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Join us in December 2016 at the TAG conference in Southampton (19-21 Dec). Please email James (james.s.taylor@york.ac.uk) with questions & proposals!

I’m so pleased to announce that Dr James Taylor and myself will be hosting a follow-up to our successful first digiTAG (digital Theoretical Archaeology Group) event held in Oslo in the springtime. Sponsored by both TAG and the CAA (Computing Applications in Archaeology), digiTAG II will feature at the TAG UK conference in Southampton, 19-21 December, 2016.

Our aim through the digiTAG series is to deepen our critical engagements w digital media and digital methods in archaeology and heritage. digiTAG II seeks to focus our thinking specifically on digital tools as they are enrolled in creating stories about the past. To this end, we are looking for contributors to talk about, experiment with, involve or otherwise immerse us in their archaeological/heritage storytelling work.

Such storytelling work may entail innovating with:

  • lab or excavation reports
  • recording sheets
  • maps, plans, section views, sketches, illustrations, and other forms of on-site visual recording
  • collections and databases
  • data stories or data ethnographies
  • digital data capture (survey, photogrammetry, laser scanning, remote sensing, etc.)
  • artefact or museums catalogues
  • digital media forms (VR, AR, videogames, webpages, apps, etc.)
  • books or manuscripts
  • articles, zines, comics, news reports, art pieces
  • audioguides, podcasts, music or sound installations
  • maps, trails, panels, labels, guidebooks, brochures, and other forms of interpretation & interpretative infrastructure
  • touch maps, handling materials/collections, tactile writing systems, 3d prints, models & more!

We welcome both traditional conference papers, as well as more experimental forms of (analogue or digital) argumentation, narrativising and delivery of your digiTAG II presentation. Please submit your abstracts (up to 250 words) to james.s.taylor@york.ac.uk by 15 November.

We hope to hear from you & don’t hesitate to contact us with questions. The full CFP is copied below:

TAG and the CAA present…

digiTAG 2: Archaeological Storytelling and the ‘Digital Turn’

Session organisers:

Dr. James Taylor (University of York) – primary correspondant.

james.s.taylor@york.ac.uk

Dr. Sara Perry (University of York)

sara.perry@york.ac.uk

Abstract:

In April of 2016 the Theoretical Archaeology Group (TAG) teamed up with the Computer Applications and Quantitative Methods in Archaeology (CAA) conference to run a successful Digital TAG (digiTAG) session in Oslo, Norway. This session sought to question, challenge, appraise and reconceive the epistemological and research-oriented implications of the digital turn in archaeology, including its larger social, political and economic consequences.

That event, building on a long history of engagement with digital processes and digital media at both the TAG and CAA conferences, brought together 15 practitioners from around the world working in all domains of archaeology–from the lab to the field, from the museum to the classroom. Here they situated their (and others’) use of digital technologies within wider theoretical contexts, and with critical self-awareness, thereby opening up a space for rigorous evaluations of impact and reflections on overall disciplinary change. digiTAG 2 now aims to build upon the success of the first digiTAG, extending critical conversation about the discipline’s digital engagements at a finer-grained level in concert with a diverse audience of theoretical archaeologists.

However, digiTAG 2 seeks to narrow our discussion, in specific, on the concept of digital storytelling and the ramifications of the digital turn on larger interpretations of the past. Given the frequency and intensity with which digital media are now enrolled to structure, articulate, visualise and circulate information for the production of archaeological narratives, we invite participants to present papers that critically consider the impact of the digital turn upon archaeological interpretation and archaeology’s many stories.

Whether you direct your digital engagements at professional, academic or non-specialist audiences – whether you deploy digital tools for data collection, data analysis, synthesis, and dissemination or beyond – we ask, how are your stories affected? Does the digital enable new and different narratives? Does it extend or narrow audience engagement? When does it harm or hinder, complicate or obfuscate? And when – and for whom – does it create richer, more meaningful storytelling about the past?

