BRITARCH RIP. Long live BRITARCH…?

Grave monuments

Grave monuments

The BRITARCH mailing list has long been a place where one could ask a question and some friendly, helpful person would either know the answer or know someone who does or just offer some friendly advice or tips from their own experience. Ideas could be kicked around, there was a whole load of people willing to help and get involved in things. The community was diverse, including folks from all walks of life and this was one of its strengths. The list is described thus:

For the circulation of information, queries and general discussion of issues relating to archaeology in the United Kingdom. This list will be used by the Council for British Archaeology information service to announce relevant items of news or information.


Recently, however, it’s, well, gone off the boil. Too many trolls, flames, too much ranting and not enough interesting content or discussion. That is not to criticise contributors, just to observe the list ain’t what it used to be. Some of the long serving members are still there, still doing their bit and I would like to thank them for their long service, much appreciated it is. But I am speaking in general here, no names, no pack drill. Just some late night thoughts being aired.

So, having been thoroughly wound up by the latest thread, and not feeling the urge to mail the list any kind of meaningful response (the whole ritual vs functional debate being somewhat aged, well researched, and quite frankly done to death), I simply tweeted:

Which prompted a bit of a flurry of responses. So in order to take this a bit further than 140 characters will allow, I thought I’d start this post. Give the topic a bit of air. What is going on here? Is the format the problem? Are we now all social media luvvies who simply don’t use mailing lists much? Are we just all a bit stressed and take it out on poor students asking questions of us? I, for my two-penneth, love the old BRITARCH and would dearly like to see something analogous leap from the ashes of the mailing list. Or am I just looking at things with rose tinted glasses…?

And in short, re the whole ‘ritual’ thing, just in case that crops up in the comments: Yes, the term is sometimes abused. No, not everything can be described purely in terms of ‘functional’ ‘causality’. So there. For more information, please go and read something (I would start with the excellent Brück, 1999) and please don’t bring it up here. Thankyou.

The story so far:

BRITARCH

A discussion on Twitter about the mailing list

Storified by pauljcripps· Tue, Apr 16 2013 15:41:29

Remind me again, why do I subscribe to Britarch…? Posts extolling pure functionalism look to have been time-warped in from times gone by..pauljcripps
Quite a few folks have been thinking similar thoughts it appears:
@pauljcripps I unsubscribed yesterday. Can’t see the point anymore, sadlyLorna Richardson
@lornarichardson Sad but true I agree. I’ll hold out a bit longer though, been subscribed since time began, can always ignore bs ;-)pauljcripps
@pauljcripps I’ve used it to distribute my research stuff, so it’s not all bad. Just recently doesn’t feel welcoming and open for discussionLorna Richardson
@pauljcripps I un subscribed a while back because of the constant bickering and whiningEmma O’Riordan
@lornarichardson @carwash @squeejay @pauljcripps I unsubscribed a couple of days ago too – overrun by Statler and Waldorf apparently.Henry Rothwell
@pauljcripps @lornarichardson It’s been a little over a year since I stopped moderating britarch, and I have to confess… I don’t miss it.Marcus Smith
@lornarichardson @pauljcripps I am at my wits end with it. Probably look for social networking sites instead.Dave Standing
@squeejay @lornarichardson Yes, fewer ‘people what know stuff happy to help’ and more ‘ignorant, rant, blah, blah…’ :-(pauljcripps
@squeejay @lornarichardson i remember asking questions as an undergrad & getting really helpful, friendly responses. Great stuff. Alas…pauljcripps
@pauljcripps spam and trolls? Or just bickering again?Daniel Pett
@portableant Obsessive functionalism in a troll like manner.pauljcripps
Potential for social media arises. Facebook, Linked In and Google+ all get a mention:
@AncientTorfaen @pauljcripps wonder if this is related to demographic of users of mailing list vs social media..Lorna Richardson
@AncientTorfaen @pauljcripps was thinking a list of Facebook groups/pages for archaeology would be usefulLorna Richardson
@lornarichardson @pauljcripps Paul Blinkhorn mentioned a FB group the other day and yes, that would be very helpful.Dave Standing
@AncientTorfaen @lornarichardson FB group could be good but key issue is people: Need to get the old positive vibe back on whatever platformpauljcripps
@lornarichardson @pauljcripps Yes it is good for that but I feel like announcements sometimes get lost in the rants :(Emma O’Riordan
@squeejay @lornarichardson @pauljcripps That’s what the britarch-news list was intended to address, but it never really seemed to catch on.Marcus Smith
@squeejay @lornarichardson Most announcements of any interest arrive through other channels these days anyway so it’s lost that use for me.pauljcripps
@carwash @squeejay @pauljcripps perhaps it is being out moded by social media. Number of active users less than 20 I thinkLorna Richardson
@carwash @squeejay @pauljcripps sorry, meant people that actively post!Lorna Richardson
@lornarichardson @squeejay @pauljcripps Sounds about right for contributors. Subscribers were usually around a hundred times that though.Marcus Smith
@lornarichardson @AncientTorfaen @pauljcripps What about Linkedin? I must admit I rarely look at Linkedin groups though I do belong to some.Janet E Davis
@janetedavis @lornarichardson @AncientTorfaen LinkedIn = different kettle of fish imo. But still some rantiness/pontification there too!pauljcripps
@pauljcripps @janetedavis @AncientTorfaen people’s performance of self seems different on LI. More pro, with rant exceptionsLorna Richardson
@lornarichardson @janetedavis @AncientTorfaen Indeed. Wonders of social media & personas.pauljcripps
@lornarichardson @carwash @squeejay Are there any social media channels with same kind of reach/inclusivity/membership Britarch once had?pauljcripps
@pauljcripps @carwash @squeejay difficult to measure impact in social meja. ‘Like’ can be meaningless or full..Lorna Richardson
@pauljcripps @lornarichardson @carwash not one catch all channel but a few together may be reaching similar numbers, esp if then fwarded on?Emma O’Riordan
@pauljcripps @carwash @squeejay and social meja has active users, lurkers etc.. reminded I must do some more work on this thesis!Lorna Richardson
@lornarichardson @carwash @squeejay @pauljcripps Anyone had a play with Google Plus communities?Henry Rothwell
@HenryRothwell @carwash @squeejay @pauljcripps I did, but recently deleted my acc. Again, not a huge # of people posting. Never nasty thoLorna Richardson
@lornarichardson @carwash @squeejay @pauljcripps I’ve noticed a higher number of pros in general at Google +, but numbers are small.Henry Rothwell
And that’s where we got to.