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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!

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Gender & Digital Culture survey

Gender & Digital Culture survey

The term has finally come to an end, and for the first time in 1.5 years, I don’t have to design any new courses until January (although I’m co-designing a new Master’s programme for the university, which is its own interesting project…). This means that I’m able to catch up on all of my various projects that have been awaiting my attention or moving forward primarily via the support of some of my great colleagues.

I have a lot to blog about – and, in a wonderful turn of events, I’m likely to be guest blogging for the incredible Savage Minds in the next couple of months (which is a real dream come true for me, as I absolutely love that site). But for now, I just want to point you towards our Gender & Digital Culture project, as our online survey has gone live today.

As you know, this project is very close to my heart: I have had both the most incredible and the most distressing of experiences in navigating my own online professional identity. I know that I’m not alone, but we want to get a sense of how others relate to digital media in their working lives. I’ve copied below the background and links to our survey and blog, and I would be ever so appreciative if you could take the time to complete the (quick) survey and share it with your friends & colleagues (from any field of work/practice).

For those of you in York, I’ll be speaking about aspects of my experience and our project at the forthcoming How to be a public intellectual event (10 July, 1-3pm) run through the Philosophy Department’s fascinating Project Integrity. (Note that the excellent Lorna Richardson will also be speaking in the same session as me.) As well, I’m hoping to get funding to present at the University of Rochester’s Decoding the digital conference in early September. Fingers crossed those funds come through!

Lucy Shipley, Jim Osborne, Graeme Earl and I will also be running an afternoon workshop on the subject of gender & the digital world – live-streamed and live-linked between multiple sites – on Friday, 8 November. So if you are keen on participating in person (York or Southampton) or remotely (via Google Hangouts) in that event, please don’t hesitate to let me know. I’ll circulate more details closer to the date.

Here is the background on our survey – your contribution is important to understanding how we construct and negotiate our online professional identities.

Do you use social media for work? Have you panicked after hitting the “Send” button on an email? Been trolled? Gone viral?

Help us find out how professionals are engaging with digital media – tell your story, take our survey.

The Gender and Digital Culture project would like to hear your thoughts on the positives and negatives of using the internet in a professional capacity. You can read more about our wider aims on our blog, follow our Twitter account, and participate in our survey through the link below.

SURVEY: http://bit.ly/14FJ70a

You must be over 18 years of age to participate in the survey. You will be able to exit the survey at any time by closing the window. All your responses may be provided anonymously, and your information will be held securely.

 

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With the support of the University of Southampton’s Digital Humanities team and the University of York’s Centre for Digital Heritage, I’m working to coordinate a series of events that attend to the relationship between digital culture and gender. I’m looking for a paid assistant (from the University of Southampton, which is graciously funding the post) to contribute to the initial set-up and preparatory research for these events, and I’ve pasted details below for anyone in the humanities at Soton with an interest in matters of the digital.

I’ve been wanting to blog on these issues for over a year now, but the subject for me has been a sensitive one, and I was never quite sure how to approach it. The potential negative ramifications for speaking out seemed disproportionate to any possible benefit, and so I’ve sat silent wondering how best to manage my concerns. I enlisted help from a couple of my closest friends and colleagues, asking them to look for articles or related discussions about instances akin to mine, and simultaneously I started to do my own research.

Unfortunately, but meaningfully for me, over the past few months, several very high profile incidents have presented themselves that resonate with my experiences. Indeed, just today, the Times has published an article (not open access, disappointingly) on a comparable theme, headlined: “British universities in grip of ‘lad culture’ of misogyny, according to NUS”. Others, like Anita SarkeesianMary Beard, Sarah Parmenter, Leigh Alexander, and see here, have all actively—and inspiringly— responded to what is disturbing but clearly indisputable gender-related harassment via digital/web-based media.