To explore these questions, we encourage both traditional conference papers, as well as more experimental forms of (analogue or digital) argumentation, narrativising and delivery of your talk. Ultimately, digiTAG 2 aims to delve into the critical implications of archaeologists’ use of digital technologies on processes of knowledge creation.

Submit titles & abstracts (up to 250 words) to james.s.taylor@york.ac.uk by 15 November 2016.

 

 

MSCD_FS2 Students Site Tour _10/11/2015

As part of our Memphis Site and Community Development project, students and teachers cooperate in the creation of a tourist trail around Hathor Temple, one site within ancient Egypt’s first capital city. Photo by Amel Ewieda, Autumn 2015.

Like many of my friends and colleagues, I was devastated by the outcome of the referendum on British membership in the European Union (i.e., “Brexit”). I woke up on the morning of Friday 24 June 2016, read the headlines, and literally started to cry in despair. To me, the results suggested true failure on the part of the British population and the world at large (I consider myself a part of the British population, and indeed my Commonwealth status allowed me to cast a vote). This includes:

* failure to moderate the deep misinformation circulating in the run-up to the vote;

* failure to intervene in a matter that boiled down, in some cases, to bigotry and xenophobia masquerading as democracy;

* failure to educate such that we (1) enable truly critical thinking and (2) foster decision making based on extensive, robust research and real evidence gathering and weighing – not based on gut instinct, nor on personal experience alone, nor on fear or desperation or prejudice.

The events following Brexit have left me even more despairing. As I see it, the fallout has mainly reinforced or actually worsened all of the most contemptible practices and belief systems that fed into the predicament in the first place.

By this I mean, for example, the efforts by many to avoid critical reflection on the implications and potential long-term results of the vote (for one such excellent reflection see Tobias Stone’s post, History tells us what may happen next with Brexit & Trump – and also his follow-up, A response to some of the comments on my last essay, wherein he aims to review the nature of, and respond to, the replies to his attempts at critical discussion and hypothesising about the future).

Also, I mean the tendency to then silence and/or mock those who might express these critical thoughts. Here a “stop complaining and move on” rhetoric is spouted, as though critical thinking and reflexive consideration of the pathways and politics that have contributed to today’s predicament aren’t integral to figuring out how, in fact, to move on.*

Also, I mean the continuing trend not to intervene, not to express any opinion on, and instead basically just pass the buck when such rhetoric begins circulating. Here inaction or passivity usually leaves interested people (like me) without the infrastructure or necessary support to figure out how we might contribute to rethinking the world as it stands today.

These behaviours are seemingly manifest all around me. However, I was especially devastated to see them made possible on a Council for British Archaeology (CBA) Facebook thread launched on 31 July in relation to a Guardian article about funding risks for UK archaeological research post-Brexit. Here a conversation ensued which encouraged or demonstrated many unsubstantiated claims, threatening and/or abusive language, as well as the silencing of critical voices by direct and indirect insults (e.g., “How incredibly stupid”; “The decision has been made…You cannot live in the past”; “you’ll achieve nothing sitting there and moaning”). For a significant portion of the thread, too, there was no obvious mediation by the CBA, an organisation that one might assume would have adopted a stance on Brexit from the moment the referendum was announced. Indeed, the CBA was founded more or less as an advocacy organisation in the mid-20th century, so the notion that it should sit mute about a matter that directly impacts its constituencies is unfathomable to me. (Note that the CBA has indeed responded to Brexit – interestingly, this response was posted the day after the thread was initiated – but the nature of that response deserves its own scrutiny & hence is beyond my scope here.)

I have been so heartbroken about the current state of affairs in Britain that I have begun to diligently seek out advice from friends on how I might personally respond. In the first and most basic of my attempts, I used social media to solicit some thoughts:

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For me, joining a political party was not my priority, but of course several of my friends rightly replied that I need to think seriously about why I’m so quick to dismiss this option as meaningful. (I’ve many reasons both for and against, but the state of politics in Britain strikes me as cruel and dire at the moment, and I’m not prepared to invest in it now.)

