Monthly Archives: September 2010

Blogging Archaeology 2011 – The Abstracts!

As you may have noticed, I’ve organized a session called Blogging Archaeology for the annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology 2011 in Sacramento.  The session has been finalized, with the following participants joining in the discussion:

Discussant – Kris Hirst of Archaeology@About.com fame.

Michael E. Smith
Can Archaeological Blogs be used for Serious Scholarship?

Most archaeological blogs are aimed at the dissemination of information to a non-professionalaudience, with a few blogs focused on communication of professional information amongarchaeologists. I explore the possibilities for expanding blogging beyond a teaching-service-entertainment orientation into a more serious intellectual realm. Why are there no archaeologicalblogs for serious intellectual conversation (like the anthropology blog, “Savage Minds”). Mightarchaeological blogs be used for the production of intellectual content through collaborationamong professionals? I discuss some of the roadblocks and potential benefits to expandingarchaeological blogging in the direction of intellectual and scientific production.

John Lowe
Blogging archaeology in CRM

In the practice of archaeology, engaging with the public is an important element. By doing so, archaeologists can help to explain the value of protecting cultural resources and the important data “in the ground.” However, this interaction can also benefit the work of the archaeologist, in understanding the perspective of other stakeholders, as well as revealing sources and data not readily apparent otherwise.
Blogging, although in many ways more of a soliloquy than a dialogue, is one way that archaeologists can and do reach out to the public. By sharing data, pictures, and stories, the everyday work of an archaeologist is exposed to any who are interested. The information is more personalized, and the exchange more dynamic, than a static presentation of results.

For American cultural resource management (CRM) professionals, blogging presents a challenge. The projects are often small and unexciting, and negative results are the norm. State and federal laws are a consideration when discussing site finds. Clients may have non-disclosure contracts associated with a project, or monitor the Internet for any references to project details and negative comments. Often, there’s a sense that you’re trying to reach out to a public that just isn’t there, or isn’t responding. The work is unpaid, and finding the energy to write after a long, hot field day can be a challenge.
However, blogging should become a more important part of the practice of CRM. Publicly funded projects in particular often require a public outreach component; blogging is a way of doing this real-time, and being more inclusive of the participants.

Nicolas Laracuente
Public Archaeology 2.0: Facilitating Engagement with Twitter

Public archaeology increases public awareness of archaeological issues
and their practical applications to modern social concerns. Classroom
visits, hands-on activities, site tours, and other events give
archaeologists the opportunity to engage public audiences and transfer
knowledge through face-to-face interaction. However, engagement ends
at the conclusion of the event leaving the audience with an incomplete
understanding of the subject. Twitter, a social media application,
transcends these spatial and temporal limitations by allowing
sustained multi-directional communication between archaeologists,
their audience, and others who never attended the original event. This
form of engagement facilitates learning and can be applied across
disciplines.

Johan Normark
Dealing with the public view of the Maya

The public view of the Maya is often affected by stereotypes, exoticism,
and ethnocentrism. Nowhere is this clearer than in the 2012-phenomenon.
While blogging about various parts of this phenomenon I have encountered
everything from threats, dismissals on the grounds that I am biased because
I am part of the academia but also positive feedback on the attempt to
uncover frauds. Although my blog primarily is dedicated to Mayanist studies
and archaeological theory, the 2012 part of the blog is most popular. How
does that affect my choice of topics? Am I also feeding on the phenomenon
that I criticize?

Sarah Nohe

Digital social media has emerged as one of the most powerful and revolutionary forms of media consumption, interaction, and information distribution.  Unlike traditional forms of media, blogging and social networking allow information to travel from the source, reaching wide audiences directly, and providing opportunities for feedback, criticism, and interaction. Two programs, the Michigan State University’s Campus Archaeology Program and the Florida Public Archaeology Network, have successfully employed digital social media to engage the public in archaeological heritage.   This paper illustrates the effectiveness of digital social media as a means to facilitate public archaeology.

Terry Brock
Teaching Archaeology and Community Engagement through Blogging: A Public Archaeology Field School Project at Michigan State University

Blogging has had an impact on both public engagement and college teaching. This paper will use a field school blogging project conducted by the MSU Campus Archaeology Program to discuss the importance of digital community engagement, the use of blogging as a means to share with the public not only what archaeologists find, but also to educate the public about how archaeology is done and how conclusions are drawn. Additionally, it will discuss how blogging in this manner can better teach students about archaeological methods, while introducing them to public archaeology and digital media.

Shawn Graham

Signal versus Noise; or, why blogging matters”   The single greatest reason for
blogging, for creating a professional on-line  profile and for creating a
sustained presence for our research can be summed up  in one word: Google.
Academic blogs are content-rich, and tend to focus on very  specific areas.
Academic bloggers create an enormous signal in the chaos of the  internet.
Google controls how we find information; but often, academic blogging  tells
Google what’s important. Thus, academic blogging can set the larger  research
agenda.

