It’s Published! The Enchantment of the Archaeological Record

Inspiring action through archaeology’s emotive powers

Screen Shot 2019-07-25 at 17.50.23After presenting an overview last year, I’m really excited to say that my article on “The Enchantment of the Archaeological Record” has been published in European Journal of Archaeology (EJA)The EJA has an interesting feature that allows you to access the final published version online in read-only format (not available for download). I’ve also put the accepted version of the manuscript on the usual forums, including ResearchGate, and if you want a Word version to use with document readers, please email me.

Why Enchantment?

The gist of my argument is that I believe archaeology can change the world for the better through its inherent and highly distinctive capacity to generate wonder and enchantment among human beings.

As I summarise, there is a vast amount of evidence that robustly demonstrates these transformative potentials and their specific individual, local and broader impacts. There is also ample evidence on how exactly we might create situations that prime people for enchanting experiences.

Yet for the most part we aren’t applying this knowledge – or aren’t applying it well and critically. Where it is done, it’s almost always in relation to non-specialist public engagement. This misses the point that engagement activities grow out of primary data collection and interpretation, so if these primary practices are disenchanted, disenchanting, or otherwise devoid of affect, secondary efforts to engage people are far less likely to succeed to their full potential (if at all).

How do we ‘do’ enchantment?

I believe we can deliberately weave affective practices into all aspects of our archaeological methodologies and project designs, therein offering us a more contextual and dynamic model for doing, recording, interpreting, publicising and archiving archaeology.

This is not necessarily an easy or straightforward task, but I think we’ve proven it can work in terms of:

We are now investigating how we can revise typical recording tools (e.g., context sheets, photo logs), and archiving practices/infrastructure (e.g., metadata and descriptions, thesauri, ontologies) to fuel and support these enchantment efforts. Various initiatives are planned in the upcoming year or so – please stay tuned, and if you are willing to be involved, please do let me know.

Acknowledgements

I would like to send a massive THANK YOU to the editors of this particular issue of the EJA: Marta Díaz-Guardamino, Colleen Morgan, and Cate Frieman. I have never had a more positive, constructively thought-provoking review experience. The approach that these editors took in terms of whoever they recruited for my anonymous peer reviews, led me to feel some renewed hope for a process that I otherwise find mostly broken and disenchanting. My anonymous reviewers enabled me to think differently (rather than discouraging me from thinking), and this has helped to provide further inspiration. For instance, we’re involved in a lot of exciting things right now for EMOTIVE, including a VR experience, a dialogical experience with 3d replica artefacts, a group-based audio experience, and a study of culturally-specific responses to affect. More soon – and follow some of these adventures on Twitter or Instagram.

Risk

As a closing note, there are some wonderful papers in this issue of EJA, and I feel that Katherine Cook’s piece, “EmboDIYing Disruption: Queer, Feminist and Inclusive Digital Archaeologies”, gets at the crux of one of the issues that has severely affected our efforts at enchantment; namely, risk. Setting in place the measures to care for people – to ensure that any burden of risk is distributed – and to ensure institutions themselves invest in genuine structural change to support affective and inclusive practices (rather than obliging individuals or small-scale, time-limited projects to assume total responsibility for experimenting with these practices) is crucial. Cook offers some ideas on what is at stake and how we might negotiate risk, which really resonated with me.

Anyway, I appreciate your constructive criticism on my article if you’d be willing to share it.

The full reference is: Perry, Sara (2019) The Enchantment of the Archaeological Record. European Journal of Archaeology 22(3), 354-371.

Thank you!

New takes on the traditional guided tour: Can you help evaluate our York Minster prototype?

