Category Archives: dissertation

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?

Priniatikos Pyrgos II

CLM_3186

While I cannot speak about anything in great detail or risk getting cross-wise with folks in charge of Greek Antiquities, work at Pyrgos has been moving along, and I’ve been working with students to clear out a jumble of collapsed architecture.  On Friday we finally came down to a layer that appears to have a collapsed wall and a surface, so we’re finally getting beneath top soil and down to some more secure deposits.  We’ve also been working inside of two structures and I haven’t moved much beyond getting the strat from the previous year in order and a preliminary skim of the room interior.  So far it looks like the structure that hasn’t been excavated is not an ossuary, which is a relief.  What it actually is remains to be seen, and from what I can tell there are only one or two courses left in the walls, so we might not get many deposits at all.
Regardless it’s always interesting to check out the archaeological subcultures around the world.  Archaeologists are generally no more than one or two people removed–after a few years in the field when you meet someone you can usually figure out at least one person that you both know.  People who have regional interests quickly become small communities, and I witnessed this in Jordan where they had a regional conference that I attended.  Most of the presentations were from American projects and I quickly saw why everyone still digs in Wheeler boxes in that area–because everyone else does it too.  They talk and think in squares and sections and it is part of their subregional archaeological culture.  I think that’s partly why I’m so fascinated by what the team at Pyrgos is doing–they’ve changed from using the American system to single context and there has been some aches and pains associated by the shift, but they’ve done it and it’s working pretty well.
The one major impediment to true single context recording here is the fact that you cannot remove walls in Greece unless the project is headed by a Greek archaeologist.  This means that the large Byzantine structure that we are digging will be left in place after we’ve taken away the last floor layer. While this may not seem like a big problem at first, it makes the underlying stratigraphic relationships difficult to see, as you are confined to working within structures that have no relationship to the deposits below.  It’s like digging out all the dirt around a skeleton and trying to leave all the bones in place while you dig another skeleton lying below it. It’s also annoying because a lot of these walls aren’t that impressive–a few courses of stone doesn’t evoke much in the way of imagination.  Still, I guess it would mean that you’d have to decide which period of history you felt was most important and leveling the architecture above.
In addition to the Madaba-area conference I attended in Jordan, I also attended a meeting at INSTAP, the regional research institute here in Crete.  There was a lecture by a prominent archaeologist who was arguing about the dating of the destruction at Knossos, after all of the artifacts and excavation evidence was lost.  It was mostly a debate about pottery chronologies and there were passionate counter-opinions in the crowd.  I finally truly understood what it was like before some of the post-processual and feminist archaeologies came to the fore–nobody cared about who actually lived there, what their daily life was like, or even the localized consequences of this apparent destruction.  They cared about the pottery sequence and what was reflected in the patchy historical record about kings and invasions.
I suppose I’m showing my Berkeley lineage here–Ruth has certainly had a lot to say about households and people with faces, but I guess I didn’t realize just how revolutionary that idea was until I saw in person what she was reacting against within the field.
This was a bit of a meander through archaeological subcultures and random excavation notes, but probably not unexpected as I’m using what little free time I have here in Crete to work on my dissertation.  Which I should get back to, right about now.

Writing, Editing, Publishing

Last week I was pushing pretty hard to get a paper and a powerpoint together for the UMAC conference that I mentioned briefly before. The paper was apparently controversial (though well received by the majority of my colleagues) and I had to take the photos and the blog for the Dilmun Bioarchaeology Project down for a time. We’ll hope that it will all come back soon, especially since I rather liked my powerpoint and would like to upload it.

So now I shifted over to editing the paper that James and I put together about the worked glass in Kalaupapa–the editor of the volume had a lot of great suggestions for the publication. It’s going to go into an edited volume titled Hybrid Material Culture: The Archaeology of Syncretism and Ethnogenesis, but I’m not sure when the book is coming out. One of the NPS archaeologists that works on Kalaupapa found some really nice glass “cores” recently that reinforce our research.

Finally, the abstract that I submitted for this year’s Visualisation in Archaeology conference in Southampton was accepted! Now I’ll just have to scrape together some money for airfare. I’m excited to see all the folks from Southampton again so soon after we all had such great chats at Çatalhöyük.

Here’s the abstract:

Title: DIY, Edupunk, and the Visual/Digital Archive: A two-tell perspective

Abstract: Frustrated by the limited capabilities of educational and professional software content management systems, Jim Groom coined the term “edupunk” in May 2008. As discussed on several archaeology blogs and mailing lists, the edupunk approach both incorporates and subverts social networking sites and other internet resources to build a distributed, interactive and flexible platform for teaching, research, and collaboration. Faced with limited funding for more traditional approaches of presenting information to the public, the DIY approach has been increasingly attractive for self-publishing and archaeological outreach. Blogging, Facebook, and photo and video-sharing websites such as Youtube, Flickr and Picasa offer non-traditional venues for interacting with an interested public but can be a methodologically impractical exercise in the field.  In this paper I will build on my analysis of the photographic and video archive from Çatalhöyük presented at the Visualisation in Archaeology conference in 2008 and offer an additional perspective from Tall Dhiban in Jordan. In both cases digital media and the resulting online archive have had distinct, yet contrasting effects on archaeological practice. Issues regarding multivocality, interpretive authority, and the emerging distributed archive will also be discussed.