Others suggested interesting ideas like public teach-ins, poetry movements, local volunteerism, or seeking out citizen action groups. My worry, of course, is how I initiate and assemble such things when I barely have time to fulfil present obligations.

Still others generously suggested that I’m already doing relevant work through my teaching and field projects. (More on this below.)

Most important to me were extended emails from two of my closest academic friends, Tom and Alistair, whose recommendations all clustered around a similar set of ideas. Tom and I have discussed formalising everything into a clearer call for action for the archaeological community. But for now suffice it to say the general gist is that, relatively speaking, we are in powerful positions in the university system, hence we need to capitalise on these positions. Whether through teaching or writing or using our voices & research to connect us with the media and the wider world, my friends made the point that I do already have the tools at hand to respond (even if I sometimes feel that I’m speaking only to like-minded individuals).

So, I thought I might put this advice from my confidantes in action…

Team Photo 2016

The 2016 Visualisation Team at Catalhoyuk in Turkey, with members from Turkey, Canada, England, USA, and New Zealand.

In late June/early July, my Visualisation Team at Çatalhöyük narrowly missed both the Ataturk Airport attacks in Istanbul and the Turkish coup. We were in the position to leave the country and return safely to our homes abroad, however many of our dear Turkish friends and colleagues were not. I was, and I still am, genuinely scared for their wellbeing and futures.

As my research and practice are effectively entirely centred around community building and cooperation, I couldn’t fathom resting motionless in York whilst events were unfolding as they were in Turkey. I sought advice on the best way to act, and my fabulous colleagues in the department here at York suggested, in the first instance, that I write to more powerful forces in the university system to garner their backing.

I wrote a letter to my university’s Vice-Chancellor and to University Archaeology UK. I’m happy to send you a copy of that letter should you wish – you could then adapt it (i.e., make it better) if you think it might be meaningful for your own activist causes. Sadly, the letter has led to nothing, replicating the disturbing patterns I describe above. In the only constructive outcome of my efforts, our VC kindly proposed that I write to Council for At-Risk Academics and Scholars at Risk, and offered his support if I did so. I’m not sure, though, if it’s worth pursuing this further, as I’m not convinced that my letter (or any letter, for that matter) will lead to consequential action.

Then, this past week, while teaching on a course in Athens (see #dialpast on Twitter) where my focus was mainly on collaborative story-writing as means to foster care/concern, I got the terrific news that I’ve been shortlisted for the Times Higher Education (THE) 2016 award for Most Innovative Teacher of the Year.

This is a tremendous honour for me, and I owe much of the success to colleagues who’ve believed that my quirky goals might be achievable, and hence who’ve supported my endeavours to realise them. I have to explicitly name Lucy Moore, Amanda Walters, Tom Smith, and Meghan Dennis. Their written contributions were ultimately directly included in my nomination – so I’m indebted to them.

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So excited about this!!

However, it wasn’t until one of my brilliant MA students in this year’s Cultural Heritage Management cohort wrote to me that I started to think critically about the THE award:

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Following Gill, whilst my nomination concerns innovation, I have to say that what I strive for most has more to do with the opposite (if one takes innovative to mean a concern for the new and original): i.e., I’m interested in creating sustainable, long-lasting networks of compassion, support, stability, trust and collaboration. For me, digital tools & efforts at novelty help to facilitate such work, but that work also exists independent of them and can manifest just as well (sometimes better) in their absence.

It is matters of care and cooperation, then, that are of most interest to me: nurturing them, passing them along, teaching them to others, and maintaining them in the future. This means my relationships with students (and them with their peers and partners) are often very long-term, going far beyond the lifetime of any single innovative project.

