Ok, I know that I am tired after traveling yesterday (and I know compared to some people that it was a short trip), but I have to rant for a few minutes – and this is because my wife won’t listen to me on these subjects anymore. This will have a point at the end, I think. I really am turning into a grumpy old man. Have you ever noticed (now I sound like Andy Rooney) how people are oblivious to others? I noticed this again in the airports I was in yesterday and maybe that shouldn’t count since people are often very focused on getting to where they are going. But, on the moving sidewalks for example – you are supposed to stand on the right side and leave the left open for walkers, so as I follow a couple onto the sidewalk, one leans on the right rail and one leans on the left rail with their luggage in the middle. As I walk up to them, they look at me and then continue their conversation. Since I was in a hurry, I said "Excuse me?" And they looked at me like I had some sort of problem and reluctantly moved over like I was interfering with them. Or the people talking on the cell phone while doing other things. I stopped to get cash from an ATM and the guy in front of me was talking on his cell phone while doing it, and three times he stopped what he was doing to focus on his telephone conversation. Fortunately, the last time he did this, he even slowly turned around while talking and saw me staring at him in disbelief. Or when I stopped to buy some small gifts for my kids and the lady in line in front of me at the register stopped paying for her stuff to take a phone call.
So, what is my point here? One, I certainly understand that cell phones and portable electronics have created this artificial cocoon around people that allow them to ignore others. But I think that this also applies to academics in the way we sometimes tune out the public and publish our results for ourselves or other academics. We need to do a better job of involving the public in what we do, particularly as historians and archaeologists. We shouldn’t rely only on public historians, since that is their job – we should all be public historians. We should want to disseminate our findings as broadly and as quickly as we can and fortunately there are new digital ways that are available to make that happen.