Social Networking Wishlist

Facebook just recently opened its API and I’m rushing off to campus to copy a book chapter for class tomorrow and the combination of these two things has renewed my interest in a fantasy project.

See, I don’t want to develop it, I just want it to happen.  And happen in a way that is open source, free, and completely awesome.  Hey, I told you it was a fantasy.

I want a social networking site for academics where we can upload journal articles, book chapters, whatever source material we want, tag them appropriately, and create knowledge/school constellations depending on what we’re currently reading and working on.  I’m so tired of begging books (hello, Archaeological Semiotics, $75!) and it’s not like most academic publishing makes any money anyway.  I would also like this mythical site to host powerpoint presentations, photos, and to stream video from conferences.  The emphasis would be on creating contributing content, peer review, interdisciplinary work, and transparency.

My node would have my CV, my works, and my references, which I could upload and share.  Right now those things are spread across four different platforms and it seems so unnecessary.

I want it now.  NOW, dammit.

Toward an Embodied Virtual Archaeology

Lara Croft is an unavoidable cultural figure for women in archaeology. Some choose to feel empowered by this representation of an ass-kickin’ buxom femme who slings guns instead of shovels. She’s an arguably harmless fantastic character and frankly I’m a little bored of being irritated at this representation of my profession and at people who remark about either Indiana Jones or Lara Croft while talking to me about archaeology. I’m nearly loathe to bring her up at all, except for this:

A new iteration of Tomb Raider is coming out on the Wii. While this likely means that you can smash pots/natives/steal artifacts using the new controller, the first thing I thought of was digging!

While there have been attempts at VR digging (some of which I should be writing about right now in my field statement, argh), the Wii controller is versatile, relatively inexpensive, becoming pervasive, and can do most of the basic motions associated with field archaeology:

1) troweling
2) shoveling
3) sifting
4) pick-axing
5) drawing

It would be a lovely educational tool and would guide people through the some of the physicality of archaeology, something that is sorely lacking in most virtual excavation projects and games. Obviously I need to write a grant proposal that includes funding for purchasing a Wii, right?

Metaphorical Archaeology

Here’s the first two paragraphs of a thirty page paper I dropped off yesterday:

Archaeology and photography, both considered projects and products of modernity, have extensively exchanged metaphorical weight throughout their complimentary histories.  As early as 1839, Dominique François Jean Arago enthusiastically embraced photography as a means to accurately “copy the millions of hieroglyphics which cover even the exterior of the great monuments of Thebes, Memphis, Karnak” in a way that would “excel the woks of the most accomplished painters, in fidelity of detail and true reproduction of the local atmosphere” (Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology., et al. 1986:73).  Fox Talbot, the inventor of the ‘Calotype’ process in 1841, was an antiquarian and took photographs of manuscripts, engravings, and busts (Dorrell 1989).  While archaeologists have considered photography as an attractive and theoretically transparent way to quickly document sites and artifacts, critics and theorists of photography have drawn on archaeological metaphors to describe and understand photographs.

In describing Niepce’s first photograph, Clarke declares it “not so much an image as an archaeological fragment” due to poor quality and representation (1997:12).  Sontag spells out this relationship, stating that “photographs are, of course, artifacts” (1977:69).  They “turn the past into a consumable object” (68), by “slicing out this moment and freezing it” (15), “giv(ing) people an imaginary possession of a past that is unreal” (9).  Berger expands on Sontag, acknowledging that “photographs are relics of the past, traces of what has happened (1980:61), but champions creating an “alternative photography” wherein photographs are contextualized, situated through social and political memory.  Barthes further obscures the relationship between the photograph and the ‘reality’ of the past by stating that “the reading of the photograph is thus always historical” (1977:28).  While the linkage between artifact and past meaning has been problematized extensively in archaeology, its apparently objective use of photography as a tool to represent scientific process has only recently been called into question.  Shanks (1997) destabilizes the use of photographs as “transparent windows”, situating ‘photowork’ within a specific framework of cultural production within archaeology.

I’ll post the rest as a pdf after I’ve, um, read it.  Now, on to finish the big lit review I have due to my advisor!

And, suddenly, I need to have read, digested, and contextualized Walter Benjamin’s entire corpus.

I love/hate when this happens.

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