As for me, since 2011 I’ve experienced a series of separate episodes of being subjected to email or other social media-driven judgments on my appearance and sexuality. These were not simple, innocent remarks by friends and family, but often long, detailed descriptions and fantasy-like reflections about me sent in private messages direct to my personal email/Facebook accounts from colleagues around the world. The first incident was so absurd and unexpected that I just told a couple of my girlfriends at Southampton about it and had a bit of an uncomfortable laugh. The second incident was even more awkward and I began to feel incredibly self-conscious and embarrassed about how I was projecting myself to others. The third incident led me to silence – I no longer wanted to discuss it with anyone because it had become such a point of humiliation. All three of these incidents happened in 2011, and they were only the start of a trend that has continued since then.

But I’m exhausted now of burying the subject, and I wonder who it’s profiting to not attend to something that is demeaning and inappropriate both personally and professionally.

When I mentioned to others that I wanted to begin to think about how digital culture is implicated in these exchanges, I was met by a variety of reactions. Some rightly pointed out that digital media have far more connection to – and relevance for – gender than merely their application in derogatory ways. In other words, the conversation is a wide one, and I should think about how these tools can be (and are) wielded meaningfully, strategically, productively in other contexts.

At once, others implied that it was nonsensical for me to air my frustrations in public because it would lead people to question how they might appropriately address me in the future. On this point, I have to assert myself by saying that one could not possibly mistake innocent flattery (that is expressed publicly and is witnessable to all) with the types of private, explicit, long-winded, repeated and persistent messages that I’ve received through email. This is not debatable.

To that end, the University of York and the University of Southampton are coming together to talk through some of the many intersections, contentions, problematic and productive dimensions of gender and digital culture. Further description is below, including reference to other very visible cases of gendered abuse on the web of late. My experience is more in line with that of Leigh Alexander, but it impacts upon my life and my career, and as such, it is important to me.

Thanks as always for your support and constructive advice – I am so grateful. I am always keen for links, research articles, videos, and contacts on these issues, so please don’t hesitate to send them to me.

Gender & the Digital Events

Issues of gender and their relationship to digital technologies have had some presence in the news media lately, with Mary Beard and Sarah Parmenter being two amongst many individuals from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds who have actively responded to gendered and digitally fuelled character attacks. Such episodes are among a series of matters arising from applications of – and interactions with – digital tools that impact upon the professional and intellectual lives of scholars, and which consequently have implications for research, teaching and related practice.

In light of the University of Southampton’s and University of York’s growing digital humanities and digital heritage streams, Sara Perry (York) and Graeme Earl (Southampton) seek to organise a cross-institutional, live-streamed seminar (or series of seminars) in the spring time that bring(s) together specialists working in both the humanities and sciences for a critical conversation about their engagements with digital tools. We are looking for a postgraduate student to assist in coordinating the event(s) and to prepare a draft discussion document to help structure the debate. Work must be completed by 31 March 2013. The event will run after the Easter vacation.

Our interests are in exploring the (gendered) relationships between people and digital technologies: how, in tandem, they variously facilitate, exacerbate, rethink or replicate diverse behaviours. More specifically, we are interested in how these relationships operate in different disciplines in terms of professional and personal development, and how we equip individuals to use such technologies productively. The digital humanities have an important cross-disciplinary role to play not only in understanding how men and women engage with digital media – and how the media might recondition our research studies – but in preparing people for those studies themselves and for professional careers in all digitally-mediated disciplines.

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Visual Media in Archaeology @ York – webpage screenshot

I’ve designed and am currently teaching a new third-year undergraduate module at York called Visual Media in Archaeology.  I wanted the class to allow students an opportunity to interrogate the intellectual and practical consequences of archaeological visualisation, but also to give them a chance to experiment with their own forms of production for various audiences.  In light of logistics, I decided to assign them the task of each creating their own blog on which they were to craft a narrative about an object or site of their choice.  I’ve been inspired by efforts like My Life as an Object and A Rock’s Story and York’s own Richard III Museum’s fictional Richard III Twitter feed: I wanted the students to think about how archaeologists tell stories, about what kinds of stories we can or could tell, about what stories we don’t or might not want to tell; and I wanted them to have the freedom to construct the narrative however they wished—fictional or non-fictional; image-driven or not; loose in structure or tightly woven; etc.