Meta-Bloggery – Masthead, Collections, Best-of

I’ve made a couple of changes around the blog, the first being the new masthead. I was a little iffy on it, and the DD’s have been the subject of some critique, but ultimately I’m happy with it. And it’s all open source/creative commons fonts! Everything except the “V” is Blackout from the League of Moveable Type. The “V” is from the Skullphabet type set from the Skull a Day Project. I had to fix the kerning a bit, but it wasn’t a big deal in Illustrator.

I created two new pages:

Collections – I have been amassing some kinds of archaeological photos and ephemera in a somewhat lackadaisical fashion with the help of some of my friends. I thought I’d be a bit more organized about it and share the collections as I have time. They’re a little miscellaneous, but what do you want?

Greatest Hits – I have a “Top Posts” widget, but it’s a little bit random and changeable. I picked some posts that have proved to be popular by getting linked a lot, and some that I felt were examples that best showed what the blog was all about. I should get together a sub-genres collection of my series of “Poetry and Prose that remind me of Archaeology” and my photo comics, but that will be another Sunday’s work.

What do you think? Any suggestions?

Fumetti, Sequential Art, and Visual Narrative Building in Archaeology

I just sent an abstract to Vasko Demou, the organizer of the Bristol Theoretical Archaeology Group Meeting (TAG) session, Paper pasts: archaeologies of comics, comic-strips, cartoons, and graphic novels. I’ve wanted to write up my use of fumetti for outreach for a while, and this was the perfect chance, since I was going to TAG anyway to help organize the film festival. Here is the abstract:

Fumetti, Sequential Art, and Visual Narrative Building in Archaeology

Fumetti, or photo comics, are a powerful, but little used tool for narrative building in archaeology.  Easily created by a variety of image-manipulation software and distributed online, these examples of archaeological practice as sequential art find a wide audience who are unreachable in more traditional print or image formats.  The combination of images and text as a narrative makes nuanced archaeological interpretation easy to understand and pushes the archaeologist to take better, more descriptive photographs while conducting research.  In this paper I will describe the history and utility of creating fumetti, their distinct advantages as an interpretive and educational tool, and why comics matter for archaeology in the digital age.

It’s a very TAG-a-rific year for me, as I’m also the graduate student representative for TAG 2011 at Berkeley. Expect more about that soon!

Video Game Cartography and the Magic Circle

CIV2

In partial fulfillment of my designated emphasis in New Media, I’m taking a class this semester with Ozge Samanci, the author/cartoonist of ordinary things, a web comic. I am really busy with dissertation and whatnot, but I always enjoy taking classes in the New Media department as they are truly interdisciplinary–I’ve met fascinating grad students from the School of Information, Rhetoric, and Religious Studies and they give me unique perspectives on the work I do.

So one of the students in the class is writing his thesis on Narratology and classic Japanese video games, the kind that I played years ago, like Final Fantasy VII, Suikoden, and Final Fantasy Tactics. I also played Civilization II, which is where the above image came from–it’s one of the only examples I could find!

Anyway, during the course of discussion regarding Seymour Chatman’s structuralist literary theory I realized that I visualize exploring space in a way very closely relating to those early video games.  When I go to a new city or go out on survey, I think of myself as clearing a path through darkness, “mapping” the features of the landscape, illuminating them in my mind. I always have the urge to clear out all of the dark space, to explore every centimeter until it is all visible, in relief, in my mental map of the space. This is probably not deeply unique, but I find it pretty funny that these early video games gave me such a rigid mental metaphor for experiencing place. As Sybille Lammes says in her excellent Cultural Functions of Spatial Practices in Video Games, “in Latourian terms, one could state that the game space consists of landscapes as hybrids of objective and subjective spatial (re)presentations.” I’ve blogged about augmented reality before, without realizing that I already experience space in a oddly cyborgian way.

Lammes also describes the ludological term, “the magic circle,” a “membrane that encloses virtual worlds,” which Lammes states is “more about games as space than about space in games” but that it still has “major consequences for the way spatiality can be understood in games.” I’ve somehow permeated the magic circle and brought a visualization metaphor out into the real life to overlay my experience of the world.

Hmph. Maybe I should carry a sword.

Archaeology Strike Force!

By Turtlemoon, on Flickr.

So last week for our Wednesday archaeology brown bag lecture we had Ran Boytner from UCLA’s Cotsen Institute of Archaeology come and speak to us about their collective archaeology field school program. It is a good idea, that universities and individual field schools have a centralized place for organizing and funding field schools so that larger pools of money can be around when something goes wrong and more students from varying institutions can participate. I was less happy with the administration–UCLA professors are the only ones who can decide if the methodology on site is rigorous enough for your field school to be associated with the Field School system.  I guess I’d like to see what training in excavation methodology and pedagogy these professors have, especially if they’re the 1m x 1m square-heads that dominate US institutions.