I’ve been particularly inspired by the sociologist Richard Sennett, who’s been writing a trio of books on “the skills humans possess to make a life together.” At the core of his most recent argument, as I read it, is the idea that, to survive in today’s world – and to create a better world for the future – we must cooperate. Most significantly, as I understand, cooperation is a craft that demands skill, and this skill can variously be taught, learned, practiced, valued and advocated for.

Regardless of the results of the THE nomination (although obviously my fingers are crossed! & I feel it might open new spaces for me to take action), I hope it’s this basic craft that I’m recognised for; i.e., nurturing civility, good citizenship and cooperation with my collaborators/students which, in turn, nurtures the same in their colleagues and peers. In this way, my impact may be small, very specific, and ordinary, but with potentially significant consequences in the longer term.

I want to be responsible for making the world a more tolerant, caring, empathetic place. I would like – and I believe it’s imperative – to cooperate with others in this quest. We, as teachers, have a unique capacity to teach not just didactic content, but compassion, sensitivity, kindness and critical thought. We don’t actually need novel tools or methods to do so; rather we need merely a commitment to the principle of togetherness (borrowing from Sennett), and trust in ourselves, our students and colleagues that working together matters, that it must be prioritised, and that it offers us more and better options for the future than does the alternative.

 

* The archaeologist Reinhard Bernbeck (2013, 26-27) is one of many to identify this tendency as a symptom of “our post-critical age”. As he puts it, “At the root of this problem is a deep misunderstanding of what ‘critique’ means…”

SAAJournal_Advances_Web343x119_R1

I’m very excited to announce that the Society for American Archaeology‘s (SAA) journal Advances in Archaeological Practice has recently launched a new section to appear in all future issues of the publication. We’re calling this section “Digital Reviews”.

You can read more about these Digital Reviews here (via the journal’s online presence) or on my academia.edu profile. The reviews will be short, critical commentaries on digital media produced for archaeology and heritage audiences. By digital media, I mean any computer-based communication form meant to engage wide groups of people. These could include YouTube videos, podcasts, Snapchat or Facebook or Instagram or Twitter sites, subReddits, TED talks, apps, video-games, blogs and other online forums, digital TV programmes or news channels, online collections, virtual museums, SoundCloud accounts or other audio files delivered through digital means. Effectively any kind of digital communication platform that’s been deployed in the name of archaeology / heritage is open to review.

The intent of these reviews is to critically evaluate archaeologically-themed media with the same rigour as we apply to book reviews. We’re following a model akin to the reviews section of Internet Archaeology, with a concern for the full range of media being produced for public audiences about heritage/archaeology. Every issue will focus on a specific type of media: August’s Advances will feature a review of Minecraft applications at heritage institutions by Eleanor Styles; November’s Advances attends to online news reporting about archaeology, authored by Adrian Maldonado.

We are in the fortunate position of being able to offer authors a payment for their contributions – to be distributed upon final publication of the review in the journal. We’ve established a flat-rate fee for authors, so please approach me if you’d like more detail.

Following publication in the journal, authors can upload an openly-accessible copy of their reviews on their own webpages or other online profile (with credit to Advances in Archaeological Practice as the original publication venue). And we are amenable to any and all suggestions about types of digital media to review. I’m particularly keen to see a selection of impactful heritage-themed blogs, e-books, online collections, virtual museums, YouTube (or other) videos, podcasts (or other audio products), and mobile apps subject to critical reflection through Digital Reviews.

I’ve reprinted our author specifications, as outlined on the SAA’s webpage, below. As I’m now the Digital Reviews Editor for the journal, please contact me if you’re interested in writing a review, if you’d like to talk through possible review subjects, or if you know of others who we might approach to prepare future reviews. Very much looking forward to reading your reflections on archaeology’s various digital applications and otherwise building the presence of the SAA’s Advances in Archaeological Practice journal. I hope to hear from you!

