I started out this post wanting to consider blogs in the same way I discussed Wikipedia last week – as a source or direction for research and scholarship. There is a good bit of discussion on this subject. A year or so ago I came across an interesting post by Molly Keener at Wake Forest University that reviewed the range of responses to the research potential of blogs. More recently, is an interesting post on the use of blogs in the Tenure and Promotion process at universities.
A significant difference between the two is that blogs are more creative, more opinionated, and less encyclopedic than Wikipedia, though both forms rely on the same user-generated content. Not recognizing this distinction is another flaw in Keen’s basic thesis of the Cult of the Amateur referenced previously.
In addition to scholarship, I have found that blogs are an excellent means for disseminating and receiving information, creativity, and ways of thinking outside the box. That is how I perceive the Archaeology, Museums and Outreach blog. In the first post I noted that my intent was to provide a platform for folks involved in archaeology and museum outreach to consider what works and what does not work. I do not know of any other regular media resource that addresses this area. This past week at the C.H. Nash Museum, we launched a new blog, Chucalissa e-Anumpoli. We see the new blog as filling a need that is not addressed by any of our other forms of communication at the C.H. Nash Museum.
Beyond research, in reviewing offerings from the Museum and Archaeology fields, I have come up with a few categories of blogs:
Career Networking – Much like Linked-in, although on a less redundant and more user-friendly level, blogs such as the Emerging Museum Professionals act as a vehicle for collaboration. The blog solicits input from others, irregularly issues posts of interest to folks new to the museum field on topics such as interviewing for career positions, skill development, and regional meet-ups of like-minded people.
Trends – The American Association of Museum’s Center for the Future of Museums blog and the associated weekly Dispatches from the Center for the Future of Museums are phenomenal resources on trends in museums. The Dispatches does for me what I hope my blog does for others – provides information and resources relevant to a field of interest but that are outside the regular box and expertise of operation. For example, the Dispatches provides links to the latest trends in philanthropy, demographics, and tourism that are important for me to stay on top of, but are outside the scope of my normal range of reading.
Institutional Information – I really like the Museum Bulletin the Alaska State Museum publishes as a regular blog. The publication is very outreach oriented, and reports the activities, acquisitions, internships, and events at the Museum. The Museum use WordPress.com to “blog” their newsletter. Were this an e-newsletter type communication that requires buy-in registration, I likely would not have come across the publication. The Brooklyn Museum’s blog is another institutional publication that is quite creative in their posts. See for example the Brooklyn Museum’s split-second basis project for selecting pieces of art to display.
Teaching/Research Interest – This type of blog is like finding that interesting book on the library shelf that works as a bonus supplement or even points one down a new road in preparing for a lecture or research. For example, today I got the latest post for Museum Beyond that reviewed the Tate Museum’s new Race Against Time app for the iPhone – not a terribly glowing review either. Also, Jennifer Carey blogged this week from the Independent School Association of the Southwest’s Annual Meeting. Her final post was on the presentation by Jane McGonigal author of Reality is Broken. Jennifer provided quite a few related links from the presentation. Between the two blogs and the Wikiversity entry I noted from last week, these will likely find their way into my syllabus next fall for the honors course I will teach on gaming for social good.
Just Plain Interesting – Today, Katrina Urban’s NewMuseumKat blog posted a review and link for a virtual visit to the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam. The website is a convincing example that counters the Luddite rant against the concept of virtual museums. One should not need to travel to Amsterdam to experience the house, albeit remote. Kris Hirst’s long running archaeology blog at about.com has short nuggets of information about the latest goings on in archaeology.
Here is my punch line – all the above resources provide real and worthwhile information that is not readily (or at all) available in the traditional media. Contrary to Keen’s dire warning in the Cult of the Amateur of a future where “The monkeys takeover. Say good-bye to today’s experts and cultural gatekeepers – our reporters, news anchors, editors, music companies, and Hollywood movie studios. In today’s cult of the amateur, the monkeys are running the show. With their infinite typewriters, they are authoring the future” (p. 9).
I can only respond – and what a fine job us primates are doing!!