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Colleen Morgan and I have posted our last Savage Minds blog on our archaeological media archaeology project. Please check it out – if for no other reason than to see Colleen’s Harris Matrix of a hard drive. For us this is just the first stage of a longer research endeavour, and I hope you’ll stay tuned to our progress on our own web profiles & related publications.

We’ve had a nice number of shares of our method (thank you so much!), and we’re very keen now for feedback: who else is doing such work? what other disciplines are engaging with related questions of potential relevance to us? what have we missed? what data would you like to see collected? what questions would you have asked of the hard drive? which other professionals outside of archaeology/anthropology might be keen to discuss refinement of this programme of investigation?

We’ve been so pleased with your support & interest, and we hope to keep up the conversation as we move on to the next phase of our investigations. Thank you!

MAD-P Harris Matrix

MAD-P Harris Matrix by Colleen Morgan

Colleen and I have just published the research design for our media archaeology project on Savage Minds. MAD-P – The Media Archaeology Drive Project – is indebted to our colleague Neil Gevaux, who has helped us to secure the materials at the core of our studies. Your comments on the design are so much appreciated, and stay tuned for our forthcoming posts on the recording, analysis and interpretation of our field site: a found hard drive. Read more here: http://savageminds.org/2014/09/22/media-archaeology-drive-project/

MAD-P documentation

MAD-P documentation (Photo by Colleen Morgan)

Colleen and I have recently posted the second instalment in our series on archaeological media archaeologies to the Savage Minds blog. Here we explore the intersections between the disciplines of archaeology and media archaeology, point readers in the direction of current archaeologists and heritage specialists who are already engaging to some extent (often implicitly) with each, and then make overt the features of these disciplines that we believe to be particularly relevant to crafting robust futures for the analysis of media artefacts.

As we were joking with some of our close friends and colleagues, it seems an irony to be posting this blog entry simultaneous with an incident that we’ve had at the European Association of Archaeologists’ conference where much digital media was subject to burglary. But if nothing else, we’re carving out a method here to begin to deconstruct these media’s histories when/if they are recovered!

Read the post here: http://savageminds.org/2014/09/13/what-archaeologists-do-between-archaeology-and-media-archaeology/

Archaeologists doing media archaeology: A Memory Stick in the Mud by Gabriel Moshenska (thanks to Gabe for permission to reproduce here)

Archaeologists doing media archaeology: A Memory Stick in the Mud by Gabriel Moshenska (thanks to Gabe for permission to reproduce here)

What archaeologists do

This month I’m guest blogging for the one-of-a-kind Savage Minds anthropology blog, so rather than post to my own webpages, I’ll link you directly to my contributions on SM’s site. I have a line-up of posts planned – most written in collaboration with others – and the first has just gone live. Here you’ll find preliminary thoughts on the subject of ‘what archaeologists do’, which provide a preamble to a series of co-authored posts by myself and Colleen Morgan.

Colleen and I are experimenting with methods for excavating media objects, and over the next few weeks we’ll be documenting our progress live for your critique. I do appreciate you taking the time to read this work and provide your constructive feedback. Blogging for Savage Minds is a real honour for me, but it comes with a weight of responsibility that I find daunting. I can see the thousands of hits the site receives per day, and the often intense dialogue that accompanies each post. Your support and thoughtful commentary would be much welcomed & it would be especially nice to see other archaeologists and heritage specialists contributing to the conversations on SM.

Thank you for reading & following along in our efforts at testing out an archaeological media archaeology:

What archaeologists dohttp://savageminds.org/2014/09/03/what-archaeologists-do/

The Heritage Jam

Poster by Ian Kirkpatrick

(Note that this post was produced for the Day of Archaeology & has been re-blogged here.)

