Haidy Geismar, NYU and UCL
I was interested to read a very brief, rather parochial, account of the world of anthropology blogging over at the site of Anthropology News, the journal of the American Anthropological Association, . Material World was singled out as an example of a “team blog” but the authors were worried that the free spirit of blogging might be lost with the fence of editors and the feel of an online journal. Following on from Danny’s point about open access, I’ve been thinking about the remit of Material World and what we, as editors, could do to contribute to some of the ongoing discussion about the public dissemination of anthropological, and other, ideas.
This prompted me to look a little more closely at our range of contributions, our diversity of contributors and our own editorial policies.
I know from google analytics that we have a very broad international readership, which is also reflected in the international diversity of our contributors. Most of our contributors are in the world of academic scholarship, many in anthropology, but also in many other related fields of enquiry. Our editorial policy is to keep threads of discussion and themes going, to encourage the presentation of new material. Unlike a conventional academic journal we are less concerned with promoting academic writing styles, and more concerned to exploit the inclusivity and format that the blogging platform facilitates. We see our peer review as really a form of encouragement – I think I can count the number of things we’ve turned down for the site on one hand – as a form of promotion, and as important outreach to wider communities of interest. We also have tried to develop a blogging strategy which looks outwards rather than inwards, and which is more interested in big ideas and descriptions than in personal opinion pieces.
For me, as one of the founding editors, the missing piece of the puzzle is the way in which we don’t generate a lot of comment on the site itself – although I’m also wondering, counterintuitively, how important that is. I know from talking to contributors that posts generate interest and that many private connections are facilitated. Little of our vibrant community is actually visible through the comments section of each post. In that way, we do function more like a journal and less like a blog, I suppose?
Looking through this post from 2008, I was happy to see the range of people that came out as material world readers, students, academics, even soldiers stationed in Iraq. I’m breaking our non-reflexive tradition here and am wondering if any of our readers could weigh in on the need for comment on these kinds of sites. Is visible comment important? Are the comments of interest when visiting other sites? If so, how can we encourage more visible discussion and dialog? WE would also love to get a sense of who are readers are today and how we might work better to connect you to one another (and if this is even something you would be interested in coming to Material World for)?