Friday, February 29, 2008

PDQ Web Submissions

Just a reminder to submit to PDQ web by leaving a comment at Vol 1.1 (Digital Publishing) end Feb 2008. I've submitted two posts but I think my comments need to be moderated before the world can read them.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Web 2.0 and User Democracy

In light of the continuing discussion regarding the PD(Q), it seems to me that the following article - "The Wisdom of the Chaperones: Digg, Wikipedia, and the myth of Web 2.0 democracy" posted on Slate has something interesting to offer:
It's getting harder to be a Wikipedia-hater. The user-generated and -edited online encyclopedia—which doesn't even require contributors to register—somehow holds its own against the Encyclopedia Britannica in accuracy, a Nature study concluded, and has many times more entries. But even though people are catching up to the idea that Wikipedia is a force for good, there are still huge misconceptions about what makes the encyclopedia tick. While Wikipedia does show the creative potential of online communities, it's a mistake to assume the site owes its success to the wisdom of the online crowd....
In the examples in the article, the 'chaperones' or super-users emerge naturally, and are responsible for the majority of content. However, not every site employs its chaperones in the same way... Perhaps there are some models here for PD(Q)'s eventual development.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Poems on the Terracotta Army

The BBC has broadcast a series of poems today. Texts and listen again facility (for the next 7 days) is available from the BBC website.
Garry Geddes, one of Canada's best-known poets, introduces a selection of his poems in the voices of figures in the Terracotta Army, several of which are in the current British Museum exhibition.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Backing up your blog?

Do you back up your blog?

If so, how?

Have you ever restored or migrated your blog's content from the backup?

He's back

David Meadows previous post outlined the disaster that every blogger dreads. But, a little over 24 hours later, Jim West has decided to try it again. His new blog can be found here.


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Jim West's Blog

Here's every blogger's nightmare ... someone figures out your password and deletes your blog and all that went with it. It's happened to Jim West's readable blog ... posts on the subject being collected at:

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

PDQ Web Site

Past Discussed Quarterly now has a web site at To give credit where credit is due, this is mainly the work of Alun Salt. In addition to a description of the publication, there is an announcement of volume 1. The comments to that page show that some posts have already been submitted by their authors. The page How to Submit an Article gives further detail on the publication process.

Speaking for all of who are interested in moving PDQ forward, it should be clear that this is an idea still in formation. The back-and-forth to date has been interesting and we welcome further comments either on this blog or at PDQWeb.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Is PDQ a good idea? An academic perspective

I was invited to join this blog (not sure why), so I guess that means I can put in my two cents on issues under discussion. I don’t understand the need for a pseudo-journal whose rationale is “providing a citeable format for people uncomfortable with citing weblogs.” Citing blogs is not difficult, see How to Cite Weblogs and Weblog Comments in MLA Style. From the perspective of research and scholarship, the most important thing about journals is that they are peer-reviewed. From my perspective as an archaeologist, I am most interested in knowing the difference between rigorous research and data on the one hand, and opinions and interpretations on the other. When I look at a an archaeology blog, in contrast to the Feb 8 entry by Alun, I am far more interested in whether it is from a recognized authoritative source than whether it is just interesting prose. Of course this is different from non-academic blogs or websites, where I am not an authority and not looking for authoritative information. I do enjoy reading some interesting archaeology blogs by nonacademics, but I try to keep the difference between scholarly and non-scholarly ini mind.

I should probably point out that that I take a strongly scientific approach to the past. I have criticized colleagues for confusing interpretive speculation with empirical findings (e.g., Smith, Michael E., 2005, Did the Maya Build Architectural Cosmograms? Latin American Antiquity 16:217-224.), and these publications have met with rather polarized receptions within Mesoamerican archaeology.

The problem of archiving content may or may not be important. In my view of the world of publishing (writ large), I don’t see much reason for having a good archive of blogs. If there are important and serious research contributions, they should be presented in peer-reviewed journals, monographs, in research-oriented web sites, and the like. I certainly don’t intend anyone to worry about my blogs after a rather short lifespan.