I’m oodles of days overdue in contributing to the annual Day of Archaeology (11 July 2014). The delay relates in part to what I’ll discuss below – The Heritage Jam – and in part to the fact that I’m simultaneously prepping to leave for fieldwork at Çatalhöyük on Sunday, finishing multiple articles and reports, and preparing for the adventure that will be the next five months of my life, wherein I’ll be abroad for my sabbatical (more on that another time!). But being late in writing this post has given me a bit of time to reflect—and most importantly, to collate reports from others—on the event that consumed my Day of Archaeology, not to mention all of the days leading up to it, and all of the days immediately after.

On 11 July 2014, supported by the Department of Archaeology at the University of York, and the Centre for Digital Heritage, we hosted the first ever international Heritage Jam. The Jam was a variation on the jamming sessions common in the gaming industry, where adhoc groups congregate for intensive periods of time to produce game prototypes. But instead of games, we were keen to put a spotlight on the many different media that comprise the portfolio of heritage interpretation – from illustration and art to moving-imagery and animation to photography and design to sound and tactile interventions. And instead of live in-person sessions only, we were keen to open up participation to both remote and local registrants, weaving together the online and offline worlds.

The Heritage Jam

Flo Laino and Julie Rugg discuss the York cemetery, gathering resources for the Heritage Jam

The Heritage Jam ultimately coalesced into a multi-part project, all of which is documented on our websiteblogTwitter and Facebook pages. The goal was for individuals or groups to create some kind of visual output (whose process of creation was also documented in a paradata paper) for upload to our online gallery and for physical display at the University of York. The entries were judged on a series of assessment criteria, and had to attend, in some fashion, to the theme of burial (literal or metaphorical, of humans or non-humans). For in-person contributors, we decided to focus the Jam Day efforts on a particular case study site—the York Cemetery—which was necessary to provide some focus to what was an otherwise vague directive (i.e., “work with an assigned group to make new interpretative materials”).

And our team created a series of multi-media resources to support understanding of that site, including videos, photos and compilations of archival records.

By my reckoning, the day was a success, attested to not only by the phenomenal outputs submitted by an incredible range of contributors, but also by the feedback we’ve received from those involved and those who’ve viewed the gallery, some of whom have documented the constructiveness of the approach & its outputs on their personal blogs & Day of Archaeology posts (see links below). Coupled with a specific social media use/evaluation plan that we’ve designed for the Jam, we’re analysing experiences and engagement with the project for a larger report that we’ll file at the end of the month. But the superficial numbers (which will soon be blended with qualitative data to provide a rich, contextualised understanding of participation) indicate that we had 92 registrants from most continents of the world, 17 official entries submitted by 37 contributors, 249 Twitter followers & 161 tweets, and 474 Facebook followers from more than 40 countries, speaking more than 30 languages, with a total reach of posts to over 6600 people. Given that we only launched the project in May, we’re pleased with the visibility it’s received—but more so with the quality of the entries, which are truly fantastic.

You only need to browse the entries in the gallery to see the remarkable talent that infuses the tiny proportion of the heritage sector that registered for the Jam. This is important, because there is ample evidence that creative experts working in the heritage sector are undervalued, underpaid, underestimated and often undermined. Part of the intent of the Jam was to expose the depth and breadth of expertise amongst the professional community, and the possibilities that come with actually investing in such expertise. My colleague Anthony has worked to summarise each contribution, and others have gone further, with the brilliant Archaeogaming blog (a forum for exploring video games as they intersect with archaeology) reviewing in detail the winner of the Remote Team Heritage Jam category – Tara Copplestone and Luke Botham’s Buried: An Ergodic Literature GameBuried (created with the open-source, nonlinear, interactive storytelling tool Twine) is ingenious, thoughtful, fun and sensitive, and I encourage everyone to give it a try. As Archaeogaming’s Andrew Reinhard writes, “Buried is both a game and not a game. It is a playable book, and one with exceptional replay value. Archaeologists and archaeology are both portrayed realistically, and at the same time are neither boring nor sterile, proof that archaeology can stand on its own without resorting to gimmicks or stereotypes…Buried is playful, but also provides plenty to discuss regarding what is a game, and how our personal experiences are brought to bear on choices made within this kind of media, and on this story specifically.”