Digital Reviews

Digital Reviews are 1500-2000 word assessments of digital media applications that have been produced to engage general and specialist audiences with archaeology and heritage. Going beyond standard book or exhibition reviews, these commentaries are intended to subject current initiatives directed at archaeology’s digitally-savvy publics to comparison and critical reflection. They might explore discipline-relevant blogs, YouTube videos, virtual reality or augmented reality applications, TED talks, Tumblr, Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat sites, web-based crowdsourcing projects, online collections, video games, virtual worlds or other media of interest to wide markets. Review authors will provide constructive, professional and courteous – yet critically-engaged – appraisals of the content, significance and impact of these media. Each review should be oriented around a discussion of one, two or three medium-specific digital initiatives (e.g., mobile apps or virtual museums), briefly summarizing them, contextualizing them against one another (and against related initiatives), and offering thoughtful critique of their presentation, methods, objectives and emotional, physical and intellectual effects upon audiences.

Reviews should be written for a wide readership and at a level that high school students can comprehend. Authors are encouraged to reprint their reviews on their personal or professional webpages (giving clear acknowledgment to Advances in Archaeological Practice as the original publication venue), in order to broaden the reach and accessibility of the commentary. Reviews should (1) rigorously evaluate archaeology’s digital media; (2) showcase to readers the breadth and depth of relevant digital media production today; and (3) provide a space of comparison between – and critical engagement with – such productions to enable others to build upon them.

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Screenshot of some of my Master’s students’ medium.com shares on Twitter, using hashtag #yorkchm2

As some of you know, I’ve been experimenting this term with the integration of a new mode of digital engagement into my Master’s-level teaching at the University of York. The term has just ended, and the experiment has proven to be far more successful than I could have hoped. In spite of a couple of hiccups along the way, my students have authored a series of truly fascinating and thought-provoking heritage-related articles on medium.com. A background on the project is articulated here. The full range of publications (seven in total) is viewable here (or search for hashtag #yorkchm2). For those interested in pedagogy, it’s perhaps worthwhile to look at the background document first to get a sense of the rationale for applying medium.com. Among other things, I am limited to just 2 hours of in-class contact time per week with my cohort of nearly 50 Master’s students, so I have long been looking for ways to extend the classroom beyond its physical walls and logistical constraints. These publications represent one mode of learning and engagement that weave together with a series of other modes – both digital and analogue.

To briefly introduce the articles:

  • When is a museum not a museum but an experience? Read “Small Museum, Big Impact? Two kings, two gates, one city” – a lively discussion of two of The Jorvik Group’s visitor attractions by Noah Todd, Sally Toon, Celeste Flower, Natasha Anson, Katherine Anderson and Claire Boardman.
  • For an inspiring and entirely original application of the MuseumHack concept to the York Art Gallery, do not miss “Hacking the Gallery! How to Get Teenagers into Art” by Louise Calf, Katie Campbell, Meghan Dennis, Alice Green, Andrea Marcolongo, Benjamin Richards, and Inez Williams
  • For those keen on mobile apps, check out “Debates in app-cessibility: Is the use of mobile apps in heritage contexts enhancing or impeding?” by Gill Bull, Laura Saretsky, Jason Kosh, Amedeo Viccari, Veronica Smith, Aimee Hardy, and Olivia Morrill
  • If you are interested in innovations in digital exhibition and memorialisation, see Geneviève Godin, Valeria Cambule, Charlotte Jenkins, Ben Culpin, Alexander Mitchell, and Nadine Loach’s critical review of the fantastic Project Mosul: “A Digital Afterlife for Destroyed Heritage”
  • Have you heard of the estate of Park Hill? Interested in how to manage the many histories and values of contemporary urban sites? Then see the proposal “Park Hill: Past and Present” developed by Joelle-Louise Hall, Benjamin Gill, Joy Kemp, Caitlin Crosby, Hannah Page and Georgina Pike.
  • If you’re concerned about issues of access, and interested to experiment with extending the reach of already-known heritage spots, please check out the proposed project of Alison Edwards, Apoorva D. Goyle, Matthew Hargreaves, Aoife Kurta, Charlotte Roden, Helen Simmons, and Alice Trew, “Lowry’s York: Your York”.
  • And to witness amongst the most ambitious projects that I’ve ever seen developed and implemented in just a few weeks’ time, view and contribute to the exhibition #CurateMyLife – a full multi-media campaign launched by Lucie Fletcher, Emma Grange, Ana Paz, Margaret Perry, Ben Philips & Eleanor Styles. As the authors/curators describe it, #CurateMyLife aims to “help all generations of people to view heritage as a truly fluid aspect, which surrounds and encompasses every aspect of life, and, by sharing this personal heritage, it…help[s] to blur boundaries between different individuals and maybe even usher in new forms of educative liberalism and awareness of life, in addition to providing new inspiration for future exhibitions.”