There are other perspectives and needs out there, and I respect the different goals and interests of others who use the internet to discuss and learn about the ancient world. Perhaps something like PDQ would serve some of those interests. But I am wary about trying to make non-peer-reviewed and ephemeral material try to look like a scholarly journal. To my mind much better ideas would be to set up a more permanent web site to archive good blog text or set up a site to link to specific blog entries, etc.

The open and democratic nature of the internet is important in countless ways, but it can be a problem for rigorous research and scholarship. Maybe my perspective is limited and limiting, but I'll end with Vince Gill, "that's my story and I'm stiking to it."

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


Interesting bit of synchronicity here ... a NYT article begins:

Publish or perish has long been the burden of every aspiring university professor. But the question the Harvard faculty will decide on Tuesday is whether to publish — on the Web, at least — free.

Faculty members are scheduled to vote on a measure that would permit Harvard to distribute their scholarship online, instead of signing exclusive agreements with scholarly journals that often have tiny readerships and high subscription costs.

Although the outcome of Tuesday’s vote would apply only to Harvard’s arts and sciences faculty, the impact, given the university’s prestige, could be significant for the open-access movement, which seeks to make scientific and scholarly research available to as many people as possible at no cost.

Here's the rest ...

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Blogging and the PDQ

Alun's essential idea boils down to this summary:

There’s no intention to compete for the same market as any other journals, nor to replace weblogs. Instead the journal is a bridge between bloggers in the broadest sense and non-blogging academics. The journal will be available as a PDF for free under a CC licence and paper format at the minimum allowed cost via Lulu. The journal will reproduce articles and entries from weblogs, providing a citeable format for people uncomfortable with citing weblogs.

This, in my humble opinion, is the smartest thing for academics (and scholarly lay) to do with the blogging world, specifically those who blog about antiquity which happens to be the theme of this blog. Ancient world blogging (apparently now the preferred term to use) has already attracted academics, and this essentially deals with the problem of citation with blogs. This also should spur on lengthier, weightier, and more thoughtful posts, and perhaps help launch fuller articles in more traditional journals.

The Past Discussed Quarterly

Ancient Quarterly or the Past Discussed Quarterly?

Meanwhile, and here is where the benefits really work, scholars become more and more familiar with the online world, the blogging community, and related media, and they start blogging and interacting online as well. While the direct communication with peers and knowledgeable fellows alike is rewarding, the those outside academia can likewise benefit from the increased output of knowledge freely available on the internet. While academically rigorous training is always preferred, non-academics have and will continue to contribute great works to the field. Look at Stephen Carlson, who after years on the email lists and in the Biblioblogger community finally decided to go back and get his Ph.D. at Duke. And likewise at Loren Rosson, who continues to bring new insights into the increasingly technical fields.

I'd also like to address some of Bill's concerns. He says:

I am not sure I’d be interested much in reading a less formal, less edited, less substantial kind of scholarly output especially as the great swells of unread scholarly articles continue to bear down on my fragile intellectual raft.

This is perfectly valid. I present two counterarguments, though. First, blogging is electronic, and with the PDQ being a quarterly, we have instance electronic access to the latest and greatest from scholars around the world. Latest discoveries and controversies are handled when they're still fresh. For more problems too minor to hardly be of worth to major journals (except those which include the "brief notes" sections), blogging provides an alternative venue, and people about to publish books or papers can quickly incorporate the new material without having to wait for books and papers to be published. Do note that I specifically highlighted minor problems. This, I believe, is important.

The next counterargument was already anticipated by Bill.

That is to say, I am not sure that blogging as a genre is very compelling unless we begin to beef up the quality of a blog post into little “working papers”. In this case we are talking about doing something like what has been done over at the PSWPC site. Or we could define blog posts more rigorously by length (< 1000 Project Notes on the Antiquity webpage).

