Thu 18 Aug 2011
(Cross posted on Heritage Bytes)
Thu 18 Aug 2011
(Cross posted on Heritage Bytes)
Fri 10 Dec 2010
I just stumbled across an article in the New York Times:
Anthropologists have been thrown into turmoil about the nature and future of their profession after a decision by the American Anthropological Association at its recent annual meeting to strip the word “science” from a statement of its long-range plan. The decision has reopened a long-simmering tension between researchers in science-based anthropological disciplines — including archaeologists, physical anthropologists and some cultural anthropologists — and members of the profession who study race, ethnicity and gender and see themselves as advocates for native peoples or human rights.
As an archaeologist who’s never really seen himself as an anthropologist but, truth be told, more as related to historians (I was originally trained in Belgium), I must admit that I wasn’t too much aware of this issue. So I went over to the Savage Minds group blog, my usual source for what goes on in anthropology. Two posts seemed most relevant: “Why anthropology is ‘true’ even if it is not ‘science’” and “Ethnography as a solution to #AAAfail.”
… we don’t have to go that far afield to recognize forms of knowledge that are rehabilitated when anthropology jettisons its label as ‘science’: history, epigraphy, historical linguistics, and the humanities in general. The opposite of ‘science’ is not ‘nihilitic postmodernism’ it’s ‘an enormously huge range of forms of scholarship, many of which are completely and totally committed to accuracy and impartiality in the knowledge claims they make, thank you very much’.
At times I feel like the real distinction here is between thoughtful people who are aware of the complexities of knowledge production, and those who are for psychological reasons strongly committed to identifying themselves as scientists and everyone else as blasphemers. This approach is, of course, not very scientific and verges on being the close-minded inversion of the fundamentalist Christianity that thinkers of this ilk so love to oppose.
What do most anthropologists think anthropology does? What do the terms they use to evaluate it mean to them? To the best of my knowledge, we simply have no answer to this question beyond our impressions that ‘cultural anthropologists are taking over’.
The Neuroanthropology blog has collected a lot of the online discussions. Hmm… How would I normally characterize what I do to the general public? Luckily, archaeology is sufficiently popular that I can just use that term and leave it at that. Only occasionally does someone engage me on whether it’s a science or not. I guess I associate “science” with empiricism, in other words, can my explanation be tested, measured, replicated? Obviously, archaeology which destroys much of what it studies in the act of excavation is not fully empirical though we do use a lot of empirical methods to describe what we excavate. To me, it seems that the context for the question “Are you a scientist?” determines my answer. Sometimes I am, sometimes I’m not an empiricist. I’m not even going to venture into the issues surrounding the formulation of theories which then are tested in a targeted excavation. Food for thought for sure.
Tue 7 Dec 2010
This is a topical blog about archaeology and digital data, so this post may appear off topic at first, but trust me it is not.
The Republican Party (or GOP), in its quest to appear like the party of “fiscal responsibility” [sic], has launched a new crowd-sourcing site to go after “questionable” grants made by the National Science Foundation (NSF). NSF funds some archaeology, so this development is of interest to readers of Digging Digitally.
While one can take issue with the wisdom of cutting NSF’s budget versus other areas of the federal budget, what makes this development noteworthy is the explicit use of crowd-sourcing to politicize specific funding decisions. The GOP sponsored site asks users to:
In the “Search Award For” field, try some keywords, such as: success, culture, media, games, social norm, lawyers, museum, leisure, stimulus, etc. to bring up grants. If you find a grant that you believe is a waste of your taxdollars, be sure to record the award number.
OK. So does that mean “museums”, “social norms” and “culture” are all implicitly a waste of money? I guess “success” is a waste too. Naturally, you can’t cut any other area of government spending (like defense or entitlements) from the GOP site. It’s a nice way to make “crowd-sourcing” less than democratic, since essentially this website predetermines your choices in what you will cut. But I’m going off track…
More to the point, how should the average lay person understand an NSF award enough to evaluate it, especially when all that is available is a title and a short abstract? I’m not qualified to evaluate many grants in archaeology because different areas of specialization require so much background knowledge. I consider myself pretty scientifically literate and I can barely understand NSF award information in some areas of computer science, economics, climate research, etc.