Equally astounding is the winning entry for the In-Person Group Heritage Jam category: Stuart EveKerrie HoffmanColleen Morgan, Alexis Pantos and Sam Kinchin-Smith’s Voices Recognition. As Morgan summarises it on her and Eve’s joint Day of Archaeology post about the work, it was an effort “to create a cacophony in a cemetery — geolocated stories emanating from graves that would increase in intensity with the density of burials in different areas.” In true collaborative fashion, it drew upon previous experimental efforts by the great Shawn Graham in partnership with Eve, which Graham describes in evocative fashion: “I want to develop an app that makes it difficult to move through…historically ‘thick’ places…with a lot of noise when you are in a place that is historically dense with information. I want to ‘visualize’ history, but not bother with the usual ‘augmented reality’ malarky where we hold up a screen in front of our face. I want to hear the thickness, the discords, of history. I want to be arrested by the noise, and to stop still in my tracks, be forced to take my headphones off, and to really pay attention to my surroundings.”

This is exactly what Voices Recognition achieves in its prototype form, put together after a 30 minute trip to the York Cemetery and about 10 hours of intensive group work in a classroom at the university.

I have to admit that when the group presented their output at the end of the day, I was truly awestruck, so much so that it rendered me quite emotional. For it was a glimpse into what great things can be accomplished when you’re able to nurture the right context: an incredible idea (tested out previously with Graham) comes together with an incredible team of people (some of whom were strangers to one another), all converging here into something with a real and profound power to resonate. As I said to Morgan after the event, it was inspirational – and it really was; it made you want to learn how to do such work; it made you want to use the app; it made you want to join their team, and create with them, and be energised and motivated by their ideas, and to experience the cemetery through this lens that they invented right there, in the moment, on the Day of Archaeology.

These entries are just two of 17 that deserve your attention and perusal, so please browse through the gallery, and add your comments to the site or to our Twitter or Facebook feeds. There are contributions from around the world, articulated via a plethora of media, submitted by both new and established practitioners.

The Heritage Jam

Touring the York Cemetery for the Heritage Jam. Photo by Colleen Morgan

I won’t pretend that all the comments we got about the Jam were positive (although the vast majority were), nor that there’s no room for improvement. It was a massive amount of work; it depended on a team of 11 organisers; it required openness to creating things quickly, which means making mistakes and wrestling with practicalities and exposing one’s process, and hence one’s potential vulnerabilities and weaknesses; it demanded doing just as must as intellectualising, which can be problematic given how theoretical much extant ‘archaeological representation’ discourse is; and the in-person event hinged upon teamwork, which as any educator will tell you, can go horribly wrong—but, in the best cases, can equally blow you away in admiration.

In our effort to provide some definition to the exercise of heritage jamming, we did consciously choose to focus on a particular site – the York Cemetery – and this caused some concern around why we were privileging that environment. But archaeology has these tangible dimensions to it, and as much as we wanted to leave the Jam brief entirely open, we also wanted to create a project that knitted the material and the immaterial, the online and the offline, the tangible and the intangible, the process of abstract thinking with the real-world, concrete act of making.

To have eliminated the cemetery would have returned the event to the intellectual exercise that the subject of ‘visualisation in archaeology’ has long been. Moreover, to have deprived Jammers of the opportunity to visit the cemetery would have meant depriving them of a series of experiences—from the reflectivity that’s encouraged through walking, to the camaraderie and knowledge that are built through shared embodied engagements with a physical landscape. In her blog post about the Jam, Holly Wright of the Archaeology Data Service, speaks about of the nature of the cemetery, a breathtaking and deeply reverberating space which is barely known in the York community (despite the fact that it houses the history of much of that community). There is value cultivated for heritage spaces through both our analogue and digital—and our physical and intellectual—engagements with them. The cemetery provided us with a site to experiment with the weaving together of it all.