This is an excellent direction to take it, but it should be different. In particular, the Princeton/Yale working papers project only receives submission from faculty and grad students from Princeton and Yale, while anyone would be able to submit articles to the PDQ. Project Notes on Antiquity is likewise different from this venture since they do not submit any articles to peer-review. Garbage could quite possible get through. I'm hoping that we take enough cautionary measures to ensure this does not happen in the PDQ.

Going back to the original suggestion, I'd like to make some suggestions. Alun wrote:

Making blogs more like academic papers would be a bad thing. We already have academic journals for academic papers, even if the publishing system needs a shove towards Open Access. Blogs are fast, eclectic and interactive.

While I cannot disagree with what this actually says, I do want to note that while making blogs more similar to academic papers is not the best thing for the community, making certain blog posts similar to academic papers is a wise move. There are already some blog posts which are similar in format. If I were to present something not as worthy for standard academic journals, but still important, why not add citations? Why not make sure it would pass the refereed system at major journals? It cannot hurt. We would be able to keep the speed, variety, and interaction of normal blogs but now with the respectability of academic papers.

I read weblogs and if they’re anonymous I don’t know if I’m reading a professor’s thoughts, or a students, or an ex-graduate or someone who’s simply interested in the past - and it doesn’t matter. What matters is the writing interesting. The blogs I read take the same view, it’s not the status of the individual, but the argument that matters. That critical approach should be the spirit of academic inquiry. For that reason pseudonymous bloggers should be welcome without having to lose their pseudonym.

I'm not sure I agree 100%. Quite frankly, I cannot see a reason why people would need to hide. Unless there's some ulterior motive, or there's some vitriolic or deceptive quality to the post, I can only see openness as a positive thing.

On the other hand if PDQ really puts people off, then AQ would be the better name to go with.

My vote goes with PDQ.

Crosspost with Thoughts on Antiquity.

PD(Q) from Comments to a Post: What are we blogging for?

I'd like to pull up a discussion from the comments on Alun Salt's recent post: A Blog Carnival / Journal Proposal: The Past Discussed Quarterly, because the comments bring out some really interesting issues concerning the matter of academic blogging.  This is, to me, exciting stuff!

One issue under discussion is the matter of proper citation in blogs and how to transition the various modes of citation in a blog from links or other less formal methods to something more appropriate for the scholar publication of the PD(Q). I'd like to propose two ways of looking at the matter of citation that maybe get to bigger issues in academic use of the New Media.

Blog as Genre
One is to propose that blogs are by nature a more informal genre, and therefore do not require the same kind of scholarly apparatus that a proper article would have. Newspapers, non-scholarly books, and other genres regularly tread the fine line between fair use with proper attribution and intellectual irresponsibility. In fact, I might go so far as to argue that the relative dearth of citations in blogs is inherent in their very nature. By genre a blog is more like other forms of informal scholarly production.  For example, even the most fastidious scholars might not include proper citations in an email, or a newsletter article, or a informally distributed copy of a public lecture. Thus, formal citation in a blog is good practice, but not an inherent component to the genre as it would be in a scholarly publication. In some ways the system of formal attribution is what makes a scholarly article, a scholarly article.

Blog as Medium
Another perspective would be to say that a blog is a medium (I think this is danah boyd’s point recently) and that what makes a blog a blog is that it has all the accoutrements of that medium – hypertext being among the most obvious. Many bloggers (myself included) use hypertext in mildly experimental ways that go beyond merely citation (which I am quite irregular about).  Many of the hyperlinks in my blog are there to encouraging intertextual readings both within my blog and between my blog and other blogs, traditional media sources, and things like video, podcasts, et c. elsewhere on the World Wide Net Web. Stripping those things from a blog and putting them in footnotes is sort of like offering someone a cup of decaffeinated, clear, lukewarm “coffee”. And saying, "see what you are missing by not drinking coffee?"

