Posted by: Johan Normark | May 5, 2011

Dealing with the public view of the Maya: pt. 3

If we are to confront fringe theories of our discipline, we must reach out where they are and change media environment. But since all media has its own drawbacks and prejudices, is the blog the best way to deal with the public view of the Maya?

There are certainly some less pleasant parts of blogging. While blogging about various parts of the 2012 phenomenon I have encountered everything from threats from an astrologer to dismissals on the grounds that I am biased because I am part of the academia.

Few of the better known 2012ers have interacted with me for an extended period of time. These people are not that willing to enter public debate since when they are confronted with someone who easily can show their shortcomings they usually retreat. However, they seem to continue to follow what I write. My 2012 blog posts have received fairly high page ranking and they usually show up just a few rows below the 2012ers’ own websites. Therefore my blog posts are found by “ordinary” people who do believe in the 2012 ideas and it is with them that I interact with.

It is seldom from the posts that attract most traffic that you’ll get most comments or responses. This is because these posts attract a too differentiated set of people with no special interest in the specifics you write about. A post receives more comments if it attracts a limited but specialized category of people. For example, a little more than a month ago I wrote a post to see to what extent people connects the 2012 phenomenon with a current event with global media coverage. On the same day as the tsunami hit Japan I wrote a post about the fact that people on 2012 forums immediately began to relate the tsunami with the 2012 date. Just by adding Japan, tsunami and 2012 in the header and as tags, the post attracted hundreds of hits the first day and a week afterwards it has attracted 1500 hits which is 6-7 times more than usual for my blog. There was only one comment though.

Another drawback is that blogs do not aggregate conversation well. Older and unpopular posts tend to disappear when you search for them, apart from the 2012 related posts. Google’s search results privilege recent pages. Hence I have repeated myself many times when I need to explain the basics in neorealistic archaeology or my thoughts about 2012. Even I do not remember everything that I have written in my over 450 posts.

Can the blog be used for serious scholarship? My answer is yes. This is after all what I primarily use the blog for. I have had comments from Mayanists and philosophers that have helped me out in my own research. Of all comments that I receive I value comments from academic Mayanists most since the majority of Mayanists unfortunately are lazy when it comes to blogging compared to my colleagues in Scandinavian archaeology. Maya archaeology gets its public attention anyway so that may be a reason why Mayanists lack interest in blogging and commenting.

I have changed my thinking far more during my two years as a blogger than in the ten years or so of paper publishing before that. This is particularly obvious when I compare my published works and my blog posts. A published work is a statement of my position up to the point when the proof reading has taken place, whereas blog posts are far more experimental. Once the article has been published, my own standpoints have long since moved on and these new ideas can be seen on the blog. The main reason why I continue to publish in peer-review journals is that it looks better on my CV and that I can write at greater length. Otherwise I prefer the blog.

I have restrained myself from linking to the same blogs that I follow all the time. Linking and interacting with the same bloggers create a tighter network that tends to sort out and exclude others, similar to the problem with traditional academic media. In a study by Karl Palmås, called “Follow the phlegm”, it is quite obvious how such a tight network emerges through linking and the creation of a discourse that sorts out those not acquainted with it. Hence I separate my theoretical jargon from 2012 posts as much as possible since I want to keep my blog open, even for people who believe the end of the world is near.

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