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As a follow up to my previous post, James and I are very excited to announce the line-up for our digiTAG2 conference session on Archaeological Storytelling and the Digital Turn, scheduled from 9:00-17:00 GMT next Tuesday, 20 December, in Southampton, Avenue Campus, Lecture Theatre B.

We were awed by the range and originality of the proposals that we received. It was inspiring for us to review the many and varied abstracts, and I do hope that you’ll join us for what we think will be a truly unique session, including performance pieces, game play, an archaeological mystery – and more!

We are also pleased to say that we will be hosting a notably broad group of presenters in terms of gender, career stage, geographic specialism, professional specialism, and theme/audience/medium of presentation.

Basic details on the presenters and presenting times are listed below. Full abstracts can be reviewed here on the TAG webpages.

Please share in our (digitally-relevant) stories, attend in person, or follow along on Twitter at #digiTAG2 on Tuesday the 20th of December. Can’t wait!


SESSION 4. digiTAG 2: Archaeological Storytelling and the ‘Digital Turn’ (Tuesday, 20th Dec., Lecture Theatre B)

James Taylor and Sara Perry, University of York

09:00 – 09:10 .. Introduction

09:10 – 09:35 .. Generative junk mail: Geo-narrating Sir Charles Wheatstone, Cassie Newland, King’s College London

09:35 – 10:00 .. “Once, or twice, upon a time”. Ripping Yarns from the tablet’s edge, Keith May, Historic England

10.00 – 10.25.. Building Museum Narratives through Active Performance with Digital Replicas of Objects, Paola Di Giuseppantonio Di Franco, University of Cambridge

10.25 – 10.50.. Archaeological Storytelling with LEGO StoryStarter: Grand Designs in Ancient Greece, Matthew Fitzjohn; and Peta Bulmer, University of Liverpool

10.50 – 11:10.. Coffee Break

11.10 – 11.35.. Enriching The List, Martin Newman, Historic England

11.35 – 12:00.. Integrating Narratives: Creating Stories of Archaeology in a Local Language, Tomomi Fushiya, Leiden University, Netherlands

12.00 – 12.25.. The Playful Past: Storytelling Through Videogame Design and Development, Tara Copplestone, University of York and Aarhus University, Denmark

12.25 – 12.55.. Discussion

12.55 – 13.40     Lunch Break

13.40 – 14.05.. Digital Data Funerals, Audrey Samson, University of the West of England

14.05 – 14.30.. Industrial Memory and Memorialisation through Digitisation, Caradoc Peters, University of Plymouth and Adam Spring, Duke University, USA

14.30 – 14.55.. Ghosts in the Machines, Spirits in the Material World: An Archaeological Mystery, Jeremy Huggett, University of Glasgow

14.55 – 15.20.. Digital Escapism. How objects become deprived of matter, Monika Stobiecka, University of Warsaw, Poland

15.20 – 15.45.. Show, don’t tell:  Using digital techniques to visually record and present sites as a means to tackle complexity, Katie Campbell, University of Oxford

15.45 – 16.05.. Tea Break

16.05 – 16.30.. Drawing out the data: information graphics and the analysis of multivalent data, Megan von Ackermann, University of York

16.30 – 16.55.. Something Old…. Something New, Helen Marton, Falmouth University

16.55 – 17.20.. Stonehenge and other stories, Paul Backhouse, Historic England

17.20 – 17.50     Discussion


 

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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.

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Just a brief note to say that tomorrow (Tuesday, 17 December 2013) we are hosting our second Seeing, Thinking, Doing session, from 14:00-18:00 GMT, at the Theoretical Archaeology Group (TAG) conference in Bournemouth, UK. We have a fantastic line up of speakers, who are presenting both in person and remotely–from the US, the north of England, Europe, and Canada (where I’ll be!). While we aren’t live-streaming the session, you can follow along via our Twitter account @visualarchaeo – and indeed, you can follow many of the speakers themselves who have their own personal Twitter profiles (e.g., Nicole Beale, Ian Dawson, Nicolo Dell’Unto, Matt Harrison, Mhairi Maxwell, Robin Skeates, James Taylor, Alex Zambelli; also Gareth Beale and Cat Cooper, my session co-organisers).