The Point?
The point of this is to beg for some clarity. If the goal of PD(Q) is to present in a different medium the genre of blogging, then we simply need to convert the text of the blog into the more formal medium of paper. This then begs the question of what is the value of blogging as a scholarly genre? I am not sure I’d be interested much in reading a less formal, less edited, less substantial kind of scholarly output especially as the great swells of unread scholarly articles continue to bear down on my fragile intellectual raft. That is to say, I am not sure that blogging as a genre is very compelling unless we begin to beef up the quality of a blog post into little “working papers”.  In this case we are talking about doing something like what has been done over at the PSWPC site. Or we could define blog posts more rigorously by length (<1000 words) and produce a volume full of Archaeological Notes (somewhat like those called Project Notes on the Antiquity webpage). Perhaps including comments along with the post is exciting and transparent, and this is what the Valve has done to make their book events more interesting, but these were focused moments in the blogosphere that made use of blogging as medium rather than a genre of writing.  They allowed for books to be discussed soon after their publication (see below: speed) and to capture scholarly opinion in its evolution.

As a medium, however, blogging remains quite exciting. The significance of blogging is that we have conversations like this that have flow between posts and comments in this blog, on other blogs, more formal scholarly publications, video, podcasts, the popular press. Reducing these links to footnotes strips a blog of what makes it so interesting. The best blogs, at least they sees to me, are liminal, interstitial spaces between other media, genres, and ideas. 

It also has a speed. We can comment instantly and off the cuff – like a lunchtime conversation here at the American School – on a topic, recent article, review or lecture. A call for papers or conference notice can also use a blog page to generate contributions and interest.

Finally, many blogs are good because of their scholarly coherence. David Gill’s blogs, Looting Matters and the History of the British School at Athens are great examples of that.  Any individual post from the blog is hardly as a meaningful as reading it regularly. 

What Now?
This post is not meant to be negative (I clearly owe Alun a beer sometime), but ask what seems to me to be the bigger questions, what is the goal of producing PD(Q)?  What aspect of blogging do we want to bring to the attention of our non-blogging colleagues?  Do we want to communicate the genre or the medium (or is the medium at some point really the message?).  I think our discussion of citation, which to my mind foreshadows the much more difficult question of criteria for inclusion in PD(Q), is the tip of an interesting and important iceberg bearing down on practitioners of the New Media.  As I am putting together material for my annual review, I myself find it easier to attempt to translate my blogging habit into something my more tradition-bound colleagues will understand (i.e. I got 40,000+ words over 12 months -- so whatchu got?), than sell them on the value and significance of participating in the medium itself. 

Friday, February 8, 2008

A Blog Carnival / Journal Proposal: The Past Discussed Quarterly

PDQ Submission
The Past Discussed Quarterly will be a journal published four times a year. There’s no intention to compete for the same market as any other journals, nor to replace weblogs. Instead the journal is a bridge between bloggers in the broadest sense and non-blogging academics. The journal will be available as a PDF for free under a CC licence and paper format at the minimum allowed cost via Lulu. The journal will reproduce articles and entries from weblogs, providing a citeable format for people uncomfortable with citing weblogs. Additionally it’s intended that an XHTML or TEI format will be archived, initially with Tom Elliott and hopefully later with ISAW. This will provide a permanent curated archive for webloggers’ work. Submission will be similar to a blog carnival, though the need for permissions to re-print entries adds a little more to the process of submitting.

Deadlines for Submissions will be the ends of February, May, August, November. The entries will be blog posts which are open for comments.* The journal will be compiled starting the second week of March, June, September and December with the intention of being complete by the end of that month.

To enter an article a blogger will email the editorial panel (method to be determined) and display a PDQ button somewhere on the blog entry linked to a page explaining what PDQ is. Use of this button will signify that that the blogger is allowing his or her entry to be in PDQ and released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence. It sounds like a cunning way to gain links to the site, but it also has another function. We’ll need a positive action by the author to show they’re willing to be included. Adding a button is easier than faxing a form to a central point. All entries will be reviewed by an editor and any changes emailed back to the author. Entries may be full-length academic works, though I’d recommend submitting to a more prestigious OA journal, news commentary, reviews, sample photographs of collections available under a Creative Commons licence, opinion or anything that would be of particular interest to an ancient world blogger. That would include The Lost PowerPoint slides, if Mark Rayner is interested in contributing.