Nevertheless, I trust that the NSF awards in these areas outside of my field are probably worthwhile. That’s because I generally trust the scientific community and scientific processes (grant reviews, peer-review). Science is not perfect, but it does tend to value skepticism, evidence, and intellectual freedom.
The GOP’s crowd-sourcing effort shows an implicit, but fundamental distrust of the scientific community. The GOP wants you to second-guess expert opinion, because scientific expertise is by its nature suspect in contemporary Republican Party ideology. No doubt this will further politicize climate science, evolutionary science, and many other areas archaeologists care about.
Lastly, the whole “fiscal responsibility” thing is pretty laughable. Via Twitter, Tom Scheinfeldt wrote:
Total NSF budget=$7 billion. Cost of yesterday’s tax cuts=$700 billion. Targeting NSF is just a smokescreen to keep budget hawks preoccupied
Good point! I politely sent a note about Tom’s point via the GOP site that maybe they could look for budget savings more fruitfully in entitlements or defense spending.
Mon 10 May 2010
“A developing social network focused on the scholarly community, Academia.edu is developing a critical mass of participants in ancient studies [and archaeology]. It is an increasingly important locus for the deposit of scholarly articles, as well as a place to provide links to scholarly articles online elsewhere – either at publishers’ sites or at institutional repositories. A significant advantage it has over other such sites is the ability for participants to build networks among themselves, and to request personalized alerts for new content from periodicals and for material deposited by other members of the network.
It shows real promise as a model of social networking based on existing academic hierarchies.
I need to add my papers and the like. That actually reminds that some of them aren’t yet online, something I ought to remedy.
Fri 24 Apr 2009
A quick note to draw attention to an article in the latest issue of The Art Newspaper: “Facebook is more than a fad—and museums need to learn from it.”
A few quotes: “Social networks and blogs are the fastest growing online activities, according to a report published in March by research firm Nielsen Online. Almost 10% of all time spent on the internet …” “… a major factor in the success of social networks is that they allow people to select and share content. This has become a hobby, even considered by some to be a serious creative outlet, with web users spending time ‘curating’ their online space. Museums are well placed to appeal to this new generation of ‘curators’because they offer rich and interesting content that can be virtually ‘cut-up’ and stuck back together online in numerous different ways to reflect the individual tastes of each user. If remixing, reinterpreting and sharing interesting content is, as Nielsen suggests, the kind of engaging interaction that draws people to social networks, then museums should embrace the idea that ‘everyone is a curator’, both online and offline.” “For example, the Art Museum of Estonia has gone against convention by actively encouraging visitors to photograph its collection; the MoMA website helps users to co-create content and share these creations with friends.”
Mon 8 Dec 2008
I got this in my inbox and thought DDIG readers might be interested (in case you didn’t know about it already):
2PM-4:30PM Pacific Standard Time (10PM-12:30AM GMT or Universal Time)
December 10, 2008
Location: Okapi Island
(You must have the free Second Life browser)
Join us for Burning Çatalhöyük, a project developed by OKAPI, the Berkeley Archaeologists at Çatalhöyük, and the UC Berkeley DeCal program. Çatalhöyük on OKAPI Island, in development since 2006, is an exploration of the past and present of a 9,000 year old site located in present-day Turkey. In this demonstration we intend to burn the existing models down in order to better understand the use of fire in Neolithic settlements. In consultation with fire experts Karl Harrison and Ruth Tringham, and architecture expert Burcu Tung, a team of undergraduate apprentices have replicated the burning sequence of Building 77, a structure excavated in the summer of 2008. OKAPI island also hosts reproductions of modern developments present at the site, including a water tower, Sadrettin’s café, the Chicken Shed and the nightly bonfire.
Guided Tour of OKAPI Island by Ruth Tringham, (Professor of Anthropology, UC Berkeley, and Principal Investigator of Berkeley Archaeologists at Çatalhöyük) and the Remixing Çatalhöyük team.
Niema Razavian will introduce the work that the Fall 2008 Decal class has done on the island, and how this fits in with a broader UC Berkeley education.
Roland Saekow will demonstrate his teleportation system, to guide new visitors around the island.
Kira O’Connor will show the site datum she has constructed, and talk about how datums are used at archaeological sites in general.