Anyway, during the Q&A at the end of the talk I had a question about that–just how vigorous is vigorous? What is your metric for a rigorous field school? I didn’t really get an answer more than “UCLA professors decide and they know what is best” but I did get a particularly good anecdote:

So a semi-anonymous professor/field director last year lost a piece of equipment on the plane ride over and decided to replace that equipment from the student food budget.  Field school budgetary decisions are absolutely opaque to students (and to most of the team) so this information must have gotten leaked somehow and it got passed around.  The students went un/underfed, and had to lead tours of the excavation to visitors while holding a can that said “food money” and beg for tips. While this is hilarious, and sadly fairly typical, word of this came back to the Cotsen Field School system and they immediately flew out a “crack team of UCLA graduate students” to “separate the director from the undergraduate students” and to make sure that the undergraduate students had enough food. The director could no longer have any contact with the undergraduate students and the graduate students effectively took over the excavation.

This is a great boon to field schools in that the students–who are absolutely under the complete sway of directors who may or may not care about their tutelage, living situation, or dietary needs–have recourse if something goes terribly wrong during the field season. The students also have no metric to judge if the field school is particularly bad, as it will be their first time in the field and they have nothing to compare it to. So they put up with a lot, have little decision-making ability and can be fairly thoroughly abused. Some people even consider this a sort of “jumping-in” for students to see if they are tough enough for archaeology. Utterly ridiculous.  For this reason I endorse the Cotsen program, perhaps combined with a little radical transparency for individual field directors and budgetary concerns…

…but only if I can be part of the graduate student strike team, of course.

Texting and the Telegraph

Many New Media scholars find it productive to compare technological innovations and their impact on society throughout time as a way to ground their current research.  In Techniques of the Observer, Jonathan Crary traces the modern construction of the observer and visuality to the camera obscura, an early device used for redirecting light to project an image of its surroundings onto a screen or paper. The connection between texting and the telegraph seems more straightforward. After all, I did just sign up for another two years of service from American Telephone & Telegraph.
Evans: Could you come superintend under my direction important excavation Knossos. Personal not school affair terms four months sixty pounds and all expenses paid to begin at once.
Mackenzie: Agreed coming next boat.
– Telegrams between Arthur Evans and Duncan Mackenzie regarding work at the excavation at Knossos
The 2008 Pew Internet report on Writing, Technology and Teens came amidst concerns over the “death of writing” and the “colour and poetry” of writing being lost. The Pew study also states that students do not consider texting writing, and indeed it appears to be closer to a vernacular form of speech. In Taylor and Vincent’s 2005 An SMS History they describe this speech as “new linguistic repertoires that allow for the intimacy afforded in face-to-face encounters to be reproduced between physically remote interlocutors,” in other words, a unique texting argot.

Alternately, Caroline Habluetzel looks at texting as occupying a unique position between speech and writing, allowing it to “overcome the absence of the receiver and create what in the context of classic letter writing has been called epistolary presence, that is, a sense of presence between the two interlocutors that is more intense than geographical distance would suggest.”

This changing of our sense of place and space through time is something that I’ve always been interested in as an archaeologist.  The affordances of texting and telegrams are similar enough–limited transmission length, relatively expensive, conveyance of instantaneous information that is expected to be read and acted upon immediately–that it creates an intriguing parallel in history.  Tom Standage calls the telegraph The Victorian Internet in his book with the same title.

It appears that the telegraph has not destroyed writing, nor will texting. If anything, I appreciate the shortness of the telegram agreement quoted above between Arthur Evans and Duncan Mackenzie–how wonderful it would be if more jobs had similar hiring practices!

TAG 2010: Call for Movies

The Centre for Audio-Visual Study and Practice of Archaeology (CASPAR)
in conjunction with the University of California at Berkeley invite
short, 3-minute long movies that push the boundaries of archaeological
filmmaking.  In the spirit of the Theoretical Archaeological Group
meetings, innovative submissions that utilize the strengths of digital
filmmaking will be given the highest consideration for the screen
festival. Some genres under consideration are machinima, animation,
experimental, parody, “fake” films, and other unexpected or unexplored
formats.  These movies will be screened live at TAG 2010 (December 14-17)  in Bristol, UK and simulcast on OKAPI island in Second Life and will be entered for a juried prize.  The deadline for submissions is December 1.

If you have any questions, please contact tringham@berkeley.edu or clmorgan@berkeley.edu.

Screen Festival

TAG 2010 Website

The following on-line and on-site workshops will be held to guide those who feel unskilled or unfamiliar in digital film-making to become more comfortable and creative. Nobody should feel excluded from this competition:

Workshop 1: Friday October 1, 10am-12noon PST
What Makes a Good 3-minute Story (Ruth Tringham)

Workshop 2: Friday October 22, 10am-12noon PST
Creating the assets (media) for your 3-minute movie (Michael Ashley, Scott Calhoun, Colleen Morgan, Ruth Tringham)

Workshop 3: Friday November 5, 10am-12noon PST
More on creating the media; compressing, uploading, and sharing your finished movie (Michael Ashley, Scott Calhoun)

Workshop 4: Saturday November 13, 9am-5pm PST (schedule TBA)
International drop-in workshop: getting your movie done (Michael Ashley, Scott Calhoun, Colleen Morgan)