Monthly Archives: November 2009

Tumblr in the Classroom

I mentioned at the beginning of the semester that we were tumblr blogging our classes, the Serious Gaming seminar, 39B and Archaeology and the Media: Film, 136i.  Tumblr is a simplified, speed-blogging service that provides a place to “tumble” your thoughts. I appreciate it as a sort of visual short-hand while I’m doing research–I tend to tumble what I’m reading about or thinking about, select quotes and photographs. It makes a nice, general record of your research trajectory.  I like that it is an explicit acknowledgement of the marginalia created during the construction of knowledge. Anyway, so we decided to try it out for our classes, with mixed results.

http://136i.tumblr.com

It was great for 136i. The Archaeology and the Media classes tend to be structured discussion sessions, where a lot of examples of movies, television, online video, and other forms of media come up in class. The tumblr blog was a way to track class discussion in a non-intrusive way. It helped that there were two of us–me and Ruth–so one of us could take over while the other typed. If I held the seminar by myself, I might arrange for round-robin of responsibility among the students for tumbling class discussions. Though I have a hard time on occasion with the “multi-tasking” that goes on during class.  Having folks referencing online sources and their own previously typed notes can be handy, but I’ve had to ask for “laptops down” many times this semester.

In any case, I found Tumblr to be not only a great “rapid-repository” for references during class, but also appended clips from movies discussed in the readings for students to reference before class. Most of the students had never seen such movies as Double Indemnity and Stagecoach.  I was also able to provide a small collection of important links to address issues such as copyright, and finding creative commons-licensed music for their movies. I even threw in a few “fun” links to archaeology videos that circulate among academics, but aren’t often seen by students.

http://39b.tumblr.com/

The Serious Games and Virtual Worlds for Archaeology Tumblr blog didn’t fare quite as well. Perhaps it was because so much of the class was oriented toward trying to manage awkward CAD systems in Second Life, or that the readings were primarily about Catalhoyuk or other history games. The students also were not quite as engaged, and did not offer as many examples from their own experience for us to reference on the blog. This class was also completely new, and we had to wrangle material about a subject that is not a fully formed field of inquiry quite yet.

In any case, I could recommend using tumblr for both smaller seminar settings, and for larger classes when there is a TA available to follow the discussion with links to examples and salient points.  We are not quite to full immersion–live blogging a lecture so that a powerpoint isn’t necessary, but we’re getting closer. I’m guessing that in the next decade we’ll have it being done for us–word clouds, reference images, and networks of meaning appearing behind us as we lecture.  That might actually get the attention of the students…for a second or two.

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Archaeological Photography – Experimenting with a Light Tent

I’ve been trying to come up with a better strategy for photographing artifacts while in the field in Jordan. There is a lot of nice, natural light but it’s so windy all the time that a rig with sheets or with paper scales can be difficult to manage. I decided to try out an inexpensive light tent. I thought about making my own, but these aren’t particularly portable and the more portable ones on Amazon were cheaper.  We ended up getting this one, and it arrived in a box without instructions. Not that we really needed instructions to put it up, but folding the light tent back into a small enough shape to put it back in the case proved problematic.

I also finally added a macro lens to my photo kit, the Sigma 105mm Macro, which one of my friends recommended to me after taking photos of very small pressure flakes on a piece of porcelain successfully. It was fairly mid-range for a macro lens, and I tested it out on a horse mandible that I had hanging around:

I found the lens to be really responsive during more out-in-the-world photography. The photo of the mandible was taken without a tripod. It was also very good with artifact photography, but I struggled with the light tent, mostly because it put me far away from the artifact and it was hard to position a tripod correctly–nearly impossible to get above the artifact like you can with a regular photo table.

This is a piece of metal recovered from Dhiban in 2009. Overall, not a terrible photo, and it will work for publication, but not ideal.

This is the head of an Iron Age figurine that I side-lit to pick up details of the face. Don’t talk to me about those photo scales–it was humid that day and the stupid paper I used wasn’t thick enough to lay flat. I’ll replace them for final publication anyway. It’s also a bit dark–I haven’t mastered integrating Adobe’s Lightroom into my workflow quite yet. I’m really happy with the program overall though.

The experience with the light tent was frustrating, but I may still try to make it work. We will likely take the tent itself to Dhiban, but maybe not the light rig–I think there will be enough ambient light to make it work.

Four Stone Hearth #80

If you follow 1-80 for 2,900 miles, you end up in New York.

While much of the world has already woken up, drank their coffee and read the newsp….er, checked out news online, it’s 6am here in California and time for a new Four Stone Hearth! I like the big, round numbers in our honored series, having hosted Four Stone Hearth #60 just a little while ago. So let’s start!

For those of you thinking of hitching your way down FSH80, you might be relieved to know that thumbs are not required for tool use among animals. Michelle over at SpiderMonkeyTales disputes the anatomical linkage to a perceived exclusive use of tools by humans and chimpanzees. Thumbs? Who needs ’em?

A few other pieces from our friends who study our more or less distant cousins, a discussion of the Science article regarding chimpanzee and human amino acids from John Hawks and from Ed Yong. A Primate of Modern Aspect has a post on The third trochanter and gluteus maximus of Ardipithecus and what they tell us about locomotion. Sadly, Eric Michael Johnson comes along to put poor Ardi in her place, with Breaking the Chain: Ardipithecus is not a Missing Link. Finally, Ad Hominin zeros in on the fascination with the forehead and the differences between us, Homo erectus, and Neandertals in Full Frontal Hominins.

Influenza porcina en México by Sarihuella.

Only one submission from our friends in the Socio-Cultural realm this edition: Krystal D’Costa’s Anthropology in Practice takes on issues of authority and knowledge in the modern day in her posts Much Ado About the (Swine) Flu and Minerva Revealed: Questions of Authority in a Digital World.  I hadn’t heard of the Korean financial guru “Minerva,” but I constantly encounter anthropologists who are worried about interpretive authority and authorship online, so it was a good read.

Junction of US 64 and US 160, Teec Nos Pos, Arizona, from Gambler's House

Plenty from the archaeologists, however–we’re a bit talky, I suppose.  Gambler’s House has a long, lovely photo essay and discussion of Pueblo and Navajo identity, past and present. Farther north, Northwest Coast Archaeology tackles a controversial CRM Problem in Cadboro Bay. Apparently a builder had an archaeological assessment performed on land that had a lot of archaeological sites, and then completely ignored the report and built anyway. It will be interesting to see how this case develops.

Martin, the pater familias of FSH, blogs about a curious statue that was found by metal detectorists in Denmark. Is it Odin? No, it’s Freya!

One of my colleagues responded to my call for blog posts on Facebook with this entry about the Marsh Arabs in southern Iraq and their changing way of life.

Finally, in what is perhaps a first, a facebook blog post from John Bartram about a British bank who is now investing in the treasure-hunting firm, Odyssey Marine Exploration. Has the financial world come completely unglued?

Oh, hey, it’s already 7:30!  People in England have just started to think about their first beers of the day, and the sun has fully set in Abu Dhabi, so I should get this posted.  I hope you have enjoyed this edition of Four Stone Hearth, look for the carnival next time at Spider Monkey Tales.

Four Stone Hearth 80 – Call for Submissions

Broken Heart, by Phoenix Daily Photo

I’m hosting the next Four Stone Hearth on November 18th, please send your submissions to me:

clmorgan@gmail.com

For this edition, it would be nice to get a lot of photos with captions! I need some inspiration–my camera hasn’t seen much use lately.

Four Stone Hearth 79 was hosted at Anthropology.net.