Utilized Glass and Experimental Archaeology in Kalaupapa

DSC_0009

One of my pet interests in archaeology is utilized glass, that is, glass that has been repurposed for cutting or scraping.  One of the best examples of this are the glass points of Ishi, a collection that I studied and wrote up during my first year of grad school.  Since then I haven’t worked much with utilized glass, so it came as a lovely surprise to find so much of it at Kalaupapa.  James and I planned and collected a large scatter that came up as at least 50% utilized after we looked at it in the lab.

We washed all the glass, then sorted and drew pieces that were either utilized or had identifying marks on them.  A lot of the glass looked really modern, as in, about 100 years old or so.  You can figure out a bottle’s age by color and by morphology, particularly by how the bottle’s neck and base were fixed to the body.  If you’d like to find out more about how to do this, one of the best references is the Parks Canada Glass Glossary, available here.

But we going “chicken blind” (as my darling Serbian friend Marina would term it) and we were starting to doubt our analyses.  So we did a little experimental archaeology.

Page_1
Page_2
Page_3
Page_4
Page_5

CHiSL

Last spring I started gathering information on cultural heritage sites in Second Life, in the interest of keeping track of the many projects ongoing in Second Life.  Out of this came CHiSL, or Cultural Heritage in Second Life, a loose group of projects and individuals interested in the topic.  I finally got around to creating (yet another) blog that will be a central place for news on these projects and developments with a class that I am helping out with, a Second Life DeCal (class by undergraduates taught by an undergraduate) that is based around OKAPI island, the Çatalhöyük reconstruction hosted by the University of California, Berkeley.

Here’s the link to the blog:

http://chisl.wordpress.com

Any other contributions (Electric Archaeologist, I’m looking at you) would be welcome.  Of course, I still need to put up the information from the WAC session, so I’m already behind.

Embedded Interpretation

So, once upon a time, a naive undergraduate from the University of Texas applied for graduate school in archaeology.  She sent out a statement of purpose that boiled down to: “I want to be able to embed archaeological information in the landscape, and I want other people to be able to add to that information…on my cellphone.”

Three years later, that’s what I did.  There’s several ways to do this, and this is obviously a kludge, but it’s a start.  I’ll probably load the full documentation up to the Presidio field blog later tonight.

Presidio Memory Maps

For the next three weeks I’m helping to teach a class at the Presidio of San Francisco on digital documentation, cultural heritage, and interpretive trails.  It’s an intensive course, 8+ hour days for the undergraduates and more like 12-13 hour days for me.  For the first day, I had the students create memory maps using flickr and google maps to teach them how to use the tools, but also to teach them about free-associative narratives as a part of placemaking.  It worked well as an exercise, and it was interesting to see the different scales that the students used for their own maps.  I made one a couple of years ago ago about living in New Orleans, but I felt like I wanted to update it, so I made another one from Austin, linked above.

I’m also updating the official project blog, Remixing El Presidio, here:

http://remixpresidio.wordpress.com

Good fun, but I’m ready to have my hands in the dirt again!

Prescot Street

L-P Archaeology has started a lovely multimedia blog covering their work on Prescot Street.

http://www.lparchaeology.com/prescot/

They have a nice overview of the site, videos, and blogs from the excavators.  My friend Anies is doing a great job with the filming there, and he mentions how difficult it is to record while you have several other duties as an excavator–something I will have to face over the summer.  Fully integrating video recording into the excavation process might be a pipe dream, but it’s wonderful to see it popping up in the “real world” at a contract excavation.  The only thing I might add is a creative commons license on their flickr stream.   Overall, a great example of how to set up a dig blog for outreach.

In other news, I’ve managed to get sick for the fourth time this semester, one week away from taking my oral examinations.  I’m usually completely healthy–it might be that I’ve been under a bit of pressure, perhaps?

Pedagogy and Facebook

I was pretty chuffed to receive an Outstanding GSI (read – Teaching Assistant) award for teaching Introduction to Archaeology last year.  There isn’t a prize awarded initially, but you can enter a one-page essay describing a teaching problem you have encountered and what you did about it to get an additional prize.  Sorry about the citations–I don’t usually like to use them on blogs, but, y’know.

For your perusal:

You have a friend request.”  This email notification has become a standard occurrence in my email in-box. I had been on the social networking site Facebook for about six months, networking with my fellow graduate students and professors, joining groups related to my profession, and even planning a conference event using the popular site. At first I did not recognize the profile photograph of the person requesting my friendship, as his face was obscured by a beer keg, but I instantly recognized the name: it was a student from one of my sections. Was this request an invasion of my privacy, or an honest attempt at extending the open, informal attitude I valued in my classroom to an online venue? Where were the boundaries between personal and public in the technologically enhanced social realm of the university? Further, could we use these potentially invasive technologies to help teach our students?

After experiencing this odd disconnect between a more traditional teacher-student relationship in the classroom and becoming “friends” online, I wanted to identify the exact dimensions and repercussions of this new challenge in teaching. A critical pedagogical engagement in archaeology offers the potential to serve as an emancipatory practice, in that dominant political and historical narratives are challenged with the material record, providing a way for students to examine these narratives within their specific historical context and provide their own interpretations (Conkey and Tringham 1996; Hamilakis 2004). Would connecting online help foster a community of practice within the discipline (Lave and Wenger 1991) and offer reciprocal relationships in place of the traditional banking model of education? While there is already an element of self-disclosure in the classroom on the part of instructors trying to communicate concepts regarding a discipline that is largely based on field work, research has shown that students who interact with instructors on websites (O’Sullivan, et al. 2004) and social networking sites (Mazer, et al. 2007) attain higher levels of affective learning, but this needs to be accompanied by an active process of privacy management (Mazer, et al. 2007: 4-5).