I would be very keen to receive your feedback regarding this project overall, as well as regarding my students’ specific publications/responses to the project brief. If you can, please do comment either here (on this blog) or on the medium.com posts themselves. With a couple of tiny tweaks, I’d like to continue this experiment in the future, so your thoughts, recommendations, and constructive critiques will go directly towards informing its next iterations. Your input will also be combined with more formal evaluation data that I’ll be gathering with the students from next week, which I’ll then weave together alongside the official module feedback and share with you in future posts.

Thank you in advance for your help and interest!

Just a quick post to direct your gaze to the fantastic anthropology blog Savage Minds, as Colleen Morgan and myself are guest bloggers for the next month. In this capacity, we are coordinating a series of posts with some of our most inspiring archaeology/heritage colleagues, so pleased keep your eyes peeled. I’ve kicked us off with a reflection on recent work in Turkey, and we’ve already received some positive feedback.

We’d love to have you join the conversation! Check it out.

[Savage Minds welcomes guest blogger Sara Perry.] This is the first in a series of posts, coordinated with Colleen Morgan, on the relations between analog and digital cultures. Over the next month,…

Source: Mobile apps and the material world

Some of you might know that I’ve spent the past three months in Egypt, living literally next door to the pyramids of Giza and working about an hour’s drive away at the site of ancient Egypt’s first capital city, Memphis (now partially covered by the modern town of Mit Rahina).

Until just two days ago, we weren’t able to speak in detail to the wider public about the nature of the project owing to permissions, but I’m now so pleased to say that my collaborators, Ancient Egypt Research Associates (AERA), have just published our first press release:

and our generous primary funder, USAID, has used social media several times over the Autumn to hint at our activities:

There’s so much to say about the programme that we are running and the incredible history of the site of Memphis (it was the political and religious centre of pharaonic Egypt for thousands of years, the pyramids are part of its cemetery complex, it is the home of the Apis House (the only site of its kind! …where bulls were mummified as part of an elaborate ritual process), Alexander the Great sacrificed to the Apis bull and was crowned king here; it was long a tourist and pilgrimage destination for everyone from ancient Romans to Greek philosophers to antiquarian travellers, and it was ‘lost’ – no one could quite locate its remains – until just two centuries ago.

I’ll save more of the details for our collaborators to tell you about when we launch our webpages and social media in the future. In the meantime, if you’re keen for views on ancient Memphis, check out this impressive Facebook page run independently by one of AERA’s alumni. Also, make sure to learn more about AERA’s fabulous and long-standing research and teaching efforts in Egypt.

For now, I just want to briefly mention the fieldschools that we’re leading, which form one of the principal outputs of the project (and are a new addition to AERA’s portfolio). Herein, we are training Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities inspectors and related Egyptology and museums professionals in archaeological site management, heritage interpretation, tourism development and community engagement. This training is an applied programme, delivered via a combination of lectures, classroom-based production, and on-the-ground development of Memphis as a tourist destination (including construction of a walking trail/interpretative route around eight of Memphis’ principal sites). Just yesterday, at the Ministry of Antiquities headquarters in the Zamalek district of Cairo, we celebrated the graduation of our first 32 Egyptian trainees and 4 Egyptian supervisors, who work at key heritage and cultural locations around the country. I was excited to see that one student, the excellent Shaimaa Magdi, invited her journalist friend to the event, so you can catch some of the diploma ceremony on YouTube:

and if you read Arabic, you can learn more about it all here.

