From the teachings of Big Daddy Soul:
“Think about the kind of revolution you want to live and work in. What do you need to know to start that revolution? Demand that your teachers teach you that.”
Roll up your sleeves. With archaeology employment declining and the world economy burning down around us it is more important than ever to do everything we can to bring archaeology to the public. Our organization policy makers in the Society for American Archaeology in the States and more broadly in the World Archaeological Congress work hard and do what they can to raise awareness of the preservation of archaeological sites and the promotion of archaeological education, but they are not enough.
So my question is one inspired by the Young Lions Conspiracy: What are you doing to Participate? The Young Lions Conspiracy, based in Austin, TX, was formed around an attitude toward life and soul music. Primarily driven by Tim Kerr, one of the most fantastic musicians and artists that I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching writhe on the floor in a tangle of guitar cables and beer cans, the Young Lions was one manifestation of a broader culture of participation and DIY in Austin in the 1990s. This attitude has stayed with me through the process of undergraduate and graduate school. My statement of purpose upon entering Berkeley included a variation of bell hooks’ feminist manifest: Archaeology is for everybody.
This seemed even more possible with the growing ease and accessibility of technology and downright necessary with the specter of ubiquitous computing and embedded landscapes looming. While there are a few interesting projects and “proof of concepts” emerging in conference presentations and collected volumes, many archaeologists seem content to let others visualize and present their work, citing a lack of time or knowledge of the technology involved. Those of us who are conversant with this technology–which at a basic level is no more difficult or time consuming than creating a power point presentation–need to stretch further and faster than before. Even some of us who are technologically capable do not share, and sharing should be a reflexive, nearly automatic action for archaeologists. I was recently inspired by Eric Paulos’ recent Manifesto of Open Disruption and Participation that calls for the creation of “an entirely new form of citizen volunteerism, community involvement and participation” to “effect real political change.”
It is worth learning new forms of communication to preserve the past. It is important that we as archaeologists do not let others co-opt our unique vision and understanding of the world around us. We must interfere in the public’s understanding in the past. Change it. Surprise, enlighten, destroy when necessary and rebuild a better, stronger, more curious and more passionate interest in what we do. This is my charge to myself and to other archaeologists and to anyone who wants to join us.
What are you doing to Participate?
(The title is also an upcoming talk I’m giving as part of a seminar at Moesgård Museum in Denmark)