The inclusivity is important. Bill Caraher raises several good points in his post Blogging, Peer Review, and Scholarly Publication. Weblogs are anarchic in a positive sense of the word. Making blogs more like academic papers would be a bad thing. We already have academic journals for academic papers, even if the publishing system needs a shove towards Open Access. Blogs are fast, eclectic and interactive. That last point in particular is important. I read weblogs and if they’re anonymous I don’t know if I’m reading a professor’s thoughts, or a students, or an ex-graduate or someone who’s simply interested in the past - and it doesn’t matter. What matters is the writing interesting. The blogs I read take the same view, it’s not the status of the individual, but the argument that matters. That critical approach should be the spirit of academic inquiry. For that reason pseudonymous bloggers should be welcome without having to lose their pseudonym.

Although the deadlines are quarterly, a blog post does not have to have been written in that quarter to be eligible for entry. A blog post written at any time is eligible. Given the journal is based in open accessible material, prior publication is not an issue. However, some bloggers may have many good posts in their archives, so perhaps a limit of two opinion pieces / academic notes per issue may be a useful limit. Multiple reviews and CFP notices are welcome. Just because something has been reviewed by one blogger there’s no reason why another reviewer should not offer a different opinion in the same or later edition.

The refereeing process will include reading the comments posted on a blog entry, so at least some of the refereeing will be transparent. Bloggers will know which editor is working with their entry. It wouldn’t be fair of one of the parties to be anonymous. This works on the assumption that participants are capable of acting like reasonable human beings, which would seem to be justified.

After the deadline for submissions has passed there’ll be at least a week before compilation starts. This means that entries submitted just before the deadline are open to commentary for at least seven days before the post is entered into the journal. During this period entries will be start to assigned to volunteer editors to work on. Any edits will be emailed back to the author for checking and, if accepted compiled into the journal.

The time period and geographical scope could be a problem. I don’t know what the likely submission rate will be. It’s possible that Bronze Age to Late Antiquity in Europe and the Near East would fill out an edition. On the other hand people may be busy. Is ancient anything before AD 800? Or anything before 1492? Would pre-columbian material from the Americas be suitable? My own tastes tend to be pretty catholic and I think anything pre-Renaissance world-wide would be a reasonable range, plus the effects of the ancient world on the modern, like Classical reception. Additionally cross-period discussions are interesting. If there are posts by different authors on the landscape of Classical, Medieval, Post-Med and Modern Italy referencing each other then why not include the posts from the later periods together with the earlier posts as a section? My wariness of being fully open to all periods stems from needing to be able to manage the publication. There’s a lot of 20th century history blogs for example. That could lead to a lot of entries. If the historical blogging world (I refuse to use the word blogosphere) expands, that would add further pressure.

This wouldn’t prevent the information and experience being passed on to other people who might want to set up a Modern equivalent.


Other notes:
The name. I don’t know about elsewhere but in the UK PDQ stands for Pretty Darn Quick. It’s a slightly frivolous name, Ancient Quarterly would be more serious, but this is a journal / blog carnival hybrid. Even though I use the word journal above, there are journals and there are journals. The purpose of this journal is to show off the advantages of blogging. Interactivity is one advantage, the speed of getting ideas out and feedback is another. Rather than trying to emulate traditional journals, this would be an opportunity to offer something new. On the other hand if PDQ really puts people off, then AQ would be the better name to go with.

Editing. In a perfect world, this shouldn’t be much more work than putting together a blog carnival. In reality the proof-reading and confirmation of edits will take time and this is something done in spare time, not as a job. Tom Elliott has suggested a managerial committee of 2-3 people, with an additional 2-3 people working on each issue. The problem with having a lot of editors is that organising them becomes a full-time job. As Tom will be handling the archiving and I expect to be converting the edited blog entries from from text or Word files into PDF and XHTML, I think we’d be obvious initial choices for the management committee with a third member Given the lack of a Late Antiquarian, Medievalist or Biblical scholar I think a volunteer from one of these fields would be helpful. Additionally we’ll need volunteers from any fields to edit the first couple of issues.

