Toss Me A Bone

I feel like blogging but there’s not much going on over the summer and I don’t know what to write about. Toss me a bone, Dear Reader! Suggest a topic, ask me a question, gimme a link!

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Kay Glans Mourns Authoritative Newspaper Discourse

Kay Glans used to edit the literary pages of Svenska Dagbladet, Sweden’s main conservative* newspaper, and Axess Magasin, a conservative Swedish arts & social sciences mag that also has a TV channel. The latter’s standard is high, and I’ve been particularly pleased to find repeated staunch rebuttals of post-modernism there. What I don’t like much in Glans’s oeuvre is a tendency for aesthetic idealism and aesthetic conservatism, of the canon-stroking sort. His writers tend to believe that there are classics that every educated person should read. I’m an aesthetic relativist and accept no canon of literature.

Glans has moved on and now edits Respons, a mag whose entire contents consist of book reviews – think The New York Review of Books or The Times Literary Supplement. In the current issue of Respons, the canonical perspective reappears. In fact, Glans is now mourning the loss not only of an agreed-upon literary canon, but of a canonical Swedish public conversation. In his editorial, he writes (and I translate):

“The image of people who walk around town, each absorbed by their own little device, is a sign that we are losing both our inner space and our collective space and increasingly live in a kind of gap. … The absorption in a virtual world also changes public space. The distinction between the private and the public is eroding, and so is the distinction between the important and the trivial. … A functioning public conversation is characterised by a hierarchy of attention.

[Lately young people] are well educated and competent within their fields but they do not take part in any public discourse [!], preferring to follow their own paths through life. … It is a consequence of the digital environment that you can dig your own tunnel through the information flow and avoid contact with other information. The great contribution of daily newspapers was that people were exposed to others’ opinions and to events and problems that they were not aware of.”

To this I would reply that I have never enjoyed the selective one-way public discourse offered by newspaper pundits. I was 23 when I got access to the World Wide Web, and I took a morning newspaper for at least ten years after that age, so I am quite familiar with the thing. In the main, the literature pages were full of the opinions of people I had no interest in, about books I had no interest in. I am largely a non-fic and genre reader. Rare indeed was the essay about Tolkien, Lovecraft or LeGuin in Svenska Dagbladet. The Nobel Prize for literature has so far proved a reliable criterion to identify writers that bore me silly. And so I have little respect for canonical literature.

Glans complains about people concentrating on a selective digital environment, and erroneously assumes that on-line discourse is somehow narrower than that published in newspapers. The advantage of on-line public discourse over national newspapers are in fact many.

  • Global instead of parochial/national
  • Democratic, two-way – no pundits
  • Specialised – interest groups come together and talk about what they care about instead of reading general newspapers about stuff in which they have no interest

This is of course part of why blogging is one of my favourite hobbies.

* US readers: what we call “conservative”, you would call “progressive Democrat”. What you currently call “conservative”, we call “crazy right-wing fringe”.

De-Lurk

It’s time we had a de-lurk around this here blog! The last one was over a year ago. If you keep returning to this blog but rarely or never comment, you are a lurker, Dear Reader, and a most welcome one too.

Please comment on this entry and tell us something about yourself – like where you are, what your biggest passion is, what you’d like to see more of on the blog. And if you are a long-time lurker who has de-lurked before, re-de-lurks are much encouraged!

Tech Note: Tagging Matters To Traffic

I’m happy to note that Aard’s traffic is now back at its pre-Wordpress level: 880 daily uniques in January. I believe this is due to three factors: more frequent entries, a small traffic peak thanks to the Hårby valkyrie, and above all my return to tagging.

I don’t know why I quit tagging. Just lazy I guess. Tags are the little clickable keywords you’ve been seeing at the bottom of entries lately. Google places great stock on them. If I understand correctly, the search engine will place a tagged blog entry much higher in the search results than an identical entry without the tags. Tags attract drive-by readers. And surely some proportion of them will become regulars.

Aard Turns Six

Yesterday the 29th was Aard’s sixth birthday, but I was busy making Småland elk meatball lasagna and playing boardgames so I forgot to post. The State of the Blog is good and I have lots of year-end entries to write, as well as a stack of archaeomags to comment on, and hopefully I will get the finder’s permission to publish some photographs here of a mind-boggling new Danish find that Aard regular (since at least July 2011) Jakob tipped me off about the other day.

Overcast weather has caused me to spend most of my Christmas vacation indoors. I’m looking forward to some crisp and sunny January days when I can hit the golf course on my skis. And to interviewing for a job where the application reviewers have for the first time ranked me #1…

How are you spending your holidays, Dear Reader?

Seven Years Of Blogging

Remember blogging? It was really big back in 2005. My wife and her journalist friends all took it up. And eventually I did too — a bit more than a week before Christmas that year. A year later I got onto Scienceblogs. And look at me now, seven years down the blogging line. Still enjoying myself! Traffic has been down since we upgraded to WordPress back in spring, but it’s slowly recovering.

Are you still doing things you started in 2005, Dear Reader? What things?

State of the Blog

The dust has settled after Sb’s migration in late May from Moveable Type to WordPress. I’m glad we switched, but we lost a lot of traffic in the process. Mainly it seems to be due to changing URLs (the web address of each blog entry) that threw the search engines off and lost us RSS subscribers. In Q3 2011 Aard had 780 daily readers on average and a Google rank of 7. In Q3 2012 it’s looking to be more like 540 daily readers, and the Google rank is 6. Dear Reader, to keep things lively here, I’d be grateful for your help. In the following weeks, if you read something you like here, please hit the recommendation buttons up top for Facebook, Twitter and G+. Also, if you keep a blog, I’d appreciate a link now and then. Thanks!

Tech Note: Comment Moderation Is Glitchy

Aard has a persistent problem after the migration of Sb to WordPress. Every day up to a couple of hundred comments spontaneously get “reported” and become invisible. This mostly hits old entries but also some of the newer ones. So don’t despair if your comment shows up on the site briefly and then disappears. Nobody’s out to get you. I check the list often and re-approve the erroneously hidden comments.

Tech: The Feed URLs For This Blog Have Changed

An unfortunate side effect of the upgrade to WordPress has been that the feed URLs for this blog have changed, costing me 2/3 of my traffic. This will hopefully be rectified soon, but right now the URLs are:

http://scienceblogs.com/aardvarchaeology/feed/

or

http://scienceblogs.com/aardvarchaeology/feed/atom/

If you don’t know what this means, Dear Reader, then you are probably reading the blog by visiting it in your web browser. And if so, you have no problem with this.

Sadly, people who read this blog with feed reading software are unlikely to get this message unless they suddenly one day begin to wonder why my feed’s gone quiet.