8 Bit Test Pit Podcast

Podcasting Archaeology or Why to Communicate Archaeology via the Internet.

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What started as a vanity project, a blog where I could vent my thoughts on psuedoarchaeology, has blossomed into a multi-bloomed flower of sorts. Each blossom requiring attention, and each one being as satisfying as the last. I’m talking about podcasting, of course.

Media, and the use of newer forms of media; podcasting, YouTube, twitter, Facebook, etc, is a weakness of Archaeology. Even with the influx of younger archaeologists into the field, those who should be more comfortable and accepting of digital media, it still seems to escape us as archaeologists. What is it? How does it work? What do we do with it?

When Chris Webster and Tristan Boyle launched the Archaeology Podcast Network (APN) back in late 2014, there were only about three (maybe 4) archaeology podcasts on the digital air. None of them were really aware of each other, and frankly, most people didn’t even know they existed at all. Today the APN has 15 shows covering topics ranging from broad topics like CRM archaeology, technology in the field, terms, techniques and concepts, to specific topics like women in archaeology, debunking psuedoarchaeology, Caribbean archaeology, and archaeogaming. If you consider that the APN isn’t even two yet, 15 shows is quite the achievement.

These shows attempt to educate and inform as well as entertain. They reach out to the archaeological community, trying to connect archaeologists together, and at the same time, reach out to the public and help them understand what it is we do. This is done with both female and male voices, both field and academically employed. It’s Archaeology for everyone, as Chris once put it, and it’s very effective at communicating.

So why are there not more shows out there? Why don’t were hear one from every University that has an archaeology program? Why isn’t there one for every sub-field of archaeology? One for every professional organization (I’m looking at you SAA)? One for every conference? We need to communicate with each other and with the public, so why aren’t we using this medium to do so?

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Maybe some of it has to do with the perceived cost in money and in time. I assure you, this need not be a barrier. You can record a decent enough podcast in a quiet room with a laptop and free recording software like Audacity or Garage-band. You don’t even need an external mic, though sitting close to the computer is necessary.  If you want to up your game a bit you can buy a cheep recording mic, and most of them are good as well as affordable. Simple soundproofing can be achieved with a large cardboard box and towels. Only the pros go all in and get the big mics and the soundproof rooms, but hey, if you’ve got the budget, go for it.

Time is another story. How long your finished show is, will determine how long you’ll need to record. In my experience you should add 30 min to whatever the final show length is for recording. So an hour long show requires a minimum of an hour and a half to record. Editing can take a bit too depending on how familiar you are with the software, and how much you care about um’s, ah’s, and long pauses. Honestly, editing can be a time suck, but it’s worth it to hear your finished piece. Still, this is not as much time as you would think, unless you’re a procrastinator, and then I can’t help you.

So with time and money out of the equation, why are there not more shows? Some people just don’t want to do it, which is fine on an individual level, but when we get to the Professional and University level, this is less of a realistic excuse. Part of doing archaeology is making it accessible, and podcasting makes it accessible. This isn’t even the Open Access argument that grates on a lot of professionals and academics. I’m not asking you to talk about sensitive material, just talk about what you do, how you do it, and why it’s important. If it’s interesting, people will listen, and they wont care that your audio quality is crappy, or that your intro music is midi, or that you only publish once a month.

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Which leaves me with, suspicion and the avoidance of being vulnerable. Archaeologists seem to tend to be suspicious of new things. Even I am times, but we have to push past that. I see it happening every day, with the new influx of young archaeologists who are accustomed to social media and digital media. When I joined Twitter back in 2009, I looked for every archaeologist I could find on twitter to add to my feed. I had about 20. In the whole world of twitter in 2009 there were 20ish archaeologists using it, and most of us didn’t have a clue what we were using it for. We did it anyway and we figured it out, and today, there are more archaeology twitter accounts than I can ever hope to follow sending me updates and pictures and artifact id challenges and blogs, etc. So if we can accept Twitter et al, why can we not make more podcasts (or even videos)?

I think some of it has to do with the avoidance of being vulnerable many professionals have. Making a recording, in real time, has the potential to catch a movement of vulnerability. A mistake, a misspoken word, the wrong date or term, an embarrassing laugh, an uncomfortable question. It’s called being human and mistakes will be made. Yet somehow we’ve become petrified at the idea of being caught being wrong, and instead of just saying “oops” and either fixing it or apologizing for it, we’d rather not even try. This causes lots of problems, one of which is being seen as aloof and unapproachable to the public, and thereby being invisible.

Some will tell me that they are afraid of being taken out of context. Well let  me tell you a thing. I’ve been working with pseudoarchaeology and the fringe for almost a decade now. It doesn’t matter what you say, how you say it, or even IF you say it. You will be taken out of context by someone at some time and there isn’t a damn thing you can do about it. So instead of hiding, come on out here and make create something informative and educational.

Podcasting is fun, it’s refreshing to connect with others, and talk about shared topics with peers. It creates a medium that is being embraced by more and more people as technology advances. It can be quick and informative, long and educational, and interesting at either length. It’s one of the best ways to communicate with the public, and it’s accessible to most people. Pretty much anyone with the internet or a phone can hear your podcast these days, making it one of the best ways to educate and inform. Recording software is free, hosting sites like Sound-cloud are free, Or you can join forces with the APN and make an ever bigger, better Archaeology Podcast Network. The benefit to this would be access to people who are already using podcasting as a way to communicate (and maybe edit). So basically, there is no cost to this beyond time, and lets face it, you’re probably supposed to be reaching out to the public anyway, why not make a lasting impression with a podcast that will live forever on the internet?

Join the podcasting revolution and spread Archaeology to the public, one show at a time.