Ongoing running. The journal will need a homepage to list the editions and to explain what it is. I thought would be a suitable host for this. It has the ability to have a static front page and host other static pages. The stats package with it should be able to track links using the journal’s button, which might help if people forget to email in their entries in. On a weekly basis a list of submissions could be posted here for anyone who wants to comment on entries before the edition is compiled. Additionally calls for papers and volunteer editors could appear here, so the journal website is for hosting the journal rather than diluting the discussion on this weblog.

Timescale. If you look above I said that the first deadline should be the end of February. If you look at this as a blog carnival, and that older posts are acceptable submissions then this doesn’t sound as mad as setting up a journal in a few weeks. I picked those dates because they’d best fit around the UK terms. If terms in other countries are radically different then it may be better to shift them.

If we keep this under discussion for another week I can set up the infrastructure next weekend and that would leave two weeks for people to submit material for the first issue. That’s about normal for a typical blog carnival. In the meantime if you want to write for the inaugural edition it’s three weeks’ notice.

* Except for David Meadows’ Rogue Classicism. It’s a feature of the weblogging software that he uses that inline comments aren’t possible. It would be insanity to turn him down if he were willing to contribute.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Re-thinking the Blog Carnival

PDQ Submission
If you’re not familiar with the term a Blog Carnival is a series of blog posts which are collections of links to other blog posts. An example would be the History Carnival or Four Stone Hearth. The carnival aspect comes from the fact that each post is compiled by a different editor and held at a different weblog. The original aim was to try and put posts from various bloggers which may have been missed in front of a wider audience. What I’ve been thinking about for several months is that it may be worthwhile re-thinking the concept of a blog carnival.

The thing that’s pushed me into posting is the exciting potential of Sebastian Heath and Billur Tekkök’s project Greek, Roman and Byzantine Pottery at Ilion (Troia) which inspired Shawn Graham to compile some of his posts into a free e-book Electric Archaeology. The exciting thing about these books is that they provide material in a form that’s citable in front of a technophobic audience. You can simply cite Author, date, Title, and as the publisher. This may get sniffs from people who would call this vanity publishing, but would be happy supplying camera-ready copy and their own referees to a ‘respectable’ publisher. You can’t have everything and for everyone else it provides a canonical reference to cite. Importantly to the reader this e-book can be provided at zero-cost, and for the publisher it is lo-cost or no-cost. If this approach were applied to blog carnivals, it would be possible to create a periodical available as a CC licenced e-book and a hardcopy with ISSNs. This would provide canonical citations for blog posts which for various reasons haven’t been re-written for academic journals. Could this be used to create a bridge between weblogs and the unwebbed?

There are good reasons for creating a more permanent blog carnival. Weblogs come and go, even the carnival posts themselves come and go. The impermanence of a weblog makes citation of a weblog post a bit of a gamble. I suspect that HTML will be readable by computers in 20 years time, but I wouldn’t like to say how many of today’s weblogs will still be accessible. A permanent blog-carnival would give a better chance of some ideas being archived. Archiving may prove important in the future. While a warning over weblogging is that ideas can be lifted, so too a permanent record could be used to demonstrate precedence. You can insert your own PhD thesis referee horror-story here.

Light-review may help authors re-think posts and help clarify ideas which the author might not have realised were ambiguous. Additionally my case some of my entries would benefit from porof-reading for mispellings and bad grammar. The alternative would be to include an obviously deliberate spelling mistake and claim that all other mistakes are deliberate, but that would lose credibility after a while.

At the same time there are also advantages for authors in pooling posts into a carnival. Some posts are very much products of their time and may lack the impact that they could have had, had they been read sooner. Juxtaposition of posts on similar topics can also create new discussion around a subject. There are practical reasons why an academic journal wouldn’t have three reviews of a film like ‘300’. For an electric journal would not be an issue. A journal based on weblogs could, if permissions could be gained, also use comments on posts used, as well as entries responding to other posts. It wouldn’t necessarily be Current Anthropology, but it could be similar in intent.