Clark-Rossi Flores-Beyer will demonstrate the skeleton model he has managed to manipulate into a crouch position, in accordance with how people were buried at Çatalhöyük. He will briefly discuss burial practices in the settlement.
Garrett Wagner and Raechal Perez will discuss their own reproductions of the interiors at Çatalhöyük, and how they decided to configure the space on their own.
Colleen Morgan (UC Berkeley PhD Candidate, excavator at Çatalhöyük) will wrap-up the program with a discussion of why virtual reconstructions of archaeological sites are important, and what Second Life can do to increase our understanding of the past.
What is Second Life?
Second Life is a 3-D virtual world created entirely by its residents. Okapi Island is owned and build by the OKAPI team (that’s us below!) and the Berkeley Archaeologists at Çatalhöyük.
To visit Okapi Island, you will need to create a user account and download the client software–both free.
To create an account, visit www.secondlife.com, click on Join (in the upper right corner) and follow the instructions. Note: You do not need a premium account to use Second Life or visit Okapi Island.
Next, download and install the Second Life client for your computer:
Launch the Second Life client and enter your password. You will likely begin in Orientation Island. To visit Okapi Island, click Map, enter “Okapi” in search field and click Search. Alternatively, you can click on the following slurl (second life url) in your browser, and you will be transported there:
Thu 23 Aug 2007
If you are developing or using web-based tools or resources for communicating archaeology, or if you have ideas or opinions about this subject, please consider being a presenter or discussant in a “Web 2.0″ session at the next SAA meeting in Vancouver (March 26-30, 2008). Please review the abstract below and contact Sarah Kansa (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you are interested in participating. This session is co-organized by Sarah Kansa (The Alexandria Archive Institute) and Julian Richards (Archaeology Data Service & Univ. of York). The Alexandria Archive Institute is sponsoring the session by covering the cost of registration fees for presenters.
Session Title: Web 2.0 and Beyond: New Tools for Collaboration and Communication
Abstract: New technologies are transforming the way archaeologists communicate and explore the past. Many archaeologists have embraced Web 2.0 collaborative tools and services such as blogs, wikis and Flickr. Some are experimenting with web services to find ways to integrate different bodies of content, interfaces and tools. These new tools for collaboration and communication present opportunities for research and public participation in archaeology. This session aims to:
- Highlight current archaeological efforts implementing Web 2.0 technologies
- Discuss why certain approaches seem to “work” best for communicating archaeology
- Discuss the challenges of networking archaeological information (semantic, intellectual property, technical capacity, and social) and ways we can look beyond Web 2.0 in our discipline.
Tue 17 Jul 2007
I’m familiarizing myself with the new terrain of the UC Berkeley School of Information (iSchool), and I’ve had the pleasure of working closely with Erik Wilde, a member of the iSchool faculty with heavy XML research interests.
Anyway, Erik has a new iPhone, the little device which has sent Apple share-prices way up. He showed me the iPhone and how it connects to the web, plus some exciting ideas for new services that can piped into it. It feels like living in the future.
We also talked about what near continuous mobile web connectivity can give you in terms of social networking and geo-referenced data. One thing we’ve mused about is location awareness of the iPhone. It doesn’t have a GPS in it, but you can usually get some geo-location information through the IP addresses of the phone’s Internet connection and a website like this, which relates IP addresses to geographic locations. It might be fun to use the phones as a “friendar” (friend radar) to alert you when you’re near an acquaintance. Sounds fun, except Erik pointed out some obvious privacy issues. This type of thing would obviously be useful for tourists who visit places and augment their reality with web-based information of where they are. Geo-tagging web content should be an obvious concern for archaeologists and museum people who want to interact with the public.
Erik tried all this out, with the iPhone using both the local campus Wifi network and with the AT&T cellular network and an IP address geo-lookup service on the web. The AT&T network resolved to be in London (AT&T knows where his phone is, but doesn’t make it public), but the UC Berkeley network correctly resolved to be in Berkeley.Â Some wireless networks will provide better geo-location than others, so interesting geo-location enabled services would work better in some places than others. Who knows, maybe enough networks are sufficiently “geo-localizable” to make building services for iPhone-like devices worthwhile.