Given the potential for an enhanced engagement with students, I chose to address social networks on three fronts: in my section syllabus, in the maintenance of my online presence, and as a research topic for students. In a single line, crafted to avoid insulting students or to exclude all possible future interaction, I stated, “As a rule, I do not accept Facebook or Myspace friend requests from current students.” In class I elaborated upon the importance of maintaining privacy and professionalism, emphasizing this necessity to an audience who might have not thought about current and future ramification of complete self-disclosure. On the social networks I went through the security options, allowing students a certain amount of access to my profile while keeping other, personal interactions private. I was able to capitalize on my detailed knowledge of these sites by giving students the option of creating a Facebook profile for a 19th century resident of the former Zeta Psi fraternity house on campus. The fraternity was the subject of research by anthropology faculty and is used as an object lesson in Introduction to Archaeology. Students who made a profile had to form a narrative around a research question, using excavation data, photos and other evidence. Designing a mock profile made the students ask questions about the day-to-day life of individuals in the past, a primary goal of the course.

Unlike last year, I have not had any friend requests from current students. The process of evaluating and maintaining these boundaries caused me to critically assess my own presence online, and to emphasize the potential of destructive self-disclosure with my students.  Integrating social networks into assignments fostered a level of enthusiasm, creativity, and engagement with archaeological topics absent in the more traditional essay format. The potential to establish communities of practice in broader academic life through social networks is an enticing venue of research, provided that boundaries are maintained.

Conkey, M. W. and R. Tringham
1996    Cultivating thinking/challenging authority: some experiments in feminist pedagogy in archaeology. In Gender and Archaeology, edited by R. P. Wright, pp. 224-50. University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia.

Hamilakis, Y.
2004    Archaeology and the politics of pedagogy. World Archaeology 36(2):287-309.

Lave, J. and E. Wenger
1991    Situated learning : legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge England ; New York.


Mazer, J. P., R. E. Murphy and C. J. Simonds
2007    I’ll See You On “Facebook”: The Effects of Computer-Mediated Teacher Self-Disclosure on Student Motivation, Affective Learning, and Classroom Climate. Communication Education 56(1):1-17.

O’Sullivan, P. B., S. K. Hunt and L. R. Lippert
2004    Mediated Immediacy: A Language of Affiliation in a Technological Age. Journal of Language and Social Psychology 23(4):464-490.

Future Nostalgia

1911 Sanborne Fire Insurance Map of UC Berkeley

Last week after class I went to hunt down the ruins of the observatory here on campus. One of the assignments in Introduction to Archaeology was for the students to use a 1911 Sanborn Fire Insurance map of campus and use pedestrian survey to assess which buildings were still visible on campus. It’s a fun assignment and actually gets the students to open their eyes to the landscape that they blearily traverse each day. I’m guilty of the same–I had never checked out the ruins as they weren’t on my usual path up Strawberry Creek to the east side of campus.

It was a sunny day in Berkeley, but the shadows of the huge Eucalyptus trees were still knife-edged, cold. I wrapped my scarf around my neck, walked up to North Gate, wound between the trees, and tramped up one of the small hills on campus to where a corner of the wooden building stood in a tangle of ivy and low trees. No wonder so many of the students failed to find it on the map.

P1010460.JPG

I kicked around the few empty 40s that were laying about, then headed back to my office. Louis Armstrong’s Dream a Little Dream came on my shuffle, which was a strange and lovely fugue from the usual punk rock and miscellaneous electronica. Steam was billowing out of the street grates and the London Plane trees were still muscular and bare, twisting up at the campanile.

I might actually miss this place when I move.

Skuldrudgery

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:

http://flickr.com/commons

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.

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

Climbing Trees

DSC_0007

So we finally had a full day of archaeological outreach at the Presidio, where we were able to work through our full program with a group of kids. At times I’ve been pretty tired of outreach, and wanting to get back to archaeology proper, but being able to interact with these kids was actually pretty amazing. They were a class from Hunter’s Point, which is a notoriously bad part of San Francisco and they were all scrappy as hell, even at the 4th grade level.

During the first part of the day, we take them on a small hike on one of the trails through the Presidio. We try to get them to imagine what it was like without all of the trees, which are only there because the US military planted them. It’s hard to do, to say the least, because they’re huge, imposing eucalyptus trees and their leaves and seed pods cover the ground. There’s also some Monterey pine and cyprus mixed in, which are closer, but still not quite right.

One of the kids noticed that the National Park Service has been trimming the lower branches of the trees and asked me why the trees “were all pointy like that”. I told him that they had been trimmed, but it was kinda nice, because they leave about two feet, which makes the trees easy to climb. I got a blank stare. I had to ask, “um, have you ever climbed a tree?” Only one out of eight had, and only once. My heart broke, just a little bit.

All-in-all, it was a good day, and we were able to convey some information about the Ohlone and the Spanish colonists at the Presidio, but I think the sunshine, big trees, and getting dirty (we made mudbricks, of course!) were probably the most valuable parts. I told them that the Presidio is a national park, that they owned it and could come back at any time. And while I couldn’t officially condone it, I told them that the trees were perfect for climbing.