Finally there is no choice between publishing a weblog post in a blog carnival or in a personal e-book. The open nature of weblogs would render the idea that a carnival/journal had exclusive reproduction rights for an article ridiculous. It would be message rather the medium it was transmitted in which would affect its acceptance.

To some extent this idea has already been tested. The Open Laboratory recently published its second edition. Around fifty entries were selected from 500 to produce a commercial book intended to be read as a hard-copy. A regular and smaller journal in a similar vein, intended to exist primarily as an e-book should be feasible. If it’s not obvious then I haven’t seriously edited anything, so I could be talking rot. On the other hand a blog carnival can be created in a few hours. A month from submission deadline from willing participants to getting the downloadable e-book would seem to be feasible.

So what would it look like?

My guess is that in hard copy it would be an A4 saddle-stitch book on Lulu. This would work for up to 88 pages. The reason for this size is that it would be the same size in the e-book file, and the printers I’m familiar with take A4 paper. If A4 is really bad news for North American computer printers then it would have to be another size. I know an e-book can be read and searched on a screen, but if you want to spend a lot of time reading something paper is better. If you want to hand a copy with comments on to a colleague then you’ll find they respond better to sheets of paper than they would to a monitor with annotations scrawled in permanent marker on it. Paper isn’t going to be obsolete for a long while.

On the inside there’d be contents and possibly a foreword from the editor(s). The entries would be more eclectic than you’d find in academic journals. There could be articles on work in progress, or comments on other articles or book chapters similar to the BPR3 project. Bloggers would probably be a good source of reviews. In short the usual range of opinion and commentary on the discipline which you find in blogs. There wouldn’t be a need to show that what you’re submitting is an original and outstanding piece of research, merely that it’s interesting and worth making a note of. Additionally there could be CC-licenced photography, which would work better in the e-book than the hardcopy. Knowing what material is being made available would be helpful. This might not make it a proper academic journal, but that wouldn’t be the aim. Personally I see weblogs as closer to an ongoing conference than a journal.

The articles would have a title, author name and affiliation - if applicable. A common complaint against the internet is that anyone can put up a website. Counter to this I would argue that one of the good things about the internet is that anyone can put up a website. It reduces barriers to publication, and just because something is on the web there’s not compulsion to take it seriously. At the end of each article would be the URL of the original post. Again, this would be a bridge between weblogs and non-blogging academics, not a replacement of either.

The big problem I see is how light review should be. Proof reading from another person is always a help, but more is required. If you want to demonstrate how weblogs can be used for intelligent discussion it would be helpful not to be including gibberish. I have no reason to think that Duane Smith writes nonsense, but I lack the linguistic skills to be sure. For what is intended as a permanent compilation of posts how far should I go checking his work? I’ve picked on Duane Smith, not only because of my own ignorance, but also because he has a basic logical thread to his posts. It means that even though I don’t have the skills to check his translations I can assume his blog posts are reasoned, even if not everyone would agree with him. For this reason I would say that I’d be justified in including his entry Semi-Literates in the Hinterlands of Ugarit? Nonetheless a team of editors, preferably including one who could point to Ugarit on a map, would be desirable.

The whole thing would be released under a BY-NC-ND licence, which would make it duplicable for electronic archives without exposing the authors to commercial exploitation. As for frequency, an edition on a quarterly basis would be feasible. The History Carnival runs on a monthly cycle and Four Stone Hearth is fortnightly. This may well result in short editions, but would mean that the immediacy of the web was being used.

Good idea? Bad idea?

Blog Citation in Law Reviews

Open Access News has linked to a few studies/summaries of the citation of blogs in law reviews. I do not know what a similar study of ancient world secondary literature would reveal but I'm guessing we're somewhat behind that curve. Looking forward, I'll also hazard a guess that epigraphy and papyrology will, in the short-term at least, continue to lead the way in integrating community-based scholarship into academic practice.