I’m proud of what we achieved through the Heritage Jam and I would encourage others to consider this format for their own work, particularly if you’re directing the outputs into larger, targeted, useable resources. The fleeting composition of the Jam belies a venture with a longevity to it that extends beyond the Day of Archaeology, so I hope you’ll keep your eyes on the project to see how it develops from here.

The Heritage Jam

Heritage Jamming at the University of York. Photo by Colleen Morgan, http://www.heritagejam.org

Detail of a storyboard produced by a team of heritage practice students at the University of York

Detail of a storyboard produced by a team of heritage practice students at the University of York

My 10-week heritage fieldschool for first-year undergraduates was launched at the end of April, and since then, we’ve been engrossed in its many elements, which (like all field training programmes) entail a major commitment of time and energy: more than 32 hours per week of making, doing, learning, revising, accounting and critiquing. As per last year, I designed the course to provide students with the opportunity to familiarise themselves with the full spectrum of heritage practice, from excavation and recording through interpretation, collections handling, audio-visual production, museological display and curation, to archiving, promotion, audience evaluation, reporting and critical self-reflection. The structure is similar to that from 2013 (read more here), but it’s benefited from a massive amount of feedback offered by the students themselves, by our many collaborators, and by generous members of the public and readers of this blog.

The students are documenting their process on group blogs, which you can access through the links below.

Head over Heels into Heritage: http://headingintoheritage.blogspot.co.uk/

Moving Forward into the Past: http://movingforward-past.blogspot.co.uk/

I continue to be amazed by the amount that can be achieved in such a short timeframe, and by the phenomenal progress demonstrated by these students who, just a few weeks ago, had virtually no experience with planning interpretative content, nor with audio-visual production and editing, archival research, blogging, presenting to non-academic audiences, or curation. We invite others to follow along as the next 7 weeks of their training unfurl and they evolve into filmmakers, exhibition designers, audience evaluators, promoters, event organisers, and digital media technicians. I’m really proud of their accomplishments, and I hope you might consider offering your constructive input on their outputs and experiences as we move forward.

This year’s fieldschool is particularly interesting for me, as it coincides with a larger personal research project (part of my PGCAP certification) that I’m doing on the efficacy of digitally-mediated pedagogy. I’ll be presenting on that research several times over the next couple of months, including at the Google Apps for Education (European User Group) conference, and the York Learning and Teaching Conference (please come along – there are some amazing presenters featuring at these events), and I’ll hopefully—fingers crossed—also be publishing some aspects of it in an exciting forthcoming issue of Internet Archaeology (more details soon).

In preparation for these outputs, I’ve been conducting 30-60 minute interviews with my undergraduate and Master’s students who’ve kindly agreed to give me critical feedback on their experiences of my courses. Honestly, I was overwhelmed by the enthusiastic response that I received from everyone when I emailed to ask for their time—nearly 100% consented to being interviewed, meaning that I’m now in the course of conducting these interviews and processing thousands of minutes of associated qualitative data. I’m very indebted to my students because they’ve offered me much food for thought—and some needed positive reinforcement too. Perhaps the most revelatory of these interviews so far have come from last year’s cohort of fieldwork students, because I can reflect immediately on the relationship between their experiences and my current cohort’s evolving experiences.

