Using Social Media to Diversify Archaeology in Scotland

For our September 2022 event, Dr Alex Fitzpatrick FSAScot, a zooarchaeologist, researcher and award-winning science communicator & writer, talked to the group about how social media can be used as part of the push to further diversify archaeology as a discipline.

Alex noted that UK archaeology has a diversity problem and the lack of visible representation of people from marginalised communities hampers progress. White, cis-heterosexual, non-disabled men tend to be the most represented which empowers the notion that archaeology is only for white, cis-heterosexual, non-disabled men. It also makes people wonder if archaeology is welcoming to people who don’t fit this mould. So what can we do?

The majority of the content from Alex’s talk is available as a free PDF on ResearchGate (which we highly recommend), so we’ve just summarised a handful of key actions below.

If you’re already well represented in Scottish archaeology:

1. Reflect on your own position

Start by reflecting on how your own experience may already be well represented and what kind of privileges you hold in the field. Is it easy to find work, are you able to take on unpaid labour, is your expertise questioned, do you need worry about accommodation or visas? How do these experiences shape your biases which could impact your work?

2. Diversify who you follow

Follow accounts run by people whose backgrounds are different from yours and groups/projects dedicated to sharing different perspectives. This will broaden your notions of what archaeology is and what it can be. We all have biases, and this can help you mull that over, while learning more about problems in archaeology that may not be visible to you.

Not sure where to start? Alex has some suggestions: the European Society of Black & Allied Archaeologists, the Enabled Archaeology Foundation, Amelia the Archaeologist, Queer Archaeology, TrowelBlazers, Society of Black Archaeologists, Indigenous Archaeology Collective (Facebook | Twitter), Tina Lasisi, PhD (Instagram | Twitter | TikTok), Dig It With Raven, Natasha Billson (Twitter | Instagram | TikTok), Women in Archaeology Podcast (Twitter), Kristina Killgrove and Bones, Stones and Books.

3. Pass the mic

This is particularly important if you have a well-established platform. Consider how much space you take up in the sector and if you could provide a platform to someone more underrepresented in the field. Examples include retweeting from someone with a smaller account, running a takeover day, and sponsoring/organising an online event that centres marginalised people. Similarly, if important conversations are occurring online, think about if your voice is needed or if you could uplift someone else’s voice instead.

4. Take real life action

Don’t stop at digital action. Figure out how can you translate online allyship into tangible support or turn online engagement into offline collaboration. Even though it might be difficult with capacity/resource issues, try to think about the next steps.

Yellow Post It note on a corkboard with a drawing of a lightbulb on it
Photo by AbsolutVision on Unsplash

If you’re not well represented in Scottish archaeology:

1. Find your community

Social media communities can act as support networks and provide resources/advice. There may even be opportunities to volunteer with them or further increase your visibility. Special hashtag events (e.g. #BlackInArchaeo) can help you find these groups.

2. Identify your viewpoint and niche

What do you want to represent or research (e.g., viewpoints and experiences of people with your background)? Decide what kind of message you want to promote and be clear on what perspective you’re representing. This can also be helpful when it comes to marketing yourself.

3. Think about your expectations

If you’re aiming to spread awareness or develop your following, think about how you intend on getting more of an audience, who can help you build your presence and how much time can you commit.

4. Don’t be discouraged

It takes time to build a following. Find others who can help support you and recognise that you’ll learn as you go along.

5. Identify your boundaries

Speak your truths but recognise your boundaries. Don’t post on social media at your own risk and make sure you think about capacity. You don’t have to be an advocate if you don’t want to. It’s not your responsibility to change the field on your own (particularly as this can be difficult and retraumatising work).

Broken phone
Photo by Laura Rivera on Unsplash

As Alex reminded us, social media isn’t a magical solution and there’s a lot of work to be done, but it still plays a vital role in our everyday lives and wields influence which makes it a powerful tool for change if used correctly and with care.

If you want to know more, download the free PDF on ResearchGate to read the rest of Alex’s talk, follower her on Twitter and visit her website.  

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