they want to know what you are doing.
5. Tell your story. The most common comments that I get about our blogs are about the very earnest and the funny posts! So, develop a voice and be earnest. People like it.