Our session on Twitter! Join us @visualarchaeo

Our session on Twitter! Join us @visualarchaeo

On top of Twitter, we have a blog that we’ve been building up since our first TAG session in May in Chicago. You can read contributors’ abstracts there, and you can also contribute yourself to the discussion by posting a comment to the site. We are very proud too of our growing digital showcase, which now hosts nearly a dozen posters from researchers and practitioners around the world. Three new posters have been added in the last week, from Tomasz Michalik, Chiara Zuanni, and Dragos Gheorghiu & Georgina Jones, respectively looking at eye tracking research, reception of displays of human remains, and imagination in archaeology.

We had twice as many submissions for our session than we could accept into the half-day conference format, and I take this as testimony to the ongoing currency of the subject matter. Just over a decade ago, when I first began studying the topic of visualisation in archaeology, I was met by a not insignificant number of skeptical voices who suggested there was little if any validity to this line of enquiry, and certainly no future in it. I’m not easily dissuaded and I was fortunate enough to have incredible support and counsel from my supervisors at UVic and Southampton, who at the time seemed to be amongst a tiny handful of kindred spirits.

It turns out, of course, that there is (and, indeed, there was) a fairly major community of like-minded individuals in existence in the discipline, as well as a deep history of experimental and critically-engaged archaeological visual practice. The problem arguably seemed to be that everyone was working in isolation, mostly unaware of or disconnected from others’ efforts. I’d like to think that this predicament has changed, and that we’re all now invested in building capacity in a subject area that continues to have massive intellectual, pedagogical and methodological potential. The diversity of contributions to our session, and to previous related events, publications and projects, would suggest the fruitfulness of such an investment.

I’ve posted the schedule of speakers below. Disappointingly, I understand that the TAG printed timetable doesn’t reflect our own timetable, so please follow the outline here. I hope we see you either at the conference or online!

14.00

 

Rachel Opitz

 

Reality based surveying, archaeological information visualisation, and the construction of archaeological reality

 

14.15

 

Maxwell & Goldberg

 

Virtual-Materiality: the digital re-creations made as part of the Glenmorangie Early Medieval Research Project

 

14.30

 

Hermon & Niccolucci

 

Real uncertainty and uncertain reality in archaeological visualization

 

14.45

 

Jamie Hampson

 

Is rock art research ocularcentric? Embodiment theory and somatic society

 

15.00

 

Taylor, Dell’Unto, Berggren & Issavi

 

Seeing Things Differently: the impact of digital visual technologies upon recording and the generation of knowledge at Çatalhöyük

 

15.15

 

Teri Brewer

 

Visualizing the Invisible: Pushing the Craft in Archaeological Screen Media

 

15.30 Discussion
15.45

 

Discussion

 

16.00

 

Matthew Harrison

 

Topology vs. Topography: Visualising the Islamic city in the medieval and modern mind

 

16.15

 

Neha Gupta

 

Geovisual perspectives on late 20th century Indian archaeology: putting “place” in visualization

 

16.30

 

Beale & Jones

 

The strange case of Dame Mary May’s tomb: deciphering the visual and biographical evidence of a late 17th century portrait effigy

 

16.45

 

Robin Skeates

 

Visualism and archaeology: the case of prehistoric Malta

 

17.00

 

Alex Zambelli

 

Rendering the Invisible Visible: The Moves of London Stone

 

17.15

 

Minkin & Dawson

 

Art and Archaeology: Figure and Ground

 

17.30 Discussion
17.45 Discussion

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I have the great privilege of doing some guest blogging for the fantastic Savage Minds site, an anthropology blog that I’ve been following almost since its inception in 2005.

I would normally just repost the content of my contributions to Savage Minds here, but I’m keen to direct you straight to their webpages in the hope that you’ll find them as inspiring and thought-provoking as I have.

My first blog for them is about field schools, fostering spaces of creativity, and my concern to ensure that students are offered just as much access to — and opportunity to develop — these kinds of creative spaces as any other collaborator on our field projects. At its core is the connection between data and big ideas/vision, and whether, as Current Archaeology once wrote, ‘archaeologists have no soul’.

