This week I discovered that my primary professional organization, The Society for Historical Archaeology, has a facebook page. (UPDATE (8/24): The SHA Facebook Page has been removed as of 8/24. I have no idea why.) It is pretty much empty; the first action that it has seen was an event invitation to our annual conference that will be held in January. This emptiness got me thinking about what this site could be used for beyond invitations for the only event SHA holds every year.
Already, I am hesitant about how the page will be used. An invite for the upcoming conference was posted, but it was done so as a private event. There is even a disclaimer at the bottom pointing out what kinds of comments should be reserved for the event page. This implies an attempt to control social media; something that doesn’t work out to well. Needlesss to say, this doesn’t bode well for good networking. (UPDATE (8/21): I just checked the page, and it is now an open event. However now the guest list is hidden, meaning that if I want to network with people who are attending the conference, I can’t, because I don’t know who is going.)
Our professional organization provides numerous functions. It represents academics, Cultural Resource Management Firms, and Museum researchers who focus on historical and underwater archaeology. It also represents students, both undergraduate and graduate. SHA publishes a quarterly journal, which is only available to members (see earlier diatribe here). It also engages in a variety of educational programs, and has numerous committees on a variety of different issues relating to the discipline.
Professional organizations offer a variety of benefits for members, which center largely around networking. This makes it a perfect fit for social media, which is another form of social networking. Most of the networking that happens at SHA occurs at the annual meeting: research is presented, committees meet, mentors introduce their students to their colleagues. I spent much of my trip to Toronto this year meeting archaeologists I had been reading, asking them about my research, and looking for advice on how best to approach it.
Engaging in social media could provide an opportunity for SHA to do all these things, only year round. The Facebook page, for example, could allow the governing body to keep their community updated regularly about what was occurring in real time, as opposed to just in the quarterly newsletter. Calls for abstracts for the annual meeting could be posted on Facebook, in addition to the reminders about due dates. People who are looking to put together symposia could advertise in the Discussion section, and gather those with interest and put together a session.
Preparing for the conferences could also be enhanced by providing hotel information, restaurants reviews, or other things relating to the location of the conference. For students, particularly, this may be helpful since many have trouble affording the trip. Potential roommates may be able to locate each other through social media hubs such as a Facebook page. Local archaeologists may be able to give suggestions about inexpensive places to eat or (most importantly to archaeologists of all ages) drink.
Research could also be enhanced. Suggestions about research topics, sources, or data could be discussed in the discussion groups. Field Schools could be promoted on Facebook. Also, SHA could provide a series of videos and links for educating others about archaeology. These could be used by professors and educators in classrooms, or simply open to be viewed by the public.
By using social media, an organization could take advantage of the formats that already exist and maximize the amount of exposure that their members, and the public, has to what they do. These services do little good if no one sees them or knows they are available. Since so many people are using these resources, it seems a shame to limit the content on sites when there is so much to offer. While I applaud SHA’s use of Facebook, I hope that it is used to its fullest potential.
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