More Projects Than Time

Kabyle House
Kabyle House

One of my least favorite traits is overcommitment–meaning that I always commit to too many conferences/papers/projects and something always falls by the wayside.  My batting average is pretty good, but I still swing at the air a bit more than I’d like.

So, while I have the attention of the Cal community, I’d like to let one of my pet projects escape and maybe be picked up by someone who can properly feed and nurture an honors thesis out of the thing.

I’ve been intending to reproduce Bourdieu’s Kabyle House in Second Life as a fun exploration of digital habitus, with the attendant theory in scroll-overs, but I just don’t have the time.  If anyone would be interested in this project, drop me a line.  Or just do it yourself, and let me know about it!

“The Lost Tribes of New York City”

I’m not sure I’d title the project the same way, but I love what London Squared did with this film. I wonder if the filmmakers showed the result to the people they interviewed for the project and how the people felt about seeing themselves as objects in the landscape.  The filmmakers call themselves urban anthropologists, but their webpage doesn’t mention any formal training.

Still, I’m always looking for inspiration.  Even if I don’t have that kind of animation skills.

The Neolithic Strikes Back!


Remember this?

So, it turns out that most of the red pigment in B.49 was made out of cinnabar.  From wikipedia:

Because of the high toxicity of mercury, both the mining of cinnabar and refining for mercury are hazardous and historic causes of mercury poisoning. In particular, the Romans used convict labor in their mines as a form of death sentence.  The Spanish also used shorter term convict labor at the Almadén mines, with a 24% overall fatality rate in one 30 year period.


SXSW Notes and Tweets

The panel went well, though all of us wished that we had more time to speak and answer questions.  I kept my powerpoint simple and tried very hard not to stare at my notes the whole time.

Ruth joined us in Second Life and answered a question toward the end.  Sadly, she couldn’t hear most of the questions and I felt a bit strange paraphrasing them on screen while the person was still talking.

Here are some “tweets” from twitter about the panel.  Unfortunately we didn’t set up our own hashtags ahead of time, so they were hard to track down:

View Indiana Jones travels through time and space (arrow at bottom left) #sxsw…
“In Europe, we have a lot of archeology.. takes 6 months to start building a hotel foundation”, Eve #sxsw #indiana
“Second life is dead? GREAT, we love dead things.” -Colleen Morgan at archaeology panel

Archaeologists using Comic Life, Flickr (with notes/annotations), WordPress, Second Life to bring artifacts to life. #sxswabout 23 hours ago from Tweetie

So cool! Panelist is answering questions through second life at arch talk #sxswi
This archaeology and tech panel is very interesting, dif than any other panel thus far, still lots of room!! #sxswi
Heading to the real tech of Indiana jones panel #sxswi

#sxsw “tools like second life and flickr: they’re really good to think with”. Archaeology panel is well done

Now, how about that whole dissertation thing?  I should work on that, probably.

The Real Technology of Indiana Jones

By Deeveepix on Flickr
By Deeveepix on Flickr

It’s here!  I’m getting ready to go to Austin, TX to speak on a panel at South by Southwest, an annual music conference that has grown to include film and interactive media.  When I lived in Austin I would go check out hundreds of bands that were playing all over town, but this will be my first time to attend the interactive conference.  This is the first panel dealing with digital archaeology to appear at the conference, and I’m excited to be a part of it.  If you happen to be going to the conference, the panel is on Monday, March 16th, at 11:30 in Room B.
Title: The Real Technology of Indiana Jones

Adam Rabinowitz, University of Texas at Austin
Stuart Eve (University College London), Bernard Frischer (Rome Reborn), Colleen Morgan (University of California at Berkeley), Adam Rabinowitz, moderator (University of Texas)
Archaeologists no longer rely on whips and fedoras; they now use a range of sophisticated digital tools to collect information in the field and study it in the lab. Too often, though, this wealth of information meets the same fate as Indy’s discoveries, locked away in digital ‘warehouses’ where no one can see it. The archaeologists on this panel present different projects that use web platforms and open-source approaches to bring digital archaeology out of the warehouse and into the public eye. Learn how archaeologists are using interactive media to open their data and processes to the public; discuss the creation of an online archaeological community in Second Life; and explore ancient cities across space and time using publicly-available online tools.


Archaeological Site Formation

When turf rooves collapse.......they do so inside the building and before the walls. This explains why a typical sequence might have collapse from the walls sealing more indistinct collapse (roof)- and all kinds of humic / woody stuff beneath that (roof structure).
"When turf rooves collapse.......they do so inside the building and before the walls. This explains why a typical sequence might have collapse from the walls sealing more indistinct collapse (roof)- and all kinds of humic / woody stuff beneath that (roof structure)."

Many (okay, most!) of the archaeologist-photographers that I know like to take photos of buildings in various states of disrepair.  I think it’s probably a requirement of the profession, right?  Anyway, Dave (whom I met this weekend in Copenhagen) uses this love of decay as an opportunity to talk about archaeological site formation.  How completely logical and brilliant at the same time!  Anyway, I encourage you to check out his new group on Flickr, Archaeology: Site formation or when buildings fall down, and perhaps spend a bit of time describing your artfully framed photos.

