For months now, I’ve been using more than a thousand news and social media alerts to gather evidence of looting and destruction of cultural and community property, and recording and sharing that evidence on Twitter (and, where possible, discussing it here); but I’ve been pushed and pulled into stopping. Instead, I’m going to focus on my as-yet-unpublished research (still, where possible, here).
Since I had redeveloped my online work in order to document events as-they-happened, I suppose that I have now undeveloped it. In only-relatively-but-still-blissfully brief style, there are ten basic reasons:
- It took literally hours every day, and took that time in an even more disruptive way than the total time suggests.
- Partly because of refinements in my monitoring, partly because of eruptions of violence around the world, it was taking an increasing amount of time to do.
- Simultaneously, I was getting further away from those places and processes where I could feasibly fact-check (and the fact-checking that I could do was taking longer and longer as well).
- And Twitter’s reforms had already screwed up a significant part of my social media monitoring and I wasn’t allowed or able to get around that, so I was missing even more.
- The targeting of an increasing number of damaged and destroyed buildings seemed to blur the boundaries between politically-symbolic targeting (e.g. police property in Greece) and (para)militarily-logical targeting (e.g. military bases in Afghanistan); I feared a descent into a mad attempt to document any violence against any property anywhere (e.g. police property in Pakistan), or a flailing stumble into an unfair exclusion of symbolically-significant sites from coverage.
- Consequently, I was failing to record and share all of the available news on Syria, Egypt and elsewhere, so there was a risk that my sharing would incidentally highlight or overshadow one or another group’s activities, or that it would be too little too late.
- And, despite my trilingual (English, Greek and Turkish) monitoring, I was also missing material from the Eastern Mediterranean (my original research area); if I was able to catch it, I wasn’t able to discuss it immediately and in detail; I still haven’t finished stuff on the Greek cultural heritage crisis that I started last year.
- I simply didn’t feel that it was achieving much, for the affected communities, for the cultural heritage profession or for me. I am glad that it has helped raise awareness, very grateful for the attention that it has received and very happy that I have been able to help a few “outsiders” (to the subject); and if any of them have the misfortune to read this, I still want to (and will) help. I just cannot do a huge amount of continuous, unrewarded labour any longer.
- On top of (or perhaps beneath) all that, I desperately need to publish more of my own research, partly to pay off my personal debts to those who shared their knowledge with me and those who supported my endeavours, partly to give me any chance of research, cultural or educational work that really uses my knowledge and skills.
- Anyway, now I have too weak, too intermittent an internet connection to keep up with the basics, let alone to monitor news and comment.
So, I’m retreating to write up as much as possible of my material on: professional scholarship, nationalist propaganda and public understanding; the illicit antiquities trade; destruction of cultural property; and archaeological work in conflict zones. Since I’ve got even more experience of it than I have of conflict archaeology, if at all possible, I’ll write up something on precarity.