future


Archaeology requires archaeologists, right? Well, the current or ending recession or economic crisis—depending on which economist or politician you talk to—is felt by archaeological excavators, researchers and teachers alike. Is the workforce shrinking or just becoming more efficient? Are there fewer students enrolling? The Archaeometry SAS blog alerted me to the publication of a new report: Nathan Schlanger and Kenneth Aitchison (eds.), Archaeology and the Global Economic Crisis. Multiple Impacts, Possible Solutions, Tervuren (Belgium), 2010 (available as pdf). This is the table of contents:

1. introduction. Archaeology and the global economic crisis   9
Nathan Schlanger & Kenneth Aitchison
2. the crisis – economic, ideological, and archaeological   13
Jean-Paul Demoule
3. the impact of the recession on archaeology in the republic of ireland   19
James Eogan
4. United Kingdom archaeology in economic crisis   2
Kenneth Aitchison
5. the end of a golden age? the impending effects of the economic collapse on archaeology in higher education in the United Kingdom   31
Anthony Sinclair
6. commercial archaeology in spain: its growth, development, and the impact of the global economic crisis   4
Eva Parga-Dans
7. A crisis with many faces. the impact of the economic recession on dutch archaeology   
Monique H. van den Dries, Karen E. Waugh & Corien Bakker
8. one crisis too many? French archaeology between reform and relaunch   69
Nathan Schlanger & Kai Salas Rossenbach
9. the crisis and changes in cultural heritage legislation in hungary: cul-de-sac or solution?   81
Eszter Bánffy & Pál Raczky
10. Archaeology in crisis: the case of Poland   87
Arkadiusz Marciniak & Micha? Pawleta
11. the impact of the economic crisis on rescue archaeology in russia   97
Asya Engovatova
12. the effect of the global recession on cultural resources management in the United states   103
Jeffry H. Altschul
13. Postscript: on dead canaries, guinea-pigs and other trojan horses   107
Nathan Schlanger
14. Annex i: Job losses in UK archaeology – April 2010   117
Kenneth Aitchison
15. Annex ii: note for administrators and liquidators of archaeological organisations   127
Roger M. Thomas

I also came across a European-Union-funded study on the state of the profession in Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, the Netherlands, Slovakia, Slovenia and the UK. Written by the same Kenneth Aitchison, its title is Discovering the Archaeologists of Europe: Transnational Report, Reading (UK), 2009. It too is freely available on the web. The contents are:

1.0 Executive Summary  5
2.0 Aim and Objectives  7
3.0 Partnership  8
4.0 Methodology  9
4.1 Data Collection  9
4.2 Data Analysis  9
5.0 Definitions of Archaeologists  10
6.0 Numbers Working in Archaeology  11
7.0 Past Growth of the Sector  13
8.0 Future Growth of the Sector  14
9.0 Age and Gender of Archaeologists  15
10.0 Disability Status of Archaeologists  17
11.0 Country of Origin  18
12.0 Highest Qualifications Gained by Archaeologists  20
13.0 Full-time and Part-time Work in Archaeology  22
14.0 Salaries in Archaeology  23
15.0 Training Needs and Skills Shortages  24
16.0 Transnational Mobility  25
16.1 Barriers to Transnational Mobility – Licensing  26
16.2 Barriers to Transnational Mobility – Qualifications  27
16.3 Barriers to Transnational Mobility – Language  28
17.0 Recommendations  29
18.0 Bibliography  30
Appendix 1: Private Sector and State Funding  31

A new report came out: The Future of the Internet IV, by J. Anderson and L. Rainie. It’s the 4th volume in this quasi-annual series (previous volumes also available online). This is an important study.

A survey of nearly 900 Internet stakeholders reveals fascinating new perspectives on the way the Internet is affecting human intelligence and the ways that information is being shared and rendered.

The web-based survey gathered opinions from prominent scientists, business leaders, consultants, writers and technology developers. It is the fourth in a series of Internet expert studies conducted by the Imagining the Internet Center at Elon University and the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. In this report, we cover experts’ thoughts on the following issues:

“Three out of four experts said our use of the Internet enhances and augments human intelligence, and two-thirds said use of the Internet has improved reading, writing and rendering of knowledge,” said Janna Anderson, study co-author and director of the Imagining the Internet Center. “There are still many people, however, who are critics of the impact of Google, Wikipedia and other online tools.” Read more


Hi Everyone.

This has nothing to do with archaeology, but I couldn’t help but to note this interesting April 1st development. It’s something of a follow up to my earlier posts on Google and its ambitions here and here. Please take a look at this short video by Google’s founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin:

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/v/PmSdy_9blB4]

That’s right. They claim to be teaming up with Virgin Galactic to colonize Mars. Here’s Richard Branson on the “project”:

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/v/gWCQYcPlUng]

They’re calling it an “Open Source Planet”. The funny thing about this April fool’s joke is that it comes from a wildly ambitious and seemingly unstoppable firm (however, note that even Google seems to be constrained by market forces). Given their other goals, colonizing Mars almost seems like business as usual for Google.

