Monday, October 30, 2006

Spike in traffic... and blog rationale

There's been a spike in traffic on this blog lately, thanks in no small part to its being mentioned on the Palanth Forum and the Palanthsci group (thanks to the guilty parties, you know who you are!). Thank you guys for judging my opinions worthy of consideration! So, if you get here from such fine spots along the information superhighway, let me wish you a warm welcome!

I guess this is as good an occasion as any to re-make explicit my goals and intentions about this blog. First and foremost, somewhat selfishly, it serves as a repository for my inchoate thoughts and first reactions to topics that interest me from a scholarly standpoint and have to do with my research, from close or from far. As such, I reserve the right to revisit, revise and disavow them at any point in time. This is also the reason why I opt to post them in blog format rather than post them directly on listervs or discussion groups, where they might appear to be fully crystallized ideas. I don't really have a problem with people linking from discussion boards to the contents of this blog, as long as this important caveat is fully understood.

I tend to be blunt when I speak and write, though I never mean to be insulting or derogatory - I'm a strong believer that there's really no point for those attitudes in science as in life. If you, as a reader, feel the tone of a post is excessive, please let me know. The last thing I need as I post here is to make enemies and generate rancor; as I said, it's not my goal and, frankly, I'm not in a position where I can really afford either. The posts here are simply my burgeoning thoughts and first reactions to stuff I read, or presentations I get to see, or things that come to my attention that I feel are somehow relevant to my research (okay, except for the World Cup stuff, that was just sheer exultation!). As such, they shouldn't be considered definitive or set in stone at all. In fact, they're very likely to change, as they have time to sit around my cerebrum and macerate and come in contact with one another. But, given what I felt was a paucity of blogs discussing Paleolithic and hunter-gatherer archaeology, I felt that it might serve to stimulate discussion if I were to post them as a blog. Also, because I'm writing my thesis, I can't guarantee posts on a regular basis, but I try to post a couple of times a week or so.

I like the blog format for scientific discussion for a number of reasons, a main one being that it democratizes discussion of issues. I'm a PhD candidate in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change (formerly the Department of Anthropology) at Arizona State University, and my research currently focuses on the Uluzzian industry of southern Italy and the Middle-Upper Paleolithic Transition as a whole, topics I approach from the perspective of lithic analysis, ecological theory and hunter-gatherer studies. While this doesn't make me an authority in any real sense, I do feel that I have at least some competency to discuss issues pertaining to these research topics. If you disagree with me, then by all means post a comment.

What I try to do in this blog is post on issues that otherwise might not get broached in discussions of recent discoveries or papers. This is especially true for short papers in journals like Nature, Science or the PNAS, that usually don't give commentators a chance to go into much detail about their concerns with papers published therein. So, in this blog, when I address issues or concerns I have with papers, I usually focus on details rather than the "big picture." This isn't because I don't think that the big picture is important, but rather because I believe that in order to get an accurate big picture, you need to make sure the individual pixels of that picture, so to speak, are accurate. And I think that it's unscientific to disregard peer-reviewed research that flatly disagrees with a given argument, so I try to bring up such literature when I feel it's been ignored.

However, more than anything, I tend to post comments on papers or topics that I've liked or that have otherwise somehow piqued my curiosity at any given point in time. I'm also a consummate fan of pointing out when pop culture and/or literature intersect with paleoanthropology, so when I stumble on interesting examples of this, I like to post about them as well.

So this, in a nutshell, is the spirit of "A Very Remote Period Indeed." Welcome, enjoy, and feel free to discuss!

PS: I'm aware there are some glitches with my personal site, and I hope to correct them in the coming weeks... however, this all has to wait 'til the dissertation is done!


Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for mentioning my e-list Palanthsci. I should mention that I'm a writer of what might be called romantic science fiction featuring Neandertals. I don't want to go into the "backstory", but they have returned to Earth and are in "hiding" so to speak. The Palanthsci e-list grew out of my research(in part), and I belong to a number of related lists. Along the way, I've collected a fair number of paleoanthropological sites that I think are worthwhile, as well as some paleoanthropology and prehistoric archaeology-related blogs such as yours. Whenever I see anything good, I try to pass it on at Palanthsci and elswewhere. So I'm glad you're "out there".
Anne G

Julien Riel-Salvatore said...

Hi, Anne.
No problem, it's my pleasure, and thanks very much for your kind words! Looking forward to having a bit more disucssion on this blog!