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!

Bot of conviction: transforming our conversations about the past

Can a chatbot enable us to change our conceptions about the past, to be critically reflective, to take action on the world today?

Provoking questions - would you bury someone you care about under your bed?
An example of a question posed by our Bot of Conviction to provoke conversation about the human past. For more info, download our CHI 2019 paper

After two years of development, I’m really excited to announce that our co-authored paper (co-authored by a majority female team, no less!) for CHI 2019 has been published and was presented by the incredible Maria Roussou in Glasgow yesterday. The full-text of the paper is freely downloadable from the ACM Digital Library. And especially excitingly, our EMOTIVE communications collaborator Karolina Badzmierowska from NOHO, made this little teaser video to briefly introduce you to the concept behind the project, and to pique your interest.

With all this available online, I’ll just say here that we’ve been inspired by the work of Mark SampleShawn Graham, and others, and thus have experimented with means to provoke people (in constructive fashion) to question and act responsibly on their values, beliefs and prejudices. I’ve long been interested in the power of dialogue to bring people together – and to offer the means by which change can be articulated and enacted – and I continue to be surprised at the relative lack of engagement with genuine dialogue between human beings in relation to heritage (here dialogue is understood as distinctly different from discussion, focused on two or more individuals actively and explicitly sharing experiences, challenging presumptions, and exploring others’ perspectives in order to build alliances and democracy).

We have various publications forthcoming on the topic of dialogue where we review some of the fabulous work of the US National Park Service, the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience, and of scholars like Nicole Deufel. Hence I won’t get into the details here, but in projects spearheaded by Angeliki Tzouganatou, Sierra McKinney, Sophia Mirashrafi and Katrina Gargett, we’ve been able to explore dialogical interventions with heritage in various ways (at heritage sites, in classrooms, at home using your own devices), creating a solid foundation for us to provide recommendations and guidance for others wishing to explore facilitated dialogue in their own work.

Our Bot of Conviction, which we fondly call ChatÇat, is one of the first case studies that we launched to explore how a simple rules-based bot might be designed to foster challenging – but productive – forms of communication and reflection. We’ve been lucky to have had incredible support from my colleagues at Çatalhöyük, and to be able to draw on the rich archaeological finds from the site –  which have collectively allowed us to seed our bot with complex questions around common human concerns: death, privacy, equality, power, and more.

We hope you might browse our work, provide us with constructive comments, and stay tuned for further publications on these topics. Happy reading!

PLEASE CITE AS: Roussou, M., Perry, S., Katifori, A., Vassos, S., Tzouganatou, A., McKinney, S. (2019) Transformation through Provocation? Designing a ‘Bot of Conviction’ to Challenge Conceptions and Evoke Critical Reflection. In CHI ’19 Proceedings of the 2019 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, Glasgow, Scotland, 4-9 May. New York: ACM. Paper No. 627.

Download our CHI 2019 paper from https://saraperry.files.wordpress.com/2019/05/roussou_et_al_2019_chipaper627.pdf
Download our CHI 2019 paper from https://saraperry.files.wordpress.com/2019/05/roussou_et_al_2019_chipaper627.pdf