Seeking a handful of volunteers to test our new EMOTIVE facilitated tour of the York Minster…

York Minster evaluation - 31 May 2019
Can you join? Seeking volunteers to evaluate our facilitated ’emotive’ group tour of the York Minster on Friday 31 May 2019. (Photo by Katrina Gargett)

Our EMOTIVE team here in York (led by Katrina Gargett and supported by the incomparable Vivi Katifori and Vassilis Kourtis in Athens) has spent the past year conceiving of alternative visions for the typical guided tour of cultural sites. Guided tours are arguably one of the most ubiquitous offerings of the tourist industry. Many folks will have direct experience of being steered around sites in groups, sometimes paying attention to their guide’s spiel, and sometimes drifting off and losing touch with the expert narrative that is spoken at them.

While there are a growing number of alternatives to this traditional approach to guided tourism, it is surprising how rare experimentation with group tours seems to be. As Katrina’s research has shown, these tours offer unprecedented opportunities for cultural sites to directly communicate with people, to bring together strangers who might otherwise not have interacted, and to create constructive conversations and relationships between them.

Supported by the astonishing York Minster (one of the largest Gothic cathedrals in northern Europe), we have developed a new take on the guided tour, and we would like to ask for your help.

Specifically, we are conducting an evaluation of our ‘EMOTIVE tour’ at the Minster on Friday, 31 May, from 2.30pm. We’ve tested the tour with multiple groups off-site (in settings staged to simulate the Minster), and we’ve used these tests to improve the experience. Now we seek a small number of volunteers who are willing to do the tour inside the Minster itself and to provide constructive feedback on it.

Volunteers should be:

(1) 18 years or older and interested to participate in a research project focused on experimenting with guided tours, part of the wider European-funded EMOTIVE Project.

(2) willing to meet new people, share something about yourself, and explore ideas together about the Minster. Ideally, you are not employed in the heritage, museums, or tourism sector.

(3) open to discussing heartfelt topics including health, spirituality, love, wellbeing, justice, rights, and other human values and beliefs. You should be keen and ready to speak respectfully with others about these emotive topics.

(4) willing to read aloud, or to read aloud for others who might not feel confident in doing so, and comfortable reading at a basic-to-intermediate level (11-12 year old reading confidence).

(5) able to spare 3.5 hours of time on Friday 31 May, from 2.30-6pm. The first 1.5 hours will consist of the tour at York Minster, and then you will walk or taxi over from the Minster to nearby King’s Manor for a constructive discussion of your experiences. We will provide refreshments!

(6) willing to allow your tour of the experience to be audio-recorded and photographed, as well as your discussion session at King’s Manor after the tour. These records will then be analysed and used to improve the design and development of the next version of the tour. You can choose to anonymise your records so that you are not identifiable.

If you are interested to participate, or know of someone who might be, please can you contact me by email before Wednesday 29 May. 

Thank you for spreading the word and supporting our efforts to broaden the ways that we think about – and connect to – the past.

Digital Pasts and Futures of Archaeology: PhD Short Course

Join us in Rome from 16-20 Sept, expenses paid!

If you are a PhD student whose institution belongs to the Dialogues with the Past network (including universities across Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Russia, Sweden) or you attend one of the following Indian or South African institutions – North-Eastern Hills University, Nagaland University, HNB Garhwal University, Sambalpur University, Deccan College Post Graduate and Research Institute, University of Cape Town, University of Pretoria and University of the Witwatersrand – there is still time to apply for our forthcoming expenses paid short course in Rome from 16 – 20 September, 2019, coordinated by Åsa Berggren.

I’ve had the good fortune of teaching on several previous Dialogues with the Past courses (in Athens and Paris on both archaeological and museums themes), and I can say that, from the point of view of an instructor, it’s an incredibly rewarding experience. It’s an opportunity to spend time in a small, diverse group talking constructively about PhD researchers’ in-progress studies, with commentary offered both formally by other PhDs who act as respondents, and by questions asked by the teaching team and the other student participants. We dine together and tour local sites together; we do hands-on media development together (in Rome we will experiment with making chatbots ‘of conviction’); and many of us have kept in touch with – and, in fact, have applied for funding and collaborated on other research endeavours with – the graduates of the programme. These long-term connections and friendships are a testament to how incredible the Nordic Graduate School in Archaeology’s DialPast programme is – and a special shout-out is needed for its fabulous coordinator Julianne.