What’s been the most special aspect of this project for me? Definitely my contact with Shaimaa and the many other Egyptians who’ve studied with me, my small team from York, and AERA. These students are truly the most wonderful human beings that I’ve ever encountered. They have touched me in a way that I couldn’t have fathomed, and I feel like my faith in the fundamental goodness of humanity has been affirmed by my interactions with them. I can’t say enough how much happiness, laughter, kindness and warmth they’ve shared with me. I looked forward to every day of teaching them because they made me feel hopeful for the future, and they made our many challenges seem slim and even manageable because of their individual and collective good spirit and generosity. On a personal level, then, I’ve been changed by them.

MSCD_FS1 and FS2 Students Site Tour _10/11/2015

Fieldschool 1 and 2 at Memphis. Photo by Amel Eweida.

But as I teacher I’ve been changed too. This is a direct result of my students’, AERA’s, and York’s shared eagerness to learn together, to revise and edit and rethink our outputs together, to challenge common understandings of heritage management, to work six days a week, at least 9 hours a day (and, on many days, up to 12 or more hours per day!!) on panels and guidebooks and websites and more, and to create something completely new out of a very difficult archaeological site that’s been virtually forgotten. It has been inspiring, and it’s profoundly altered my professional practice.

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Myself and Amina, one of the graduates of our first fieldschool, on graduation day – Tuesday, 15 December 2015. Photo by Ian Kirkpatrick.

Moreover, often on a daily basis, I’ve received the most touching feedback from the students – the kind of feedback that makes you cry with joy – that reaches right to your soul – that warms your heart and leaves you feeling empowered and capable of changing the world. I’ve asked permission from one of my students, the exceptional Sara Komy, to quote her words, because I would be lying if I said that the project wasn’t full of challenges, but it is the highs that come from these comments that instantly boost your confidence and motivate you in the face of difficulties:

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This message of Sara’s is just one of a series that have touched my heart, given me strength, and further heightened my deep love for Egypt. As you can imagine, even though I only flew home yesterday, I miss my students tremendously. Everyone should be so lucky to meet people who make you feel as if, together, you can genuinely transform the course of history and construct a better world.

I’ll leave you with a couple more images of all of the happy times that we’ve had together (and there have been many!).

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Singing together and enjoying the bus trip back from site with some of fieldschool 1.

MSCD_FS2_Students Final Site Tour_13/12/2015

One of our supervisors takes an extra candy while on a break from touring Hathor Temple and Apis House at Memphis. Photo by Amel Eweida.

I look very forward to returning to work with my Egyptian collaborators again in 2016. I’m off now to catch up on everything I’ve missed here in York!

digiTAG

The Digital Theoretical Archaeology Group (digiTAG), launching in Spring 2016…

Alongside my colleagues James Taylor (University of York), Åsa Berggren (University of Lund, Sweden) and Nico Dell’Unto (University of Lund), I am co-organising a session at the 2016 Computing Applications in Archaeology conference in Norway at the end of March/early April. James, Åsa, Nico and myself have been working together for many years now, debating the philosophical dimensions of digital technologies for archaeological practice, yet regularly finding that the practicalities of these tools tend to eclipse meaningful critique of their implications.

Although critical conversations about computer applications in archaeology have a long legacy, it is usually precisely the applications of computers that become the central and overwhelming focus of discussion at our conferences, in our edited volumes, and often in our classrooms too. In contrast, how these applications intersect with larger local and global socio-politico-economic systems—

how they perpetuate or challenge structural inequalities—

how they contribute to wider patterns of consumption, excess, loss and waste—

how they are folded (if at all) into the institutional status quo—

and, so, how they shape not only our thinking, but our ways of being-in-the-world—are matters that habitually go unspoken.

