Category Archives: dissertation

From the Morning

I really should be writing something else. I really should be writing at least a half-dozen other things, all looming, lurking, people expecting.

When I was a little girl, my parents had a record player, which is not unusual. I remember laying on my little round stomach, using a record as something hard beneath my paper to color on. I’d draw and draw, on white paper, on newspaper, on anything. But the records peeked out from behind the paper, and I remember a few vividly:

summer_beachboys

The Beach Boys, Endless Summer. It was a gatefold, so it was thick and had mysterious images inside. It also had the song “California Girls” which I liked, because I was told that I was born in California, though I didn’t remember it. I know all of these songs by heart, but I never owned or listened to the album after my childhood.

surrealistic

Unlike Endless Summer, I don’t remember any of these song, but I remember trying to spell out the title. For many years I didn’t even know it was a Jefferson Airplane album, I actually thought it was the Surrealistic Pillows.

Nick_Drake-Pink_Moon

For some reason, the cover for Nick Drake’s Pink Moon was indelibly embossed on my brain. It captured my imagination more than anything else–was that a clown-tooth? Was that a stamp? What are these adult symbols? I wanted to know what it meant, dammit. But like the Jefferson Airplane album, I didn’t remember any of the music.

Happily, I re-discovered Nick Drake’s Pink Moon, and listened to it obsessively while I wrote my dissertation. It was a lonely time, a time for obsessions, ritualized routines and the life of the mind. There are streets in Berkeley that I will never be able to walk down again without hearing one of my favorite songs in the world, From the Morning.

A little girl, coloring. A woman, writing her dissertation. Go play the game that you learned from the morning. 

I decided to buy it on vinyl again.

Emancipatory Digital Archaeology on Academia.edu

It finally occurred to me to post my thesis on Academia.edu. Proquest seems to be taking their sweet time to index it. Here’s the abstract and download link:

As archaeologists integrate digital media into all stages of archaeological methodology, it is necessary to understand the implications of using this media to interpret the past. Using digital media is not a neutral or transparent act; to critically engage with digital media it is necessary to create an interdisciplinary space, drawing from the growing body of new media and visual studies, materiality, and anthropological and archaeological theory. This dissertation describes this interdisciplinary space in detail and investigates the following questions: what does it mean to employ digital media in the context of archaeology, how do digital technologies shape inquiry within archaeology, can new media theory change interpretation in archaeology, and can digital media serve as a mechanism for an emancipatory archaeology? To attend to these questions I address digital media created by archaeologists as digital archaeological artifacts, understood as active members of a network of interpretation in archaeology. To give structure to this understanding I assemble three object biographies that identify the digital archaeological artifact’s context, the authorship of the artifact, the inclusion of multiple perspectives involved in its creation, and evaluate the openness or ability to share the artifact. The three object biographies that constitute the body of this work are a digital photograph taken of a teapot at Tall Dhiban in Jordan, a digital video of an unexpected excavator participating at Çatalhöyük in Turkey, and a 3D reconstruction of a Neolithic building excavated at Çatalhöyük within the virtual world of Second Life. In these object biographies I weave together narrative, imagery and rigorous, theoretically informed analyses to provide a reflexive investigation of digital archaeological artifacts. Drawing from this research, I advocate a critical making movement in archaeology that will enable archaeologists to use digital media in an activist, emancipatory role to highlight inequity, bring the voices of stakeholders into relief, de-center interpretations, and to make things and share them.

And here’s the link on Academia.edu:
http://www.academia.edu/2997156/Emancipatory_Digital_Archaeology

Acknowledging, the Thesis Edition

I was searching for something else on my computer and came across my thesis acknowledgements. I wrote them in that wild and woolly period last December where I was white-knuckling through the necessary fore-and-aft detritus of the thesis. As always happens, I accidentally left a few people out, alas. But I included a building, the ARF, which is surely very fashion-forward contempo-materiality-networky-thingy thinking, right? 