Several of my students have permitted me to blog about their blogs, and circulate links to the latter here (see below).  Whilst York is unique in having students put together an exhibition at the close of their first-year undergrad fieldwork season, for most of my third-years, these blogs represent their initiation into independently-authored, highly-public forms of presentation.  The group exhibition at the close of Year 1 is fundamentally different to these blogs for both obvious and not-so-obvious reasons: the former is a group effort (meaning a collective of individuals is accountable for the output, as opposed to just one person), it’s based at a specific site (in King’s Manor) on a specific day (usually a Wednesday at the end of the summer term) for a specific audience (students, staff, other interested locals), and its brief is very specific (using a particular medium of presentation, with a defined amount of text and image space, on a fixed subject).  Conversely, the independent blog is unwieldy, accessible to a large and completely undefined audience, and it subjects its creators to a level and degree of exposure whose consequences are hard to predict.

We have talked a lot about the implications of making work visible and critique-able by others via the web, and the potential fallouts of laying bare your ideas and self in an open forum.  These debates aren’t new, but they’ve been on my mind lately not only because of some questionable experiences I’ve had to deal with in the last couple of months (I’ll blog about those another time), but because of a talk that I was completely captivated by last week at the American Anthropological Association conference.  I immediately returned to York and told my students about it, as it entailed the anthropologist and NPR.org blogger Barbara King making a case for the ‘unafraid blogger’—someone who uses blogging as a form of journalism; who was prepared to accept that unfinished posts are not inherently disreputable or worthy of attack; who would try to resist the urge to take immediate offense to critique; and who would push the boundaries on traditional measures of success.  Barbara gave several fascinating examples of her own varied experiences in blogging for NPR.org (she talked, in particular, about this post and this post), and suggested that the commentary engendered by blogging stood at the “wild edge” of engagement.  Given that ‘wild edge’, one might instinctively want to run away from the process of blogging, but as I understood Barbara, the blog’s wildness is the very thing that we might capitalize on—embrace and experiment with.  In accepting its unpredictability, we are forced to rethink our work and ideas and our engrained ways of doing things, and out of that acceptance might come something extraordinary.

Below are links to 6 of my students’ blogs.  One of the students has already won a competition via her blog, and the students still have a couple of weeks left to develop and hone their content before they give their final presentations in December.  I post these links in the hopes that you’ll browse through the students’ work and, if you’re so inclined, comment – constructively – on what they’re experimenting with here.   This is their first time being exposed to the ‘wild edge’, and I appreciate you taking the time to participate productively in the ever-evolving process that is blogging.

Confessions of a Christmas Bauble

Student Life at the JBM Library York

A Complex Curiosity

The Incomplete Life of Dinosaurs

A Penny for your Thoughts (Children’s Blog)

The Diary of a Crystal Skull: What I Saw Today…

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Screenshot by me of York's CHM 2 MA module outline on the web

I’m preparing the outline (syllabus) for one of the modules that I’ll be leading at York in the spring term–Cultural Heritage Management 2: Museums, Audiences and Interpretation.  While most of that outline is finalised, I’m still trying to settle on the reading list for a class on ‘Heritage and the media’.  A lot of the usual literature features in the list as it now stands, including Clack and Brittain’s (2007) Archaeology and the Media, and articles by Kulik (2006) on television and Pollock (2005) on newsprint.

But in terms of scholarship on web-based media, I’m keen to flesh out the readings that I currently have listed, and I’m especially interested to include rigorous literature that is itself hosted online.  I’ve mentioned before (here and in my list of links in the column on the right of my homepage) some of my favourite blogs and web-based knowledge sources, and I’d like to have students critically read the outputs of Colleen Morgan’s 4-week Blogging Archaeology project (which culminated in a Society for American Archaeology session), and the associated Then Dig peer-reviewed archaeology blog, as well as web-based journals like anthropologies, and the incredible Day of Archaeology.  I’d also love to be able to recommend forthcoming articles (which are being published online or in academic print) that assess the public and epistemological impact of this work, not to mention of the media themselves (as applied by archaeologists and heritage specialists).

