Message #314:
From: AzTeC SW Archaeology SIG
To:   "'Matthias Giessler'" 
Subject: Re: Too Many VS Not Enough
Date: Sun, 10 Aug 1997 22:21:37 -0700


Re: Message 312, Message 308

From: Leslie Mouriquand   

I agree with Deb Dosh's comments regarding not "watering-down"
professional presentations at the Pecos Conference. This past May, 
the Coachella Valley Archaeological Society sponsored a symposium 
on the archaeology of the Coachella Valley.  Top professionals were 
invited to give presentations on their research. The event was advertized 
to the general public and archaeological groups in southern Cal alike. 
I am happy to report that the presentations were technical and jargon-full, 
but did not turn off or turn away the general public component of the 
300+ audience.  The subject of jargon was discussed between the symposium 
organizers and the presenters and efforts were made to define or interpret 
certain more arcane terms but for the most part those present received 
the straight stuff. 

Afterward, I had the opportunity to poll a number of the guests,
including my own mother - a retired secretary, and was told that they
anticipated some problems with the terminology but were not put off by
it. They found that they were able to get the gest of the presentations,
making note of those terms or concepts that they did not understand. At
each of the breaks, and after the event, all of the presenters and a
number of organizers found themselves swamped by members of the audience
seeking more information. Following the symposium the membership in CVAS
has risen dramatically, made up in large part of individuals without any
prior involvement in archaeology.  Although the jargon may seem
daunting, I don't think it's necessary to
dumb-down to the lay-component of the audience. Many of these people 
are
intellegent and accomplished in their own fields. They often are
resentful if they feel that they are being spoon-fed and perfer the
mental challenge of being exposed to a new body of knowledge. 

From:  Tom Vaughan
RE:  On Jargon -- "clarity of communication is still a prized but seldom
found virtue -- SASIG Ed." ).  Too true! Some of us fear that facile
manipulation of polysyllabic archaeobabble too frequently camouflages a
paucity of substance. Too often I have responded to a particularly
tortuous technical passage with the question "What does that really
mean?" and found the utterer utterly unable to translate the concept
into an example and/or plain language. (This is also true in other
fields, I hasten to add.)  I'm quite willing to learn new concepts and
terms, and I'm looking forward to hearing the presentations at Chaco.
However, I consider it irksome puffery when people choose terms from the
jargon of the priesthood when plain language would serve as well. Maybe
it's just my good fortune in acquaintances, but it seems to me that
years of experience in the field and average syllable count vary
inversely...the old folks say it straight and the grad students are
impenetrable!  See you in the mud.....  Tom

Tom Vaughan 

From: Alan Shalette 

 Deb Dosh wrote: "Most of the people attending Pecos are professionals
and if they wanted  to hear jargon-free presentations they could go to a
local Amateur  society meeting or pick up a copy of some popular lay
publication." It seems that Deb assumes that the field of archaeology is
homogeneous and monolithic. Not so. Having grown enormously since the
advent of salvage archaeology in the 1960s, the field is now subdivided
into many subfields - each having developed its own specialized terms
and shortcut references to communicate effectively within the specialty
area. Consequently, professionals in other specialty areas may not be
able, and may not be expected to be facile with the entire scope of
specialized technical terms or jargon. This situation is not limited to
the field of archaeology. I see no excuse to shun plain speaking before
audiences or in print (the usual excuse being lack of time to do a
better job). Moreover, during the past four Pecos Conferences, I've
tried to score each and every presentation based upon content and
presentation (how many others have endeavored, or endured sitting
through them all?) . My results are normally distributed, with the mean,
just about bearable.  So, the essence of effective public speaking - at
the Pecos Conference or anywhere else - is having content the audience
thinks is worthwhile, plain language, and lively delivery.  Save jargon
for small groups in face-to-face conversation.  Don't cite tables of
data. Don't lean on the podium. Refer to your notes, don't read them.
Act  like you're excited with what you're got to say.  Accept the fact
that the Pecos Conference audience will be composed of  many
professionals and "outsiders" who have demonstrated their interest in
learning from you even if they don't understand the specialized
technical vocabulary (jargon) used in your specialty. Accept the fact
that the mission of the conference has changed in accord with public
deliberations at prior business meetings, to encourage participation by
students, avocationalists, and the interested public. This is no longer
a meeting of a few dozen pioneers - as it was the last time the
conference was held at Chaco. And don't forget that the primary
objective of modern American archaeology is to communicate results to
bill-payers - clients and the public - as well as to other practitioners
in the field. In closing, I don't know if Deb participates in local
archaeological society meetings. But here in Albuquerque, they're very
actively attended and supported by professionals. ( In memory of Carl
Sagan, and with appreciation of my wife, who, checks most of my
technical writing.)

Alan Shalette
Editor, New Mexico Archeological Council
Former Editor, Albuquerque Archaeological Society
Pecos Conference 1997 Organizing Committee

From: Homer Thiel 

A recent post noted : "I don't think it is necessary for participants to
write presentations which are geared towards a lay audience...if they
wanted to hear jargon-free presentations they could go to a local Amateur 
society meeting..."

I would strongly encourage all archaeologists to consider presenting
their findings at the level that "lay persons" can understand. Even
though the Pecos Conference is considered a professional meeting, the
findings reported at the conference are paid for (in most cases) by TAX
PAYER dollars. And who are these tax payers? Member of the public. By
presenting information in technical jargon, by suggesting that meetings
are only for other professionals, or by suggesting that people go out
and read a few books first or attend amateur society meetings, we are
continuing to present archaeology as an elitist profession. Why should
tax payers support such a field? I think meetings such as the Pecos
Conference are an important place for members of the public to meet and
interact with archaeologists. Encouraging members of the public to
attend helps maintain a support base, people who will call their local
Congressperson the next time cultural resource laws are threatened.

From:	Tom Baker 

Well, if more comments are being allowed to trickle, here's yet another
little rivulet:

I thought the comment that somebody posted here earlier, to wit, that
people feel patronized and get upset if they aren't allowed to hear and
translate jargon, was just plain nutty. Taking extra pains to talk to
people in plain English is not, as that same person asserted, "talking
down" to them, on the contrary it is showing them some respect. 

If archaeologists continue to talk only among themselves, in their silly
anthro-babble, then they deserve it when an uncomprehending and uncaring
public lets things like NAGPRA (as administered) put a choke hold on their
profession. 'Nuff said.

Tom Baker




SASIG Ed. Note --  I still think my lovely wife got it perfectly right when
she innocently uttered the double entendre regarding Pecos Conference --
" Too many Doctors and Not enough Indians!"

" All schools, all colleges, have two great functions; to confer, and to
conceal, valuable knowledge. The theological knowledge which they
conceal cannot justly be regarded as less valuable than that which they
reveal. That is, when a man is buying a basket of strawberries it can
profit him to know that the bottom half of it is rotten.  "
-- Samuel Clemens ( Mark Twain )