Acknowledgements

The decorations adorning the atrium of the University of California, Berkeley’s Archaeological Research Facility strike me as slightly macabre. The polyester “snow” is strategically covering the fake archaeological excavation in the corner, dripping from the plants that are always neglected, and lining the framed photographs of graduate students doing outreach with children. It’s the beginning of December, and the semester is winding down around me, the students finishing their finals and getting ready for the holidays. Though the strung lights and nutcrackers are a bit much, the atrium holds an airy loveliness that is lacking in so many academic buildings. The stately red brick and windows retained from when this was an outside area of the building, the fantastic Paleolithic mural covering the west-facing wall, and the strict geometry of the earthquake-proof girders bracketing the walls, and the transparent pyramid-shaped roof all come together in a place that is the heart of the department. In this atrium I’ve attended functions honoring many of the professors, receptions after talks, convened meetings with advisors and other graduate students, taught undergraduates how to plot artifacts in an archaeological drawing, and even taught the history of the building, its status as a frat house and the subsequent occupants, each living in the space and remaking it as their own. It is the appropriate place for nostalgia, for remembering and acknowledging the previous occupants of this building, and how I got here, and how this dissertation came to be.

My committee members, Ruth Tringham, Meg Conkey, and Nancy Van House have generously and enthusiastically opened their lives and research to me, and I cannot imagine my graduate career without their wisdom, humor, and indulgence! I have no small amount of awe for these pioneering women in academia who fought relentlessly for recognition of their research in the face of normative patriarchy. My advisor, Ruth, stood with me and kept pushing me to be more reflexive, to challenge my own preconceptions, and to have ridiculous amounts of fun. Meg was always ready with incisive comments that exposed uncritical thinking and fostered introspection and enlightenment. I deeply enjoyed my long conversations with Nancy Van House at various coffee shops around Berkeley, and always came away delighted and inspired by our shared digressions and passion for photography.

This dissertation would also not have been possible with the fantastic energy, love and support from professors who were not on my committee. Rosemary Joyce’s white-hot brilliance always inspired me, but it was her mentorship and tremendous kindness that got me through some rough times. Steve Shackley helped me find several great resources on early archaeological photography, and always had a sly political quip and a half-grin that made me genuinely regret that I could not somehow work obsidian into my dissertation research. A writerly debt is owed to Laurie Wilkie; I hope that I can inspire with words half as well as she can some day. A big thank you to Benjamin Porter for allowing me to work at Dhiban, and to Ian Hodder who allowed me to work at Catalhoyuk. Also, I would be absolutely remiss not to express my gratitude to my undergraduate professors Samuel Wilson and Maria Franklin at the University of Texas, who are both wise and radical in their very own ways. A special thank you to Jamie Chad Brandon, who was the first one to tell me that I too could be an archaeologist.

I have learned just as much, if not more outside of the brick walls of the Archaeological Research Facility as I have within. My mentors in the field, Roddy Regan, Lisa Yeoman, Michael House, James Stewart Taylor, Freya Sadarangani, Shahina Farid, Cordelia Hall, David Mackie, and Gareth Rees taught me so much and put up with the ridiculous American with big ideas and a big mouth. To all of my friends, colleagues, stakeholders, and stake-wielders in the field, I miss the starry skies, the campfires, the cold, the hot, the beer, the antics, the storytelling, and your company. May we all be gainfully employed, somehow.

I had the tremendous misfortune to move away from great friends, the fantastic good fortune to gain new friends, and then the inevitable let-down of having to move away from all of those friends too. John Lowe and Dan Machold, you are honest, true, and amazing people all around. You are my strength. Thank you to Rob Browning for living and growing with me for so long. My brilliant, invincible posse of lady friends, Shanti Morell-Hart, Doris Maldonado, Nicole Anthony, Kathryn Killackey, Sara Gonzalez, Burcu Tung, Cheyla Samuelson, and Melissa Bailey are without parallel. I treasure and admire each of you in perhaps unhealthy amounts. My community of fellow archaeologists, academics, and good friends, James Flexner, Andy Roddick, Esteban Gomez, Nico Tripcevich, Rus Sheptak, Tim Wyatt, Jun & Charlotte Sunseri, Heather & Eric Blind, Michael Ashley, Cinzia Perlingieri, Orkan Umurhan, Jason Quinlan, Dan & Yesim Thompson, David Cohen, Jesse Stephen, and Guy Hunt, thank you so much the inspiration and support over the years. I would also be remiss to leave out my colleagues online throughout the years; you have leant such enthusiasm to my research that I could not let you all down!

