The Flickr group that I sporadically moderate, Archaeology in Action, is almost a decade old! I try to go in every couple of months and clean out the travel photos and such that inevitably creep in there. I’m always happy to see the fantastic contributions that the group attracts.
In some ways, it is an interesting practice in defining representation of the field. No, that isolated artifact in the museum is not “archaeology in action.” But if the conservator is working on it–sure. Ultimately, I have an audience in mind: those who want to see archaeologists at work in various contexts.
While Flickr has been neglected over the years, and then overhauled in horrible, horrible ways, it is still a relatively good resource as an archive of photos that you can self-curate and distribute with Creative Commons licensing.
At the beginning of last summer I managed to get a working geospatial/flickr/archaeology hack for embedding archaeological information in the landscape with the iphone. I posted a short how-to on the Remixing El Presidio blog, here. Since then, I’ve kept an eye on geolocative technology, but it’s mostly taken a back seat to my work in archaeological narrative and visual representation if only because that’s what I’m writing about for my dissertation at this point. With the release of the iPhone G3 with built-in GPS and iPhone applications being developed, geolocation has once again surfaced in the form of Flickup, an application that automatically uploads photos that you take with your phone to Flickr, with geotag intact.
There are a few snags with the program–with older iPhones, you have to reload google maps so that it will have the proper geotagging information before you take any photos. The photo above was taken at the Berkeley post office, but was auto-located in the “French Quarter” in San Francisco. I don’t know if this is fixed with the G3 phones, but if someone has one to loan me, I will test it thoroughly, I promise.
This is a step toward (cheap) cameras that will record a timestamp and spatial data, making it easier for people who come along after the excavation has closed to locate archaeological information in place. Another development that I’m keeping track of is Geode, the Firefox plugin that allows websites to provide information tailored to the user’s location. In theory, archaeologists could develop a website in the same vein as Yelp, which provides recommendations and reviews of local businesses, but instead would allow a user to view local archaeological/historical images and information. Ideally this website would be publically funded and would accept submissions from projects and people from around the world. That reminds me to work on my HASTAC application, boo.
Whew–life has been a whirlwind lately. I turned in my dissertation prospectus yesterday and much of the other surrounding paperwork, but I still have a lot to catch up on while I study for my orals. I also had a wonderful time with a certain visiting archaeologist who brought me my very own MoLAS manual–a princely gift now that the dollar is worthless.
Here is one of several great shots of a large, open excavation from Kassandrus in Guda, South Holland. It looks like they’re turning up the footings of several buildings and some interesting burials.
Jens-Olaf documents the excavation of an old market street in Gimhae, South Korea. I love that he also got a look at the paperwork:
There’s good photos of the stratigraphy and some interesting tools as well, if you click through to check out the rest of the photostream.
There’s also a few photos of the excavations going on at Stonehenge from Paul Cripps. The BBC Timewatch website has video, news, and a discussion forum, but it’s nice to get this more “personal” look. I wish the quality of the photos was higher though, and that the photos were licensed under Creative Commons, but you can’t have everything, I suppose.
Several of my fellow archaeology graduate students are also skilled photographers, and we’ve gone out on photo-taking expeditions together, usually to places that yield a certain amount of gorgeous decay. I do not consider myself to be a photographer of any skill–my practice in this regard is just snapping things that I think are interesting–but I find the concept of the archaeological eye and the creation of archaeological media objects fascinating.
So what makes a photograph archaeological? Since we’re trained archaeologists, does this change our photography? There’s some discussion of professional vision in more formal venues, and my “elder brother” in the program (a past student of my advisor) based his dissertation around this question. Still, I’m not sure that the question has been answered to my satisfaction.
I’ve asked several of archaeologist-photographers to sit for short video interviews, which I will cut and post on youtube. I’ll be using a mix of straight-interview and photo elicitation, with a particular focus on their use of flickr in building a community of photography-oriented archaeologists. None of this is particularly formal, but it’s good practice for my proposed serial video project in the summer. Anyway, let’s get to some of the questions:
What cameras do you use?
What kind of photos do you take?
How do you choose your subjects?
Do you think your photography is affected by your work in archaeology?
Can you walk me through your practice?
How many photos do you usually take?
How many of these do you upload to flickr?
How do you decide which to upload?
Some great new photos have been popping up at Archaeology in Action, the flickr group dedicated to showing archaeologists doing their thing:
From alverstonedig, a muddy dig on the Isle of Wight. They found well preserved Iron Age timbers (with visible axe-marks), a Roman causeway and–this kills me–a hazel leaf, pressed into the bog.
From shovelingtom, a project in Sudan, where there are gorgeous vistas and interesting rock art. I like his photos of the surrounding community as well.
Finally, a photo of a ceramic thin section from a fellow Berkeley PhD student, Andy Roddick. If you click on the photo, he identifies some of the various minerals with notes. I love this aspect of flickr–annotating photos to provide explanations guided by professional vision adds so much to presenting archaeology to the public. And for that matter, to other archaeologists–I surely didn’t know what a biotite looked like!
As one of the admins for the Flickr group Archaeology in Action, I have to weed through the photos occasionally, taking out the travel shots from Cairo and whatnot. It can be a real pain, and having to split hairs about what “archaeology in action” is and is not feels a little stifling. However, it really is the best way to keep a good, focused group, and I get the pleasure of seeing photos from sites around the world.
The flickr series they posted with the project is wonderful–lots of images and it really shows the progression of the excavation and all of the kids involved. Though I wonder if they have to get signed releases from the childrens’ parents, like we do here in the states. And they even have creative commons licensing! Bravo, LAARC.
It looks like they have a youtube feed as well:
Please submit your field photos to Archaeology in Action–it gives me something to look at while writing my literature reviews!
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?)
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: