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

Project Archaeology

I attended a Project Archaeology workshop on Saturday and Sunday (10+ hours each day, including commute!) to train to become a local facilitator. This means that I will be certified to train local teachers on how to bring archaeology into their curriculum. This has become increasingly difficult with all the standards that were put into place with our favorite president, W, and his horrific “no child left behind” program. I’m not sure how often I will actually be hosting workshops, but it isn’t an awful thing to have on my resume, and the workbook has a lot of great exercises so we don’t have to keep re-inventing the wheel when we’re doing outreach.

Speaking of these exercises, I was struck by their very Americanist portrayal of stratigraphy:
P1000851

I know it is an oversimplification, but the objects are independent of the stratigraphy–floating in space instead of respecting the ground layer they once sat on. I’d love to see the British equivalent–maybe I’ll hit up my favorite informant for visualizations from the Old World.

Also, note to self: FIND MORE MAMMOTH SKULLS.

Outreach!

As I’ve mentioned before, we are required to do educational outreach each semester as a part of our graduate program. I rather enjoy it, though I like some forms (teaching a class at San Quentin) better than others (Cal Day). On Friday I had to fill in at the last minute for another grad student at the Julia Morgan School for Girls. We prepared a 1.5 hour introductory lecture, during which we generally introduced archaeology, then talked about our individual projects.

The school is a private middle school for girls, and while there are varying opinions about sex-segregation in schools, not to mention public vs. private, if I had the money and the inclination to have children, I would absolutely send my daughter to this school. The girls were smart and completely fearless and their instructors were engaged and happy to be there. I went to three different public middle schools in as many years, and spent most of my time ditching class so I could hang out at the library (!) or go smoke behind the bleachers.

Anyway, after the lecture we brought out the dig kits. The kits are basically squares made out of wooden planks, overlaid by blankets, then filled with dried corn (organic kitty litter) and artifacts. We divided the 1×1 squares into quads and let them go at it, encouraging them to plan map the artifacts before yanking them out of “context”.

Then they’d bag and tag the artifacts and come up with an interpretation based on the artifacts they’d find. After writing up the interpretation, we had them give a short presentation.

The interpretations were fun to listen to and the enthusiasm of the girls was contagious. All in all, a good day for outreach in archaeology.