By and large my archaeological training has been on community projects. My first dig was on a community project excavating a Gallo-Roman villa, organised by a society based in the local village in Nospelt. In the UK I was in the local village archaeology group and did a bit of excavation and geophysics and a lot of fieldwalking. All the projects I’ve worked on have been poorly funded, even by archaeological standards, or more often not funded at all. My experience then with archaeology outside of academia is of knowledgable, enthusiastic people with relatively little access to expertise, equipment and information.It's a thoughtful response, and one of the reasons I included some of Salt's blog posts in the article itself.
The great attraction of the PAS from my point of view is the outreach aspect. All sorts of little bits of information are being gathered by amateurs and rather than being centrally hoarded they’re being made available to anyone with an internet connection. It’s not that there’s been a lack of will in any of the museum services I’ve seen when it comes to public engagement, but there hasn’t really been the institutional framework to help it happen. The PAS is built around engaging with the public and it’s in the bones of the system. For example below is some data uploaded to Swivel. To be honest I cannot see myself using that particular dataset, but that’s not the point. I’m used to being told there are strict limitations on what I can do with photos from museums. Here someone is actively encouraging the public to take away data and do something interesting with it.
As an aside, I'm continued to be surprised and excited by how these new means of writing via blogs can inform and shape traditional avenues of scholarship like peer-reviewed articles. When done well, I think both can shape and inform each other.