Death and rebirth of expert blogs: on losing to obligation and coming back again?


Why I stopped following blogs and why I want to get back to into them

{image: Temptation Neon by Sara Pope}

Since the short-sighted murder of Google Reader in 2013, which seems even more stupid now that Google+ is as good as dead, I’ve struggled to keep up with the various spectacular art, archaeology, and heritage blogs out there that provide insightful commentary by top experts. As my own blogging decrescendoed into sometimes-weekly art and antiquities crime news round-ups and research opportunities, so too did my blog reading. I depended on Twitter to tell me what was hot in blog land, keeping up as I could. Yet by May/June of this year, I found that Twitter’s darkness was blotting out its light and I couldn’t deal with the anxiety it caused, thus I stopped reading it. I still post news and updates through a third party buffering service, but no reading. This meant my ability to follow the spectacular commentary that I know is out there fell to zero.

For the most part, this is because I’ve become incredibly busy. This is in stark contrast to 2011 when I started this blog. In 2011 I was painfully not busy. As I told some of the awesome University of Glasgow online postgrads in Antiquities Trafficking and Art Crime recently, I started this blog because I had submitted my PhD, I was getting absolutely no response to all my applications for academic positions, and I was working minimum wage in a museum and serving people at weddings on the side. I felt like I was drowning in obscurity and unsuccessful job applications, despite having a lot to say about my chosen field. I started this blog specifically to develop my voice, to expand my reach, and to carve out a place for myself…and I read everyone else’s blogs religiously.

Now, seven years later, everything is really good. The pain of that long period of unemployment, obscurity, and self doubt (mid 2010 until early 2012) has been dulled by a trajectory up. Starting with a move to Scotland, I got a job, an early career fellowship, an extension on my research assistant position, a temporary lectureship, a permanent lectureship, and now I pretty much have my dream job: I run a postgraduate programme that is 100% based on my research and filled with students who are the best, I am free to explore the crazy/amazing research topics I love, and I’ve got a large grant coming to me to push that crazy/amazing to the next level. There have been a lot of lows over these 6.5 years, and getting here was difficult, but here I am.

And this blog and the other blogs I followed were at the start of my long climb out of a deep dark hole.

Yet with all that good dream job stuff has come a shrinking of my available time. Reading (and writing) blogs, which is un-paid work) has fallen by the wayside as I fill my days with paid work, or as I push for some semblance of sanity through “No Work Saturdays” and evenings where I really do try to calm down. Important, all of this, but it makes me feel disconnected. I also read fewer academic papers than I want to or should for the same reason; more disconnect. I don’t like that disconnect.

But now I stand on the edge of an entire year of greatly-reduced to absent paid work, I wonder if I can use some of this time to quietly start reading blogs (and papers) again…and quietly start writing them. Perhaps I have an unrealistic sense about how much energy and focus I will have for such things, but at the very least having commentary to scroll through while I am up all night seems both doable and positive. And, gosh, I love the commentary. I’m setting it up. Now to figure out what blogs to follow.

Wouldn’t it be strange if I spent my year “off” becoming more connected “in”?

Is there a conclusion to this post? Not really. Just some reflection. Maybe I’ll be doing that more as well.