Color and Sound

I uploaded another one of my videos to youtube so that I could show it in class tomorrow. I’m taking over half the lecture from Ruth, to tell the students a bit about archaeology and new media, since that’s the way that most of them will experience archaeology, outside of television.

It’s not my best editing job (it’s from Fall ’06), but it will have to do for now.  Remind me to take a better microphone to Turkey next year.


I’m reusing my 2007 SAA slides, even though they are woefully outdated. (Banksy? Who cares about him anymore?)

In the Trenches

Double Negative

Douglass Bailey gave a great brown bag lecture at Berkeley on Wednesday titled, Neolithic architecture and 1960s art: ground, surface, dissection, and allocentric frames of reference. He was throwing around ideas about a new book he is writing that explores modern art (specifically “land art”) as a way to frame our thinking about archaeology. Indeed, Heizer’s Double Negative looks very much like a trench at first glance, but where trenches generally make me happy (just try to keep me out of any one that I see), Double Negative is actually wounding to contemplate, even on the computer, hundreds of miles away. It could be the scale, or the sheer needlessness of it, I’m not sure. Heizer succeeded, obviously.

Anyway, Bailey’s talk was interesting and provoked a lot of discussion at the end, about negatives and pit houses. As a graduate student, it’s always educational to see how exactly invited speakers respond to questions and criticism–I’ve seen some people very nearly flip out, get really emotional and just refuse to answer any more questions, some people give fairly deadpan answers, but Bailey (and, actually Alison Wylie did this as well) would take notes, and took the time to talk/think through the question with the person who asked the question. It is a nice style, and it seemed to turn the lecture more into a working group than a jury of your peers, something that could actually give good feedback instead of people trying to look smart by stumping you with difficult questions.

I’m getting better at public speaking, but am still nervous when it comes to talking about my ideas in front of my own department. Give me a conference or a classroom any day!

WAC 2008: Call for Participation

 Title: Art, Archaeology and Technology: Current Experiments in Interpretation
Archaeologists have been rapidly integrating new media technologies into their interpretive schemes through a variety of methods.  Virtual worlds, social networking websites, blogs, wikis, and digital photo mash-ups are becoming legitimate alternate ways to present archaeological information.  Lower entry points for remixing photography, film, and databases into multimodal presentations increase the potential for archaeologists to use these media to tell their own stories. This, combined with a growing ubiquity of online media platforms, allows us to reach out to new publics by integrating archaeology into a greater social sphere.  Situated in a conference that is fully engaged with questions regarding the future of archaeology, this session explores current and future interpretive projects inspired by new media art and technology.  In this exploration we will discuss alternate narratives, collective actions and what it means to be an archaeologist in the digital age.  Alternate forms of papers and presentations such as films or websites are welcomed.

Presentations should be 15 minutes long and will be followed by remixes of the content by the discussants.

Contact: Colleen Morgan (, Dr. Christine Finn (, or Dr. Ruth Tringham ( regarding interest and participation in the session.

Submit your abstract to

Closing date: February 22, 2008.


This is the first movie I did (that wasn’t a joint project), back in Spring of 2006, in conjunction with a project about the glass debitage of Ishi that is held in the Hearst Museum.  I’d really like to publish the paper someday, but it needs substantial work.

It’s sorta long (13 mins), so I certainly don’t expect anyone to check out the full thing, but any feedback is welcome.  I probably won’t edit this one anymore because the drive that had all of my scratch files died, alas.

Maybe someday I won’t be terrified when I put my video work up on the internet, but it won’t be any time soon.

DIY and Die?

While I was diligently eating saltines and drinking water this morning I happened to catch a newish PBS documentary called e2: the economics of being environmentally conscious. The subject at hand was wind power, and the show provided strong economic arguments for locally-produced power through small, family-owned wind farms that allowed people to stay on the land in this ever-urbanizing country.  I was immediately taken with the gorgeous cinematography–slightly desaturated landscapes with beautiful positioning of the interviewees. This doc used the “talking heads” schema, but made the people part of the landscape instead of interviewing them inside offices and such. I still wince whenever I see the academic/expert inside their book-lined office, but I suppose it’s appropriate but highly unimaginative. There was a voice-over by Morgan Freeman and the whole presentation was impossibly slick, moving away from the shaky hand-cams and poorly lit shots that usually characterize the kind of documentaries you’d expect out of this kind of politically-motivated film-making. Two things came to mind–that I’d just about die to make my films look like this, and that the documentary looked more like an extended commercial than anything else.

I looked up the company that made the film ( and, unsurprisingly, both of the producers mentioned have backgrounds in marketing. This made sense with the scheme of the show–selling green power to the public. I did appreciate that they eschewed the fake dichotomies that these kind of documentaries (and a lot of news reporting, for that matter) employ to try to appear fair or to create tension. (Is global warming real? We dug up one guy that says no, let’s interview him!) They obviously seem passionate about this subject and everything ends well for everyone involved, with Morgan Freeman’s godly voice providing the correct conclusions for us all.