Though I’d seen the term Edupunk previously, I’d be remiss in not linking to Kerim’s great post about it over on Open Access Anthropology. I’m still working out various places to host photo archives–Flickr is a bit too open and Picasa doesn’t have the flexibility and functionality of Flickr, so I’m a bit stuck.

Çatalhöyük in Second Life, Fall 2009

Spring_in_Catalhoyuk_001

Once again Spring has come to Çatalhöyük! We’ve removed all the snow and icicles and the tell is green and grassy. Work has started up again, and we’re lucky enough to have a class dedicated to “Serious Games” working on the site, as well as undergraduate research apprentices through Berkeley’s URAP program.

We have a number of great projects planned, including exploring some of the new ideas about architecture that came up during the 2009 field season with wooden floors and second (and third!) stories on the houses.

We have never had such a large group working on the island before, so we started to formalize some of our procedures. While we may elaborate on the document at a later time, here is our Archaeological Building Protocol for Second Life.

Building archaeological sites and objects in Second Life can be a powerful visualization tool for archaeological research. On OKAPI island we strive to further archaeological visualization while integrating a substantial public outreach component to our research.  In Second Life, as with all archaeological reconstructions, it is especially important to maintain interpretive transparency and authorship. Additionally, we work in a large and changing research team and need to maintain the ability to edit all objects on the island to preserve existing work as the team changes.

To this end, we have established building protocols for building on OKAPI island in Second Life. We believe that these protocols not only apply to our particular reconstruction, but should be applied more broadly for archaeological site construction using the Second Life toolkit. By applying these protocols a maximum of contextual information, authorship, and interpretive surety is maintained. Additionally, we believe that all objects should be copyable generally, and specifically repackaged for consumption and use off the island. In this way, our work and interpretations live beyond the relatively limited life of this particular reconstruction.

Picture 1

OBJECTS

Objects should have the following permissions set:

X = checked, 0 = not checked

X Share with group
0 Allow anyone to move
X Allow anyone to copy
X Show in Search
0 For Sale

Next Owner Can:

X Modify
X Copy
X Resell/Give Away

Objects should have the following fields filled out:

Name: Catalhoyuk _____________

Description: Short interpretive paragraph, followed by specific image or text citation.

TEXTURES

Textures should be uploaded with their Name and Description intact with the same citation information. After uploading, immediately enter your inventory, where the texture should be highlighted. Open the Inventory Item Properties and set:

X Share With Group
X Allow Anyone to Copy

Next owner can:

X Modify
X Copy
X Resell/Give Away

In other exciting news, the Archaeologies article is live! It is on Springer’s Online First section and it should be Open Access. Please let me know if you have any problems downloading the pdf.
(Re)Building Çatalhöyük: Changing Virtual Reality in Archaeology

In-between Times

The semester ended without much fanfare for me–I only had one class and there wasn’t a specific final project for it, just a series of close readings of important texts in Materiality and Actor-Network Theory.  It was one of the best classes I’ve taken, as it had a fairly light load of reading, but the things we did read were well-selected and important within the field.  If I ever teach, and if I have much control over my course content, I’d love to lead a similar class.  It’s also pushed me in a slightly different direction with my dissertation, one that will be more productive.

In the meantime I’ve done a few minor projects, taught myself some new tricks with photoshop and adobe illustrator, geared up for a photography/archaeology stint this summer, and done a lot of reading for an article that I’m writing.  Nothing much bloggable, obviously, but it’s been nice to be able to have a little space to get myself ready for a summer of research.

I’ll be in Jordan for much of the summer, as previously mentioned, working on the site of Dhiban in my dual role as excavator and digital documentarian.  Later this week I’ll have a link to the project blog, a collaboration with some Knox college undergrads.  After the excavations there end, I’ll be attending the World Archaeological Congress inter-congress in Ramallah, then going back to Turkey to finish up a few things at good ol’ Catalhoyuk.  By that time it will be late August, and I’ll be back in Berkeley to help teach Archaeology and the Media and attend to some undergraduate researchers continuing work on Okapi Island in Second Life.  Expect to see more about the Bahrain Bioarchaeology Project, a couple of conference papers…and I’m thinking about taking Arabic. Y’know, because I won’t be busy enough.

So, for the next few days I’ll be tying off ends, cutting, changing a few colors, keeping many the same, and then restarting the steady weaving–hoping for a good pattern, or at least something that won’t come apart once off the loom.