I’m keen for suggestions, so please don’t hesitate to email me, contact me on Twitter (@archaeologistsp), respond here or via Facebook.  Thank yooouuuu!

Clack, T. and Brittain, M. (eds) (2007) Archaeology and the Media. Walnut Creek: Left Coast Press.

Kulik, K. (2006) Archaeology and public television. Public Archaeology 5 (2): 75-90.

Pollock, S. (2005) Archaeology goes to war at the newsstand. In Archaeologies of the Middle East: Critical Perspectives. S. Pollock and R. Bernbeck, eds. Pp. 78-96. Oxford: Blackwell.

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Screenshot by me of http://www.dayofarchaeology.com home page

I wanted to make a contribution – however brief! – to the incredible Day of Archaeology.  It’s been organised by Lorna Richardson, Matthew Law, and many other colleagues whose engagement with digital media, including blogging, is truly pioneering.  Check out the hundreds — literally HUNDREDS — of amazing pieces that have been added by archaeologists from around the world.  What Lorna, Matt and team have accomplished here is actually completely overwhelming and awe-inspiring.  It’s worthy of so much praise.  Here’s a link to my little post…

I’m heading off to Çatalhöyük very soon, so I’ll aim to blog about the experience of our third field season when I return to Southampton in September.  You can read our report on last year’s work here (pp. 117-123) – we’ll be building on these activities again this year.  See you in September!

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middlesavagery.wordpress.com

Courtesy of Colleen Morgan, middlesavagery.wordpress.com

Last week, my friend Colleen Morgan at Middle Savagery began the web-based equivalent of a roundtable discussion on archaeological blogging in advance of her session on this topic at the upcoming SAA meetings.  From my perspective, the response to her call for commentary was fantastic, and is well-summarised both by her and others (e.g., Brenna at Passim in Passing).

Her question for this week goes as follows:

…Blogging gives new scholars a chance to speak out, to debunk 2012 foolishness and to give a little bit back to the public that usually signs our paychecks in one way or another. Though it is generally embraced…public outreach can be incredibly difficult, tricky, and prone to hidden downsides. Blogging archaeology is often fraught with tensions that are sometimes not immediately apparent. Beyond the general problems that come with performing as a public intellectual, what risks do archaeologists take when they make themselves available to the public via blogging? What (if any) are the unexpected consequences of blogging? How do you choose what to share?

There have already been a lot of meaningful responses to these questions by other bloggers (see Dirt, Where in the hell am I, Passim in Passing, Adventures in Archaeology, etc.), and I follow various excellent blogs where the implications of blogging (including the potential for commentators to propagate unfounded and deprecative arguments) have become very obvious (e.g., see here).

In the interests of brevity, I won’t add to these comments beyond saying that I think we have a responsibility to remember that blogging is simply one form of media, and whilst people (especially academics) like to pick on it as an especially dangerous and uncontrollable communicative device, I think this is misconstrued and blinding.  Blogs and social media have advantages and disadvantages—like every other type of communicative tool.  By focusing on them alone (as is common in academia), I’m concerned that we are all-too-conveniently avoiding discussion of the limitations and, indeed, prejudices of other modes of publication (e.g., the academic journal or text or edited volume).  These modes are often exclusive, insular, and inaccessible (both physically, linguistically and intellectually).  They offer limited opportunities to respond.  They can become canonised and cemented as truth and, in so doing, serve to perpetuate the status quo.

What is critical, as I see it, is that ALL media are risky and unpredictable; ALL media need critical dissection and constant questioning as to their validity and impact; ALL media require that we hide some details and share others, and that we otherwise make potentially restrictive decisions about what information to make public and what to keep to ourselves.

Our concern for the limitations (& affordances) of blogging should not, I hope, eclipse attention to the problems (& possibilities) of other types of archaeological communication.

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