Here it is:

Creativity, Intellectual Freedom & the Field School (guest blog on Savage Minds)

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Join our session at TAG Bournemouth 2013!

Join our session at TAG Bournemouth 2013!

Just a quick post to let you know that Cat Cooper, Gareth Beale, and I are organising a follow-up ‘Seeing, Thinking, Doing’ session at the Theoretical Archaeology Group conference in Bournemouth, UK  – 16-18 December 2013.

The deadline for submission of abstracts to me through email – or through the TAG webpages – is 10 September. We are in the unique position of being able to accept papers streamed in from other locations via Google Hangout, so we welcome remote participation. Don’t hesitate to contact me with any queries. Here are the details…

Seeing, Thinking, Doing: Visualisation as Knowledge Creation
Organizers: Gareth Beale, Catriona Cooper & Sara Perry

Decades of enquiry have borne witness to the importance of visualisation as a critical methodology in archaeological research. Visual practices are intimately connected to different ways of thinking, shaping not only how we interpret the archaeological record for diverse audiences, but how we actually see and conceive of that record in the first instance (before investigative work has even begun). A growing body of volumes, workshops and symposia* testify to the centrality of visualisation in processes of deduction, narrative construction, theory-building and data collection – all those activities which lie at the heart of the discipline itself. But these testimonials generally still lay scattered and detached, with researchers and visual practitioners often talking at cross-purposes or working in isolation from one another on issues that are fundamentally linked.

Following the success of Seeing, Thinking, Doing at TAG Chicago in May 2013, we seek here to delve further into such issues, concentrating on those bigger intellectual tensions that continue to reveal themselves in discussions of the visual in archaeology. We welcome short papers attending in depth to any of the following five themes:

(1)    Realism and uncertainty

(2)    Ocularcentrism

(3)    Craftspersons and visualisation as craft

(4)    Historical forms of, and past trends in, visualisation in archaeology

(5)    Innovative approaches to representing the archaeological record

The session will be linked across two continents with a discussant in Canada as well as the main presentations in Bournemouth. We are happy to include speakers willing to participate remotely, via Google Hangout, and we encourage all contributors to add their perspectives to our group blog prior to – and following – the session: http://seeingthinkingdoing.wordpress.com/discussion/. The papers will be accompanied by a roundtable discussion, where we will analyse the five themes—and related intellectual trends in visualisation—at an overarching level.

*E.g., Molyneaux 1997; Smiles and Moser 2005; Bonde and Houston 2011; “Seeing the Past,” Archaeology Center, Stanford University, Stanford, USA, February 4–6, 2005; “Past Presented: A Symposium on the History of Archaeological Illustration,” Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, DC, October 9–10, 2009; “Visualisation in Archaeology,” University of Southampton, Southampton, UK, April 18–19, 2011.

Bonde, S. & Houston, S. (eds.) 2011. Re-presenting the Past: Archaeology through Image and Text. Oxford: Joukowsky Institute Publications/Oxbow.

Molyneaux, B.L. (ed.) 1997. The Cultural Life of Images: Visual Representation in Archaeology. London: Routledge.

Smiles, S. & Moser, S. (eds.) 2005. Envisioning the Past: Archaeology and the Image. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

For more information about TAG please see http://microsites.bournemouth.ac.uk/tag2013/

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For the past four months, Cat Cooper and I – with the help of our great friend and colleague Gareth Beale – have been putting together a multi-site session for TAG USA Chicago on ‘Seeing, Thinking, Doing: Visualisation as Archaeological Research’. Finally our planning culminates on Friday, when the session will run at 9.00am Chicago time, 3pm GMT.  We’ve got our fingers crossed that the technology holds up…

I think we were all overwhelmed by the response we received to our call for papers – so much so that we’ve devised various means to allow as many people as possible to contribute to the conversation. Whilst we can only steam the event between Chicago, Southampton, San Diego, and Victoria Canada (where I’ll be remotely helping to chair the session), we have

(1) set up a Twitter account (@visualarchaeo)

(2) Cat has put together a blog (http://seeingthinkingdoing.wordpress.com – & here you can find details of our diverse contributors)

(3) we’ve created a digital poster accompaniment to the session for some of those who weren’t able to give talks (see the posters & their abstracts here)

(4) we’ve put together a series of discussion questions that we’re hoping anyone with an interest in the subject matter will comment upon either via our blog (comment here) or by tweeting us at @visualarchaeo. We’d like to keep the debate going beyond the conference, so please do contribute!