In the meantime, don’t forget about Archaeology in Action, the Flickr group dedicated to showcasing archaeological fieldwork from around the world.

Early morning, ice in the pit... Skålbunes, Nordland
Early morning, ice in the pit... Skålbunes, Nordland

Inspirationsseminar på Moesgård Museum Talk

Reconstruction Stave Church at Moesgaard Museum
Reconstruction Stave Church at Moesgaard Museum

I got back from Denmark yesterday, where I spoke as part of the Inspirationsseminar på Moesgård Museum.  My gracious host, Camilla Bjarnø, showed me around the Moesgård Museum and the Århus Modern Art Museum where there was an exhibit on digital art.  The best was being able to meet more archaeologists and curators who are excited about the possibilities of digital archaeology and who are pushing the boundaries in Second Life and pervasive gaming.  Photos and video from the talk were taken, but I’m not sure if they’ll be used internally or freely available.  My favorite part of my talk was perhaps the most externally incomprehensible–I spoke about the ties between DIY and Maker culture and digital archaeology on the cheap:

As Lev Manovich (2007) notes, remix culture has dominated the beginning of the 21st century, with the term brought out of hip hop culture and applied to visual projects, software, literary texts, and many other forms of media.  But Microsoft, Yahoo, Amazon, and other large IT companies reframed remix further and much of the hip hop culture and ethics context for this particular iteration of compounded style was lost or co-opted if marketable.
This, to a certain extent, has been tempered by a burgeoning “Maker” culture, characterized by DIY projects that create clothing, food and other items typically mass-manufactured and bought from large chain stores.  With a growing economic crisis and a sense of betrayal by major financial institutions, the DIY ethic has become increasingly attractive to a broader swath of people.  This impulse is also fed by the growing ubiquity and rapid decrease in price and relative increase of visibility of technology that aids making and sharing various forms of media.  Importantly, these new “Makers” are part of a community of like-minded individuals who support this culture by sharing instructions, showcasing outstanding works, and buying one another’s items, whether they be musical, wearable, or edible.
Like remix, DIY also partially hales from an underground music culture—punk rock.  Re/Search publisher and long time cultural critic V. Vale identifies elements of the punk rock ethic as expressed in DIY culture as mutual aid, financial minimalism, anti-authoritarianism, and black humor.  He claims observing aspects of these traits at the San Francisco Maker Faire in 2008, wherein amateur builders and scientists exhibit their creations.  Alternately, many Makers find their inspiration in hacker culture, which celebrates freedom, curiosity, and subversion of a perceived dominant paradigm.
So what does archaeology have to do with all of this?  In this context, archaeologists have the potential to develop small scale, inexpensive outreach projects that have a relatively large impact and retain the vision and the voice of the archaeologist.  Too long have archaeologists relied on the popular media to transmit information about our past.  Meg Conkey and Ruth Tringham (1996) forward the concept of decentering authority in archaeology while in the classroom and position archaeology as crucial to contemporary cultural politics.  Further, they identify the popular media as serving the “very same controlling agents that have fostered patriarchal, essentialist, authoritative thinking” and assert that for this reason an “explicit engagement with the media is even more crucial to a feminist pedagogy” (233).
Randall McGuire (2008) seeks to remove the secrecy surrounding the production of “texts, cultural artifacts, and meanings that appear natural, given, and unalterable” (22). With the tools of new media, archaeologists can inexpensively create their own media products, and share them instantly on the internet.  In this way, archaeologists could circumvent the popular media to transparently present their own stories.  Better yet, these same technologies can provide a means to co-creatively construct the past with the active participation of stakeholders.  Rosemary Joyce and Ruth Tringham (2007) raise the legitimate concern of unequal access to digital resources, but argue that technological access quickly reaches beyond the first adopters to benefit women and disempowered groups (330-331).  I believe that the context of DIY and Maker culture provides an exciting environment for education and “serious play” and that it is vital for archaeologists to take advantage of this.

I’ll see what I can do about uploading my slides a bit later.

Fred Wilson – Remixing Museums

Cabinetmaking 1820-1960, selections from the Maryland Historical Society

(from my upcoming talk)

Fred Wilson, a name probably familiar to most people who work in museums, is a contemporary artist who made headlines in 1992 for his exhibit, “Mining the Museum.” Wilson makes site-specific installations with museum collections, often juxtaposing the museum’s holdings in a way that creates a new public persona for the museum and exposes the deliberations and decisions about exhibits (Wilson 1994). In “Mining the Museum”, Wilson selected several of the fine examples of plantation furniture curated at the Baltimore museum, then arranged these chairs around a slave whipping post that was used until the 1950s, and stashed in the museum’s basement in 1963. He has had several exhibitions since, even rearranging the collections at the Phoebe Hearst museum at the University of California, Berkeley, my “home” museum. I chose Fred Wilson’s work as an example of what can broadly termed as a remix, a refashioning of more traditional (albeit, in themselves derivative) forms. Wilson’s explicitly political work demands that we consider ethnographic and archaeological exhibits closely, and asks if we could benefit from different perspectives. I wonder what an entire recombinant museum would look like, and if we could achieve this remix by digital means.

Friendly Natives, 1991 (the skeletons are plastic)

(images from Maurice Berger’s Fred Wilson: Objects and Installations 1979-2000)

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