Thank you to my lovely mother, Elizabeth Kelly, who always likes it best when I “talk about people” in my writing and is always my inspiration for strength, kindness and love. Thank you to Don Freeman, my father with a big sense of humor and a bigger heart. My love and thanks to my brother Matthew and to his darling son Raiden. My love and regards to my English family, the Eddisfords, who continually delight me with their kindness and who have welcomed me with open arms. Finally, words cannot express how much gratitude I have for my husband, Daniel Eddisford. You are the cup that was waiting for the gifts of my life. Thank you.

Dissertation Writing & Crossfit

You know, if you’re just bookish, there’s a tendency to get terribly bitter about people who are physical.  – Norman Mailer

My dissertation is still too big and too recent for me to formulate many thoughts on the entirety of it. Honestly, the last two years have been reduced to a montage of travel, writing, working, and stress. Still, I found myself at several stages becoming currently-nostalgic–there’s probably a perfectly good Turkish or Russian word for it–but recognizing that what I had going was a rare and good thing. During the hardest writing I was mostly in seclusion, leaving the house to work out in the mornings and then writing for 10-12 hours. That was it. A life of writing, pared to the bone. It was an extraordinary several months, bought and paid for by working in Qatar so I would not have to write while I was teaching or working. It was an unbelievable luxury to be able to concentrate on this work and it suddenly made sense to me why students with a lot of funding and no teaching got so much done!

My deeply regimented schedule was punctuated by regular attendance at Berkeley Crossfit. I’ve gotten fat and skinny over the years, usually depending on how much I was fed on excavations and whatnot. I’ve tried bootcamp, which was fun, but not hard enough, especially after summers of shoveling over my head and ridiculous hiking expeditions in the desert. P90x, the republican exercise regime of choice (!) got me through a lot of last year, when being in the field mostly meant pushing buttons on a total station or filling out paperwork as I watched workmen. There was still a whole lot of cheese and chocolate.

Last April I started Crossfit. It was impossible. I was addicted immediately. Starting the program I felt inept, unfit, pathetic–I had to modify all of the workouts heavily. I thought I was pretty strong, but Crossfit emphasizes a lot of Olympic weightlifting and “pretty strong” very quickly becomes measurable in not-as-many-as-I-thought pounds. Still, I had a challenge each morning to conquer and after doing the impossible, dissertation writing just wasn’t that scary. I was also too exhausted to do anything else. I sat and wrote.

I kept going to Crossfit. I watched my deadlift climb, and started achieving minor goals. I started doing banded pull-ups with the very strongest (easiest) band, now I’m able to do unassisted pull-ups. I couldn’t even get up on the wall to do a handstand before; today I did 100 hand stand push-ups. The same week my dissertation was due, I hit a 200 pound deadlift. My lift weights are fairly modest, but I’m proud of them. I am still consistently humbled by Crossfit–doing long L-sits or muscle-ups still seems a long way away. The work-outs also are varied enough that one day I was the fastest in the class, the next day, the slowest.

Most of all, I was able to be a part of a community that was outside of academia (though there were quite a few PhDs hanging around) and that supported my goals every day. I was never really a “jock” in high school, but I deeply enjoyed my fellow participants in the life of the body, which helped so much in my life of the mind. Now that I’m in Qatar, without this community and the gym, I miss it more than anything.

So, my advice to people who want to finish their dissertation or write a book is twofold: 1) write 1,000 words a day. It may take you two hours or ten. 2) do the impossible every day. Join a Crossfit gym.

Save Early, Save Often

Command-S. I think I picked it up from video games, or maybe even from Choose Your Own Adventure books. I’d read each story, keeping a finger between the pages at each decision point, and then another one, and another one until all of my fingers were used up and I’d be flipping back and forth to find the optimum route. In video games I’d run back to the save point, use unique names for each of the files, fill up all my “save cards” or eventually hard drives. It isn’t so much that I was anxious about making the wrong decision but more that I wanted to experience everything the book or game had to give.