I’ve copied below the call for participants, and I hope you might consider joining Åsa, James, Nico and myself in September! Application deadline = 20 May.

Digital Pasts and Futures of Archaeology

PhD course, Rome, September 16 – 20, 2019

The use of digital methods in archaeology has a decades long history. However, the digitalisation of all aspects of archaeology has increased on a large scale during the last few years. It is changing the foundations of the practice of archaeological documentation and dissemination and influences the processes of archaeological interpretation.

The aim of this course is to keep theoretical and critical engagement with the digital as our centre of attention. As the development of digital methods and applications is quick, so too must we prioritise critical concern for how, why, by whom and for what purpose digital technologies are deployed. Accordingly, the course will have a two fold focus – looking forward and looking back.

On the one hand, we will explore the future development and use of digital methods in archaeology. Our aim is to think ahead to see how digital development will critically impact future archaeological documentation, interpretation, visualisation and sensorial explorations of the past, as well as archiving and data management. The discussion will span projects of various sizes, from examples presented in students’ papers to national and international projects discussed by the course lecturers, e.g. the creation of national digital registers, the cross-European EMOTIVE project (www.emotiveproject.eu), etc.

On the other hand, we will contemplate the development of digital methods in archaeology from a historical perspective. The archaeological record and the use of legacy data depend on a proper understanding of this history. Digitisation is affecting the nature and longevity of archaeological practice. Yet its quick, often reactionary implementation and varied sustainability means that understanding of its historical development is narrow, and hence appreciation of its impact over time is limited. We hope to consider the legacy of digital practices in archaeology, and weave it into a discussion about the archiving of that legacy. Our aim is to consider the implications at both project, national and international levels, critically analysing the conditions for availability, accessibility, searchability, relevance and reuse (e.g., the FAIR data principles of findability, accessibility, interoperability, and reusability).

The course is supplemented by excursions to local projects and facilities to see digital applications in the field. We will also work hands-on with prototype interpretative tools designed for archaeologists to engage their audiences in critical discussion around archaeological research and data. Participants will draft their own simple digital experiences intended to foster critical reflection and historical perspective taking amongst their users.

Course Work

The course will consist of both seminars and lectures. Before the course starts, each PhD student will prepare a paper for pre-circulation, addressing her or his research project in relation to the course theme. In the course seminars, each paper will be allotted ca. 45 minutes, beginning with the student presenting a 15-minute summary of its contents. This is followed with a 10 min commentary from one of the other PhD students (selected in advance), after which she or he will chair an open discussion on the paper for approximately 20 minutes.

Lecturers

Dr. Åsa Berggren (Lund University)

Ass. Prof. Nicolo Dell’Unto (Lund University)

me (University of York)

Dr. James Taylor (University of York)

The participating lecturers will each give a lecture during the course, as well as participating as prime movers in the discussion of PhD presentations. The seminar days will be structured with adequate time for spin-off debates and networking opportunities in mind.

Credits

1 month or 7 ECTS

Location, Travel and Costs

The Graduate School will finance and arrange travel and accommodation, and supply a daily allowance during the seminar for all participating PhD students who are part of the Dialogues With the Past network as well as participating PhD students from the following Indian and South African institutions: North-Eastern Hills University, Nagaland University, HNB Garhwal University, Sambalpur University, Deccan College Post Graduate and Research Institute, University of Cape Town, University of Pretoria and University of the Witwatersrand. Two and two PhD students will share a room.

Registration

The Graduate school invites all registered PhD students to apply for participation. Please follow this link to apply for the course (in English only). From these applications, c. 15 PhD students will be admitted to the course.

For more information, please contact: dial-past@iakh.uio.no

Important Dates

Application for participation: May 20, 2019. Confirmation on your participation will be sent out shortly after this date together with a reading list.

Submission of working papers (10 pages, Times New Roman 12, Spacing 1,5): August 5, 2019.

Appointment of discussants: August 14, 2019.