At the last ASOR (American Schools of Oriental Research), Gary L. Christopherson (University of Arizona) gave an interesting talk called “‘Google’ Archaeology: data and applications for everybody”. The talk discussed the huge and under-recognized impact Google is having in archaeological research. Google continues to add ever more free services, ranging from search, book-scanning (but with controversy), mapping, visualization, and “software-as-service” applications (office-suite tools called GoogleDocs). Without us really noticing, larger and larger chunks of our research activities are mediated by Google.

Where is this going? We should probably worry about being so dependent on one behemoth commercial service provider. Siva Vaidhyanathan has a fascinating blog “The Googlization of Everything” that takes a critical look at Google’s immense power in our society and economy.

Because Google is such a force, and something of an enigma, rumors and questions about its ambitions and intents flourish. Some of these rumors are fed directly by statements by Google’s leadership, such as when Larry Page told an audience at last year’s American Association for the Advancement of the Sciences meeting that Google was working on developing an Artificial Intelligence, and will do it on a “large scale”. Sergey Brin is reported to have said that the perfect search engine would “look like the mind of God“. Similar ideas, but less extravagantly worded, have from from Marissa Mayer, Google’s VP of Search Products and User Experience when she talked about how Google’s massive data stores and sophisticated algorithms are acting more and more like “intelligence”.

Pretty heady stuff.

I really don’t know where “Moore’s Law” and other rapid technological changes are taking us. Some of the ideas seem really extreme (see the so-called “Singularity“). But, I’m not a computer scientist or artificial life researcher, so I can’t dismiss these ideas out of hand, though I strongly suspect things will not work out in ways expected by starry-eyed futurists or techno-determinists.

What seems far more likely about Google’s statements in this area, is that they help fuel a mystique about Google as an unstoppable force that will shape the future. Who can contend with them if they have irresistible technologies on their side? It is powerful marketing, even if Artificial Intelligence remains 20, 2000, or 2 million years in the future, or always in the future.

But what seems absolutely clear is that all “digital archaeology” is done now in reference to Google. For better or worse, it will continue to shape archaeological cyberinfrastructure, research and education into any future I can see.

In a fascinating discussion of Google and it’s AI ambitions on Edge, George Dyson closed his article by quoting Simon Ings, and it seems fitting to do the same here:

“When our machines overtook us, too complex and efficient for us to control, they did it so fast and so smoothly and so usefully, only a fool or a prophet would have dared complain.”

This quote applies to Google, with or without “AI”. Its services are simply too useful and powerful. Hopefully, we’ll not all be fools for letting archaeology (not to mention other facets of our lives) become “Googlized”.

Chuck Jones who blogs over at the ever-informative Stoa Consortium and Julie Hollowell both independently alerted me to this insightful and provocative video developed by Michael Wesch, a professor of cultural anthropology at Kansas State University.

Here it is:

Michael Wesch also licensed this video with a Creative Commons Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike license, which means that you’re free to download, share, edit and modify it for noncommercial uses so long as you credit him and similarly share your new work (under the same license).� For all of you new to Creative Commons, it’s clearly worth your while to go look at their site and learn about copyright, sharing, and licensing.
Michael Wesch also made his video available for download and here are some links:

Windows Media File (55 MB):
http://www.mediafire.com/?22l2vyomimv

Quicktime File (96 MB):
http://www.mediafire.com/?ammm122k1ma

Mojiti Version (for comments, translations, etc.):
http://mojiti.com/kan/2743/5984

PS. I should also note that one of the most widely read blogs about anthropology “Savage Minds” is featured in this video.

This post is a little less “business like” and a little more thematic about the larger picture of “digital archaeology”.

I just finished attending a very interesting conference hosted by Rice University and the Hewlett Foundation. The conference brought together many invaluable projects developing high-quality Open Educational Resources (see the Hewlett Foundation’s link) and systems that not only deliver such content, but also help foster communities and collaborations between and among educators and learners. There is a now a fantastic array of infrastructure and open tools available to really enhance many of the public outreach and instructional responsibilities archaeologists have. Many of these tools can and should also be used to enhance communication between researchers. I’ll shortly post a list of links to some very exciting projects that many archaeologists may wish to join.

In addition to offering many practical discussions, Cathy Casserly (Hewlett Foundation) took the time to get us all to step back and take a look at the larger perspective. The conference started with this video (below), as a way of setting the stage and context for our discussions.

As is made so vivid by this video, the pace and dimensions of change are at once very sobering, exciting, and overwhelming. It’s this kind of context that we have to consider when we’re building a “cyberinfrastructure” for archaeology. If anything the video underscores the urgency of the need to understand and adapt to the rapidly changing social, economic, and technological context in which we work. It is a remarkable challenge communicating a meaningful and vital past in this age of exponential change.

Did You Know; Shift Happens – Globalization; Information Age

(Created by Karl Fisch, and modified by Scott McLeod, posted on YouTube by “vipeness”)