The Bartle Test of Gamer Psychology scores the game playing style of gamers according to card suites, with Diamonds = Achievers, Hearts = Socializers, Clubs = Killers and Spades = Explorers. While I haven’t formally taken the test, I’d score pretty high in the Spades category, always exploring the level until the very edges of the in-world earth, looking for the extra dialog or funny-colored sword. My imaginary rucksack was always full.

I have been writing so much and for such sustained periods of time that I find myself in the same compulsive mode, command-S, command-S, command-S. Save. I have started doing it in emails now, annoyingly, as Google Chrome offers to save my entire screen, and on Facebook, command-S. All dissertation writers get their own personal ticks, I suppose.

Next week, visa-Gods willing, I’ll be on the road again with my not-so-imaginary rucksack. I’ll be headed to London to work with the incredible L-P Archaeology on the developer-funded Minories Project, a fantastic excavation right outside the Tower of London. I’m taking this six week diss-break because L-P gave me free reign with digital media and interpretation and it’s perfect for setting up some fairly experimental postdoc work. Time to see if I can find the edge of the world again. Command-S!

Contextualized Digital Archaeology – Dissertation Chapter

Crowdsourcing criticism? Okay, so probably not. I have been working in the field in Qatar (today I removed a surface and two postholes! The glamour of it all is overwhelming!) while trying to write my dissertation, with mixed results. I have a couple of chapters that are pretty ready, but I thought I’d start posting them  online for comment. Merry Christmas (?)

The chapter that I’m posting first is my methodology chapter, which is also decidedly political. This is pretty scary folks. Be nice.

WARNING – SUPER ROUGH DRAFT! NO BIBLIOGRAPHY! NO PICTURES! READ AT YOUR PERIL!

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1_YC3D2i7Drrk55UQ_CD6GUqtBTEQ1neAW0JHg6p1kfQ/edit

Open Source, Software Piracy and Archaeology: a dissertation bit

Hello from sunny Qatar! Most of my spare words and thoughts have been going toward dissertating, so I thought I’d post some of my textual thrashing. (breaks in the text added so it won’t set off the tl;dr alarm)

“While some archaeologists are marginally aware of Creative Commons licensing, many archaeologists, myself included, exclusively use proprietary software. The software often is the industry standard and there are not necessarily good alternatives to use. In 2011, common proprietary software includes ArcGIS, the extremely popular global information system software suite, costs USD 1500 for a single-user license and Microsoft Access, an overwhelmingly popular database software costs USD 99 per license. More specialized software such as Autodesk costs USD 4000 for a single license. Increasingly interpretive projects and publications call for visualizations that require the detail and complexity that expensive proprietary software can provide.

Whether they are students or professionals, archaeologists generally do not have the money to purchase the sophisticated software with expensive licensing, so the copies are often illegitimate, and can stop working at any time. While it would be imprudent to identify specific individuals, archaeologists generally have thousands and sometimes tens of thousands of dollars of illegally downloaded software to perform everyday tasks and do not hesitate to publish results and visualizations gained from using this illegal software.  Whether or not the archaeologist has a philosophical commitment to Open Source and Creative Commons, it is in their interest to prevent the catastrophic data loss that is possible with proprietary formats and illegitimate software. To this end, LP Archaeology has developed their own database software called ARK, which is open source and available for archaeologists to download.

Sadly, much of the proprietary software that archaeologists use has not been replaced by similar open source software. Even in cases where there are free alternatives such as Open Office, archaeologists do not feel like they have the time to learn something different and worry that the results will suffer. Obviously a more formal study of software use among archaeologists would be required to make steps towards correcting the issues surrounding Open Source software, data formats, and preservation standards. Still, there are many places for archaeologists to fit into the Open Source and sharing spectrum, whether it involves Creative Commons licensing for photographs or developing specialized software — supporting these efforts would benefit our collections, our connection to our stakeholders and the longevity of the archive.”

Is it ethical to use pirated software for archaeological work? Why or why not?