Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Holiday Doldrums and Blog Reflections

More than any of the posts thus far, this one is the closest to writing for the simple sake of writing. This is going to be a self-indulgent post, so if you happen to be reading this and have better things to do, go do them.

I’m writing this post from behind a small, tent fort that my children have been playing with since Christmas.

My kids are currently napping and I’m hunkered down trying to crank out a blog post. I’ve hit a bit of holiday doldrums with inspiration and motivation to write, so I’m forcing the issue here. I have enjoyed blogging over the past six months and don’t want to fall out of the habit simply because the semester is over. I’ve found blogging to be a gratifying and useful outlet and simply want to keep the gears turning.
I count myself lucky to work on an academic schedule, but the rapid loss of structure at the end of semesters often throws me for a loop. No classes to teach, meetings to attend, papers to grade. The holiday break is even more discombobulating since it’s such a rush of activity, dealing with masses of family in and outside of my home.

Most of my posts have been stimulated by interactions with students in class, so the loss of that setting for a few weeks has meant the well of post ideas has dried quite a bit.

So, this post serves as year end kind of reflection on getting into the anthropology blogging game.

Thought Exercises and Unexpected Interest
First off, one of my primary goals for this blog was to help me work through topics that I had had a hard time getting across to students. As far as that goes, I feel it’s worked out well. A number of my posts from the past six months have directly contributed to my reworking class discussion, lectures or even a syllabus (The Content of the Form, Nádleehí, Ways of Knowing and Mutual Inclusion, Talking About Ancient and Modern Peoples, Thought Experiment on Remaking Economies, Road Rage and Bubbles of Protection, and Sucks Stinks to name a few of what I find to be more memorable ones).

It’s also been surprising to watch the different lives of various blog posts. Many of those that I mentioned in the previous paragraph were some of the least read posts on this blog, while some that I threw together in 15 minutes ended up being linked on other blogs (I must give lots of credit to Jason Antrosio and Living Anthropologically and Anthropology Report since his linking of my posts was always their springboard to wider readership) and receiving 10 times as many visits as posts that I’d thought much longer and harder about.

In particular, two posts took on a much more extended life than I would have expected. Talking About Ancient and Modern Peoples was a quick post written to distill my thoughts when talking to my students about modern human origins. I’d been recently influenced by posts by Jason Antrosio and John Hawks and had the ticklings of a memory of the braided river metaphor. I wanted to get those thoughts down to improve my teaching. The subsequent rementions by both Jason and John Hawks solidified the metaphor for me to the point that it will never slip my mind before teaching about that topic again.

My More Harm than Good ended up being my post that generated the most activity on Twitter. It also received more comments than any other post (granted, most of my posts receive ZERO comments, so this isn’t necessarily saying much). That was definitely one of the quickest posts to write, and one of the most teaching-personal I’ve yet finished.

All in all I’ve enjoyed my time with Torso and Oblong and hope to regain a bit more mojo once the Spring semester begins.

4 comments:

  1. I also find that at the end of each semester, I lapse into depression and listlessness. I thought I was supposed to be happy to be done with teaching my classes, and that I would be ready and eager to enjoy the break and apply myself to various pleasures and pursuits that were not possible during the slog of the semester, but instead I fall apart...happens every time! A paradox indeed.

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  2. It is a crappy irony. I don't think there's much consistent about any kind of "human nature," but I do think we are a meaning-bound species and that we derive much of that meaning through social interaction. In our society, the only real venue for consistent social interaction is work. So, when one has a break from work, it also means a break from social connections that make a human life meaningful (that sounds a bit to Hallmark card, it wasn't meant that way).

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  3. Interesting reflections and thanks for the mentions. I'm glad we've been able to connect and hope the traffic has been OK. As I calculated my most viewed posts for 2011, I have found some of my earlier, longest and most labored-over posts didn't make it. Somewhere there may be a place where the length-effort ratio translates into page-views, but there's probably a lot of luck to it too.

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  4. Jason,

    That's interesting about the post effort/reader number ratio. I've recently been informally aiming for around 1000 words.

    Something that I forgot to mention in the original post was another unexpected benefit of blogging, particularly making connections with folks such as yourself, is that other anthro blogs serve as a kind of surrogate anthro department for myself. Being at a community college, I'm the only full time anthropologist, and while I'm quite fond of many of my colleagues, they're understandably not up on the details of anthropology. Blogging has made me feel much more tapped into the discipline than I would have otherwise. Those increased connections have reinvigorated my approach to teaching.

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