I’ll quote here from one such interview:

I think it really did [have an impact on my understanding of heritage]…Before, all year, we were learning a lot of the background of archaeology which was really literature based, so I think we all really enjoyed the module because you had the chance to be creative and think outside the box of what heritage and archaeology have been built up for you to be…[And] it gave me more confidence…gave me confidence to apply for internships, which I wouldn’t have done otherwise…[And] we produced something at the end which we were all really proud of…And also I talked to people outside our sphere of the degree course…What was great about it [the module] is that we were given the task…and we just ran with it. It was great to be given the opportunity to do what we wanted with it, and I think that definitely gives you ideas for the future…Definitely I take different creative experiences from it, and I’d use the ideas in the future…

I engage with digital media in my teaching because I think they have the potential to transform the research that we do, as well as our fundamental conceptions of the nature of archaeology and heritage studies themselves. These media can facilitate (and, of course, hinder) the pedagogical experience, but my concern is not so much their impact on teaching itself as the effect they can have on how my students practice, interpret, and create our field of enquiry in the future. If they leave the classroom feeling enabled, equipped and confident to test out these tools in different contexts, then I feel like I’ve made a constructive contribution to their professional trajectories—and to the profession itself.

Scholarly discussion of the creativity that is made possible through digital media work is recognised within educational (e.g., see Smith and Burrell 2013), media studies (e.g., see Gauntlett 2012; Losh 2012) and archaeological (e.g., see Morgan and Eve 2012; Richardson 2013) circles, but arguably among the latter the conversation is primarily driven by professionals speaking to other professionals or to the interested public, without the benefit of extensive and reflective student input. The digital humanities literature on ‘critical making’ or ‘building’ as a form of scholarship and training is more advanced (e.g., Ramsay and Rockwell 2012; Ratto 2011), and I am hopeful that my research (alongside the work of, for example, Shawn Graham, Terry Brock and Lynne Goldstein, among others) will offer an avenue to insert archaeology into that more substantial and influential line of thinking. At the same time, I am also hopeful that this work will contribute to and challenge the existing discourse on field schools/field work in (and beyond) archaeology, recognising the scope that creative, public, digital production has for narrowing the gap between theory and practice, and simultaneously empowering students.

I’ve much more to say on this topic, but I’ll save it for my talks and forthcoming publication! I’ll end by expressing my great thanks to all those who are supporting the students on this year’s heritage fieldschool, including my fantastic teaching assistants Claire Price and Katrina Foxton; the unparalleled team at the Yorkshire Museum – especially Natalie McCaul, Martin Fell and Mike Linstead; filmmaker Gavin Repton; my colleagues on the Star Carr Project; and the many experts who’ve taught the students either in person, via Skype, or by otherwise sharing resources, opinions and good practice – including Colleen Morgan, Simon Davis, Tom Smith, Sophie Norton, Teri Brewer, Joe Tong, Tara-Jane Sutcliffe, Don Henson, Angela Piccini, and Nicole Beale.

As anyone who does fieldwork knows, our investment is long, intense, and filled with highs and lows and innumerable blunders and miscalculations; yet the outcomes are deeply rewarding because of the friendships, creative breakthroughs, and collective ‘ah-ha’ moments that are generated through its collaborative, experimental underpinnings. Thanks so much for following along on our adventures.

References:

Gauntlett, D. 2011. Making is Connecting: The Social Meaning of Creativity, from DIY and Knitting to YouTube and Web 2.0. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Losh, E. (2012) Play, things, rules, and information: Hybridizing learning in the digital university. Leonardo Electronic Almanac 17(2):86-102.

Morgan, C., and Eve, S. (2012) DIY and digital archaeology: What are you doing to participate? World Archaeology 44(4):521-537.

Ramsay, S., and Rockwell, G. (2012) Developing things: Notes toward an epistemology of building in the digital humanities. In Gold, M. (ed.) Debates in the Digital Humanities, Open Access edition: http://dhdebates.gc.cuny.edu/debates/text/11. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Ratto, M. (2011) Critical making: Conceptual and material studies in technology and social life. The Information Society 27(4):252-260.

Richardson, L. (2013) A digital public archaeology? Papers from the Institute of Archaeology 23(1):10, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5334/pia.431.

Smith, C., and Burrell, A. (2013) Creativity in learning spaces: We can all gain! Paper presented at the University Campus Suffolk Annual Learning and Teaching Day, Ipswich, 5 July 2013.

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