AWBG Members

As people join this blog (31 and counting), I have been making each of them an administrator. This meanss you can do anything I can do, and probably better! So feel free to do it. By going to Settings => Permissions, you can have blogger invite others to join us here. Feel free to explore.


The NEH Digital Humanities Initiative Update mailing list has just announced an interesting set of grants. These do not yet appear to be listed at their website.


In December, the NEH awarded the following digital humanities grants. As you will see below, these came from a variety of different grant programs from across the NEH. Congratulations to all the awardees!


Title: The Dynamic Lexicon: Cyberinfrastructure and the Automatic Analysis of Historical Languages
Award Amount: $284,999
Institution: Tufts University
Project Director: Gregory Crane
To Support: Research on methods to generate a dynamic lexicon for a text corpus in a digital library. Using Greek and Latin texts, the project would investigate processes to enumerate possible senses for the words being defined and provide detailed syntactic information and statistical data about their use in a corpus.

Title: Text Mining and Analysis Tools for Historical Research
Award Amount: $300,000
Institution: George Mason University
Project Director: Daniel Cohen
To Support: Research, development, and testing of tools designed to locate documents in large digital corpora, extract information, and analyze large scale patterns across texts.

Title: A Machine Aided Back of the Book Indexing System
Award Amount: $131,465
Institution: Duquesne University
Project Director: Patrick Juola
To Support: Development and evaluation of a prototype system for helping indexers, including authors and publishers, produce traditional back of the book indexes...

Dan cohen has given more information on his project on his Digital Humanities Blog.

Χείρων · Chiron

I've just become aware, by way of Alun Salt's post, of the Χείρων · Chiron project. This web hub was started by a collaborative group of classics teachers from several areas in Spain. The web interface is multilingual, and includes a wide variety of information:
  • a wiki of classics resources
  • a social bookmarker
  • reviews
  • an image gallery
  • a video gallery
  • presentations
  • courses
  • a calendar
  • a forum
  • a chat room
  • a blog feed aggregator
The blog feed aggregator brings together content from nearly 150 mostly Spanish-language, classics-oriented blogs. Almost none of these are represented in the membership of AWBG, nor are they included in the blog aggregators I recently set up.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Mobile Learning: Presentations

I mentioned last month that I had been to a day conference on Mobile Learning. The presentations are now available.

Monday, February 4, 2008


I've set up two feed aggregators. Let me know what you think. Electra Atlantis follows my professinoal interests. Maia Atlantis is an attempt to be relatively comprehensive for ancient world blogs, but I'm sure I've missed some of you. Please email me with additions/corrections.

Yossi Nagar, Forensics and Israelite Origins

The results of recent forensic investigations of DNA from ancient Canaanite remains and modern inhabitants of that region are featured in the documentary on Joshua in the series Ancient Evidence. Yossi Nagar speaks briefly about his work in the documentary, and his 2003 book presumably presents his findings. The book in question, entitled Mi anahnu? : sipuran he-`atik shel ukhlusiyot Yisrael, is currently available only in the modern Hebrew original, and for that reason appears to not be having the impact on Biblical studies in the English-speaking world that it might otherwise.

Have any of the speakers of modern Hebrew reading this blog read the book? I'd invite you to share a synopsis and/or comments here. Are there plans to translate the book into English? His conclusions based on genetics, that the Israelites and Canaanites were the same, separated not by biology but only theology, are relevant to the historical and archaeological questions that many Biblical scholars are investigating, and would presumably make an important contribution to the discussion if made accessible to a wider audience.

As I noted a while back on my own personal blog, there are a couple of other genetic studies relevant to this topic, although without including the forensic evidence from ancient Canaanites. One is "The Y Chromosome Pool of Jews as Part of the Genetic Landscape of the Middle East", and the other is "The Origin of Palestinians and Their Genetic Relatedness With Other Mediterranean Populations". The data from such studies need to be part of the discussions of historical questions about Israelite origins.