Our discussion questions are prompted by the fact that various initiatives in recent years (including the recently-completed, English Heritage-sponsored Visualisation in Archaeology (VIA) project) have testified to a series of tensions and challenges confronting those who engage with archaeological visualisation. We would like to consider to what extent you find yourself negotiating with these issues, how you’ve worked to manage them, and where you see visualisation practice (in the sense of producing, circulating, receiving, and remixing visual media) taking both archaeologists themselves and general archaeological audiences in the future.

  • What do you consider the biggest challenges facing the archaeological visualisation community in the upcoming years?
  • Does the archaeological community embrace or encourage creativity and innovation in (visual) practice? If so, how so? If not, how might these be cultivated?
  • To what extent do existing publication formats constrain or enable visual practice?
  • How can the widespread desire for impressive, impactful visual outputs be balanced with intellectual integrity? Are stunning imagery and rigorous research objectives mutually exclusive?
  • What do we know about archaeology’s viewing audiences? Who is interested in our work? How are they interpreting our outputs? What are they looking for? What inspires them?
  • What is the relationship between ‘new’ and ‘old’ media in archaeology? What are the most powerful visual tools today (new or old) for facilitating archaeological research?
  • How are we training the next generations of archaeological specialists? Should we be concerned about a loss of visual skillsets? How can we equip students to productively make and use visual media?

In sum:

Where do we go next? How can we continue to nurture a vibrant community of visual researchers and practitioners in archaeology? Who can we look to for inspiration?

We look forward to hearing your views!

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Just a very quick post to advertise the session that the wonderful Cat Cooper and I are organising at the Theoretical Archaeology Group USA conference in Chicago – 9 – 11 May 2013. The Call for Papers is below. We hope you’ll consider contributing to it or forwarding details to your interested colleagues.

Screenshot of TAG USA 2013 conference homepage. Hope you can join us!

Screenshot of TAG USA 2013 conference homepage. Hope you can join us!

We are in the unique situation of being able to stream the session through 4 sites: from Chicago itself, from the University of Victoria (Canada), from the University of Southampton (UK), and from the University of York (UK); so there are various intercontinental options for where to join the session. This means we welcome papers from anyone who is interested in participating remotely from one of these sites.

Deadline for submission of abstracts to Cat & myself is 1 March 2013. Don’t hesitate to contact us with queries.

Seeing, Thinking, Doing: Visualisation as Archaeological Research
Research tends to begin with a series of observations on a site, object, monument or related space as it stands in the present, and leads to the construction of narratives which aim to craft a dialogue between that experience of the real today and the experience of the real in the recent and distant past. Visualisation is a critical methodology in such narrative creation—extending far beyond mere presentation of results into the actual constitution of data and the working and reworking of archaeological ideas. It is a key player, then, in the process of mediating the real. The visual tools we use (both new and old), their interactions with our ways of seeing, and the relationships between these interactions and our experiences on-the-ground — with collaborators, spaces, and other sensory engagements — affect how we do archaeology and conceive of the past. In other words, visual practices are intimately connected to different ways of thinking, and such connections can be (and have long been) exploited to productive effect.

This session seeks to explore such ideas via a session linked across two continents, broadcast online in the form of a series of ten minute papers followed by roundtable discussion. The discussion will be accessible to participants in Chicago, Victoria (Canada), and in the UK at both the University of York and University of Southampton. We welcome short papers introducing different methods of visualisation (including illustration, photography, survey, creative media or computer graphics) or different modes of collaborating visually. Our intention is to nurture a discussion around how vision and imaging impact upon archaeological knowledge creation, shaping our research and the future of our practice.

Many thanks for your interest and attention!

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