The trend to value the technical above the theoretical is one that is seen across many disciplines, made worse by the fact that it tends to betray itself again and again as any new piece of gear is added to disciplinary toolkits. The CAA itself, with its moniker “Computer Applications and Quantitative Methods in Archaeology”, hints at the predicament, as applied methodology is foregrounded, and richer qualitative analyses of the digital are trapped on the backstage. Despite this, the CAA has consistently encouraged discussion on the theoretical implications of the ‘digital turn’ in archaeology and the heritage sector, and for more than a quarter-century now, a host of associated individuals has attempted to push back against any ‘atheoretical’ disciplinary tendencies (see, recently for example, Hacιgüzeller 2012, Huggett 2015, Watterson 2014, among others). It is with these efforts in mind that we launch the first digi-TAG (Digital Theoretical Archaeology Group) session.

Digi-TAG seeks to draw the power of the TAG (Theoretical Archaeology Group) enterprise – with its concern for sustained, engaged, collective and provocative theoretical discussion of archaeological issues – together with the CAA, the primary forum for the showcasing and discussion of digital technologies in archaeology. While digi-TAG is by far not the first manifestation of digital critique within TAG (e.g., Daly and Evans 2006, which emerged from TAG 2000), we see it contributing to a larger, lasting campaign of critical knowledge construction around digital archaeology/heritage that eventually embeds itself into standard practice. Right now, such critique still seems to be pursued at a limited, individual level, arguably thus circumscribing wider intellectual and structural change.

With these points in mind, we seek a small number of contributors to complement our line-up of speakers for the first digiTAG, to be held as a session at CAA in Oslo, Norway, between 29 March to 2 April. We particularly encourage junior academics – students and early career researchers from any part of the world – to apply. The full digiTAG description is below. Please submit 300-word abstracts (for 20 minute papers) through the CAA system by 25 October at the latest: http://ocs.caaconference.org/index.php?conference=caa&schedConf=caa2016&page=schedConf&op=cfp

We also welcome comments and queries by email, so please do connect with us. We are keen to nurture digiTAG into a long-term affair, hence we encourage your input and direct involvement in this process.

Hope to have you join us in Oslo next spring!

Theorising the Digital: Digital Theoretical Archaeology Group (digiTAG) and the CAA.

James Stuart Taylor (University of York)

Sara Perry (University of York)

Nicolò Dell’Unto (University of Lund)

Åsa Berggren (University of Lund)

Computing and the application of new digital technologies in archaeology and the heritage sector more generally have been advancing rapidly in recent years. This ‘digital turn’ is reflected in the growth and success of the CAA international conference, and in the emergence of a range of dedicated interest groups and associated digital outputs around the world. In concert, pressure has been increasing to situate the application of digital technologies within a wider theoretical framework, and with a degree of critical self-awareness, thereby allowing for rigorous evaluation of impact and disciplinary change. This is something that the CAA, as a nexus for the discussion of applied digital technologies in archaeology, has explicitly addressed throughout its history, and particularly in recent meetings, with a range of round tables and theoretically-engaged sessions that have proved popular amongst the digital community.

TAG, another well-established conference, with a long history of fostering progressive and critical debate in archaeology, has never explicitly aimed to address the various theoretical consequences of the digital turn. As such, this session seeks both to broaden the TAG family to attend to the rapidly-growing computational sphere of archaeological practice, and to work with the CAA to consolidate its own efforts to theorise and encourage critique and evaluation of the effects of the digital turn.

We invite participants to deliver papers that question, challenge, appraise and reconceive the epistemological and research-oriented implications of the digital turn—as well as its larger social, political and economic consequences. In short, what is the actual impact of the digital turn upon archaeology and the wider heritage sector? The session will culminate in a chaired discussion amongst all contributors, with a focus on both debating the future of the concept of ‘digiTAG’ and rethinking critical engagement with digital practice in archaeology and heritage overall.