As a quick sidenote, I just finished Eric Janszen’s report in Harpers about the bubble economy and the rapidly accelerating cycles of boom and bust and he predicts that green energy is the next boom. Welcome news, and Kontentreal is helping to make it happen. I’d love to see their investment portfolios.
I suppose I am just bitter though, as I do not have access to the HDR cameras with cinematic lenses, and Brad Pitt does not narrate my scrappy little archaeology films. Their artistry is obviously not 100% financial in origin, but it seems to help. It’s just frustrating when I notice that another of their films, Ausangate, made it into the Archaeology Channel Film & Video Festival. Is there any room for an archaeologist making her own films on no budget?


Things are shaping up quite well as I head into the semester. I am working hard on my final field statements, have mostly finished (to my surprise!) my dissertation prospectus, and have been cooking up a Wenner Gren. On top of all of this, I finally got together the journal article that I want to submit to Archaeological Method & Theory, but I’m not sure it shouldn’t actually be two slightly different articles. Sorry to be opaque–I’ll post it all when it comes closer to actually happening.

I met with Ruth and the other GSIs on Tuesday to discuss the upcoming semester. It should be pretty interesting–heavy on the media literacy, light on mid-terms, which is nice, but can be difficult for the more rigid students who want to be lectured at, take notes, and regurgitate periodically.

I’ve been dealing with some Catalhoyuk material again though, which always makes me dream about the place. Browns and yellows and stressful politics, oh my!

More interesting than my academic dealings–the Library of Congress has partnered with Flickr to get public tagging for their archived photographs. I love it–academic/public institutions have long been building web-islands of information, and getting some of this primary data out into a more public sphere gives life to the database, ensures that it will be used and therefore valued. There’s already been a massive effort to tag these photos and I wonder if folksonomies would solve some of the problems that archaeologists have been having with assigning conceptual terminology we need for generating comparative data. Archaeologists should create their own archives, but should also update to social networking sites like Flickr not only in the public interest, but to get more perspectives on their data.

But, back to the LOC project, you can find the main page here:

And the photos are completely gorgeous:

I wonder, as time goes on and I travel even more, if my love for the American West and its people and history will only deepen.

New Media and Recursivity

Anies Photo Recording

I took these photos from the Catalhoyuk Photo Database, built and maintained by Jason Quinlan, and remixed them with Comic Life to illustrate a point in a small project that I will finish soon, hopefully.

Meanwhile: Is art on the internet considered public by its very nature?  Is all art public?  Has it always been?

Three Functions


“The aesthetic function of public art is to codify social distinctions as natural ones.”

(newspaper rock in Canyonland, Utah, by Molas)


“The economic function of public art is to increase the value of private property.”

(Outside Cheapo Records, Austin, TX)


“The social function of public art is to subject us to civic behaviour.”

(Angkor Wat, by David Willmot)

From the Three Functions by Hewitt and Jordan.

Social Networking and Teaching

I put in some time today creating sections and assigning them to myself and the other GSIs (graduate student instructors or teaching assistants, in Berkeley-speak) on our automated class management system in preparation for the coming semester. I’m excited to help teach Introduction to Archaeology again, and it’s interesting to be the head GSI this time. I’ll try not to let all the power and glory get to my head. ha.

I also took the time to update my section syllabus, which is a supplementary syllabus to the main class, wherein I make my specific expectations plain. It’s not really all that different, but I do quote Kai Chang’s powerful polemic on political correctness, specifically:

“The phrase “politically correct” can be used in two distinct ways: either with its original literal meaning, or with the mocking sarcasm that’s common these days. As it’s commonly used, “PC” is a deliberately imprecise expression (just try finding or writing a terse, precise definition) because its objective isn’t to communicate a substantive idea, but simply to sneer and snivel about the linguistic and cultural burdens of treating all people with the respect and sensitivity with which they wish to be treated. Thus, the Herculean effort required to call me “Asian American” rather than “chink” is seen as a concession to “the PC police”, an unsettling infringement on the free-wheeling conversation of, I suppose, “non-chinks”. (…) Underlying every complaint of “PC” is the absurd notion that members of dominant mainstream society have been victimized by an arbitrarily hypersensitive prohibition against linguistic and cultural constructions that are considered historical manifestations of bigotry.”

I find that stating this up front can really be helpful for discussions about the human past in a class full of people who are so used to cultural insensitivity (and their own positions of privilege) that they hardly notice it any more.

I also added a new bit about social networking sites:

Punctuality, Cell Phone Use, and Social Networking Sites: Be punctual, silence your cell phone, and I will attempt to do the same. As a rule, I do not accept Facebook or Myspace friend requests from current students.

If that sounds a bit abrupt, I’ll be going over the syllabus in class with them so I can make the requisite “you keep your weekends and I’ll keep mine” joke. This forestalls the awkwardness that comes when you accept or reject ‘friendships’ online and still have to grade the person. Maybe I’m too formal, and I know that online privacy is nonexistant, but in this situation a little decorum goes a long way. I’m relatively easy to find, and I’ve made my peace with that (under the precepts of Hamilakis’ figure of the public intellectual…though I could hardly claim that title) and my blogging performance takes a more generalized audience into account. Besides, I really don’t want to know which of my students was doing keg stands the day before the final.

Anyway, quoting blogs and defining online relationships right on the syllabus…it’s a brave new world of teaching.

Here’s my section syllabus, for the curious. I still need to update it in accordance to the general syllabus (I don’t think we’re using the CDROM again, it was utter trash) but you get the general idea.

Section Syllabus

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