This week’s @mobilearc15 question was: My favorite off-the-shelf app for paperless archaeology is _______. @mobilearc15 is the official twitter feed of the Mobilizing the Past for a Digital Future conference held at the end of this month. When I thought about that question, I reflected on the usual contenders. I can’t imagine intensive pedestrian survey without ArcGIS.
In the lead up to the Mobilizing the Past for the Digital Future workshop at the end of the month in Boston, their social media coordinator (aka R. Scott Moore) posed a pretty straightforward question from the conferences twitter feed: What is the one digital tool that needs to be in every archaeologist’s toolkit today? As I pondered this question and shot off a gut-feeling response: GIS.
I’m pretty excited to head back to the great Commonwealth of Massachusetts this winter to participate in another exciting workshop focusing on digital archaeology. The last workshop hosted by Eric Poehler at the University of Massachusetts – Amherts was great. This years worshop is hosted by Erin Walcek Averett (Creighton University), Derek Counts (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee), Jody Gordon (Wentworth Institute of Technology), and Michael K. Toumazou (Davidson College).
This past week, I’ve been doing more exploring and skimming than authentic reading. I did take some time to slow down and read Matt Edgeworth’s “From Spade-Work to Screen-Work: New Forms of Archaeological Discovery in Digital Space” in A. Carusi, A. S. Hoel, T. Webmoor, and S. Woolgar eds. Visualization in the Age of Computerization. Routledge 2014. Edgeworth was a familiar name to me.
I spent two, busy days at the American Schools of Oriental Research annual meeting last week. It was great to catch up with old friends and spend some time surveying both recent trends in our field and the state of academic conference. 1. Ban Archaeological Site Reports as Conference Papers. I enjoyed most of the papers that I heard last week and invariably learned something from even the most tedious. This is a good thing.
Lately I’ve been talking with friends and colleagues about the feeling that I’m wasting my sabbatical. Despite all sorts of reassurances, I feel the days slipping away.
I’ve spent a good bit of time this past month preparing the Punk Archaeology volume for publication (hopefully within the next week or so) and laying out the volume dedicated to a series of short posts from last year’s 3D Thursday series of blog posts. At the same time, I was thinking about this year’s series of posts on craft and archaeology, and it occurred to me that the process of managing a book from writing, to contributors to lay-out, represents an artisnal approach to production.
Just yesterday, a friend of mine asked me what I thought about crowd-funded archaeological projects and sent me a link to a recently funded project on Kickstarter to support excavation in Nicaragua. A quick search at Kickstarter and another crowd funding site, Indiegogo, revealed quite a few other archaeological projects looking to raise funds for their work.
If you just managed to submit your abstract for the Archaeological Institute of America’s Annual Meeting and still have some energy before classes start in earnest, then I have a few possible, last minute calls for papers to fill up the idle hours.
Over the past few years there has been a renewed interest in the role of craft in archaeological practice. The locus classicus of this discussion is the influential, if not unproblematic, article by Michael Shanks and Randall Maguire in the 1996 volume of American Antiquity. This article, however, focused more on the role of craft in archaeological epistemology and less on the practical aspects of a craft approach.
My colleague Prof. Cindy Prescott generously offered this response to the my conversations with Troy Larson. Bill’s previous blog post and Troy’s response raise interesting questions about intellectual property and the relationship between academic and public history. Many researchers in the hard sciences worry constantly about being “scooped.
I had originally intended to write about the local humanities this morning, but I was distracted by an interesting little discussion on the internet. A local author, Troy Larson, took issues with a website produced for a class offered by Tom Isern, a historian at North Dakota State University. Tom had designed the class, as far as I can recall, to produce a catalogue of North Dakota “Ghost Towns”.
It feels very odd to say that a conversation on Twitter spurred me to think a bit more about archaeology as craft. Yesterday a group of archaeologists, mainly in the U.K., and seemingly spurred by Colleen Morgan who began a discussion on the decline of the craft of excavation spurred in part by a rereading of C. Tilley’s well-known article on archaeology as theater.
A few weeks back my buddy Paul Worley penned an interesting blog post on digital humanities and “getting hit by the proverbial bus.” The post talked about the ripple effect of Joel Jonientz’s death in our little digital humanities community on campus. For the University of North Dakota, the digital humanities was an explicitly collaborative affair with almost all of the successful project from the Working Group in Digital and New Media involving more than one member.
I probably have one more day in the field this season on the Western Argolid Regional Project. Over the last 6 weeks, we’ve surveyed close to 2500 units and recorded important data for each unit on paper maps and paper forms. We then keyed this data into a database and plotted our maps on a GIS to produce density maps. Our ceramicists, Scott Gallimore and Sarah James, continue to move through the 30,000 artifacts recovered from the field.
I know it’s cliche, but archaeology provides a good context for thinking. Over the last few weeks, I’ve gotten some good thinking done. Since it’s the middle of the middle week of the survey season on the Western Argolid Regional Project, and thanks to “a non-serious, fatigue-related, incident”, I’ve been stranded in my lux-u-ary apartment for the last two day, I’ve scrawled down a few thoughts about a few things: 1. Team Leaders.
I had a mini database meltdown on the first day of field work and data entry. The specific problem with the database mostly involved how we were using it (and the limits on the particular tool we chose to use), but it highlighted the relationship between the unit as space and the unit as a procedural unit in intensive pedestrian survey. To put this another way, we can only walk the same unit once, and we are thinking about how to make our database reflect this.
The last few days here in the Western Argolid have been punctuated by database development in the lead up to our first days in the field next week. I’m a bit terrified at the prospect of managing data for five field teams walking 20-30 units a day and producing 500-800 units per week.
The most recent issue of the Journal of Field Archaeology has a little gaggle of interesting contributions to digital methods in our discipline. The two that stood out most to me involved the use of 3D modeling to map complex and challenging site types resistant to traditional forms of archaeological documentation.
The UND Working Group in Digital & New Media is happy to present “Track Changes: A Literary History of Word Processing,” A Virtual Talk by Matthew Kirschenbaum. The talk is free and open to the public and will take place at 4pm on Wednesday, April 16 in the East Asian Room in the Chester Fritz Library. You should be able to stream his talk here. Matthew G.