Today and this week are going to be huge, and I mean that in the most generic, non-specific way possible.
1. The University of North Dakota’s Graduate School Scholarly Forum is today and tomorrow. At noon today Richard Kahn (who has blogged for us at Teaching Thursday!) will present in the Dean’s Lecture Series a talk entitled “Education as the Avatar of Sustainability“. He teaches in our department of Educational Foundations and Research and has just released a book called Critical Pedagogy, Ecoliteracy, and Planetary Crisis: The Ecopedagogy Movement (Peter Lang, 2010).
Here are some more interesting sessions and papers:
Session 12: Department of History
Memorial Room, Tuesday 9 March, 2:20pm
“Words of Death: A Theology of Death in the Alexandrian Sayings of the Desert Fathers,” Paul A. Ferderer (Faculty Sponsor, Dr. William Caraher) Department of History
“Women’s Associations and Employment: Succor and Impediment of Married Women, 1920-1933,” Thomas Harlow (Faculty Sponsor, Dr. Kimberley Porter) Department of History
“Independence in Cape Palmas: The Contentious Path For Autonomy in Maryland in Liberia,” Matthew Helm (Faculty Sponsor, Dr. Eric Burin) Department of History
“What Are You Afraid Of? How Governments Have Reacted to Real (or unreal) Threats,” Mark Herrmann (Faculty Sponsor, Dr. Kimberley Porter) Department of History
Session 21: Social Sciences Writing Panel Memorial Room, Wednesday 10 March, 1:00pm
Scholarly Writing Planning and Finding Success in Writing for Publications, Dr. J. Sagini Keengwe, Dr. Travis Heggie and Dr. Cynthia Prescott.
and at the same time:
Session 20: Tutorial Badlands Room, Wednesday 10 March, 1:00pm
Python and Scientific Computing in Open-Source, Gökhan Sever, Department of Atmospheric Sciences
Python has become the programing language of choice across the Digital Humanities. Check out William J. Turkel, Adam Crymble and Alan MacEachern, The Programing Historian for more on Python.
2. Be sure to check out a fantastic guest blogger over at Teaching Thursday. Deena Larsen, on the premier English Language E-Lit writers, has offered the second in a series of posts on using Electronic Literature in the classroom called Teaching the Writers Conference. As the title suggests, these posts appear in conjunction with the 41st Annual University of North Dakota’s Writers Conference, which this year will focus on digital and new media.
3. If you still haven’t had enough excitement you should be sure to check out Dan Reetz talk on Thursday in the Arts and Sciences Interdisciplinary Speaker Series:
Reetz hit it big last year when his DIY book scanner went viral in the blogosphere. He was featured in a substantial article in the December 2009 Wired Magazine. He’s a new kind of hometown, digital folk hero. Be sure to check out his talk.
I’ve finally finished my talk for the Elwyn Robinson Lecture tomorrow (at 3:30 pm!) in the East Asian Room at the Chester Fritz Library on the beautiful campus of the University of North Dakota. The UND Women’s Chorus will open the afternoon’s proceedings. It will be fantastic!
I’ve also experimented with Scribd as a way to make my working papers available in one place.
It also cleverly allows you to embed the papers a blog post (see below).
Enjoy the paper, please feel free to provide feedback, and for all my friends in North Dakota: this is not an excuse to avoid my talk!
I was pretty excited when the American School announced that they had released so many of Corinth Excavation's (and Athenian Agora's) notebooks the past week. First, I am working on a paper that thinks considers how recording archaeological data in notebooks differs from recording archaeological data using digital technology, and I used the famed Corinth notebooks as an example in the paper. Next, i was excited to look at some of Carl Blegen's notebooks since I knew he was a keen observer of the landscape and often included some details of the contemporary Greek countryside in his published articles (for example, his description of the location of Gonia here). I noticed that they included four notebooks from his work at Zygouries. The Bronze Age site Zygouries was near the imposing Frankish castle of Ay. Vasileios where I had spent a couple of grueling days many years ago and I wondered if Blegen had anything to say about the site, the village or the countryside.
So, I eagerly searched for Blegen and Zygouries and was promptly rewarded with four notebooks from the site. The first notebook, I think, included some of the detail about which I was curious. Moreover, the American School project had meticulously scanned even the outsides of the notebook giving preserving the tactile, physical quality of the notebook. The well-worn binding surely preserved some of the actual dirt excavated from Zygouries as well as the marks of generations of scholars who had leafed through Blegen's field notes with critical eyes.
At the same time there were issues. First, Blegen writes in a small, stylish hand and in pencil which is difficult to read at the resolution of scans that the American School provides. Now, someone who had read Blegen's notebooks first hand might have found it easier to decipher. I also found that downloading the page as an image and fussing a bit with it in Photoshop allowed me to improve the contrast and zoom in a more sophisticated way to make it seem easier to read (I am not sure whether I did anything, in fact). What I really wanted, it turned out was a transcription of Blegen's notebook ( (consider, Jack Davis's transcription of Blegen's Red Cross notebook here). Now, it's not the American Schools fault that I could not read Blegen's writing or that they didn't provide a transcription (the low resolution of the image is another matter), but as I thought about this I began to imagine a parallel site where scholars could upload their transcriptions of notebook pages. These would be keyed to the stable urls provided by the American School and presented in a wiki which would allow for and track revisions. I am sure that some notebooks are useful enough and commonly investigated enough to warrant this.
As I continued my browsing of Blegen's notebooks, I came across another strange anomaly. Notebook 3 from Zygouries is clearly not in Blegen's hand. In fact, the first page of the notebook tells us that it is in the hand of J. P. Harland. Harland's name, however, is not included in the public metadata for this notebook. The metadata for later notebooks clearly indicate the name of the recorder. For example, the metadata for Notebook 974 clearly stated that the legendary David Pettegrew and Thomas Henderson were its authors. This got me thinking, on the one hand, about the some text from the description of the collection on the webpage:
Using day journal diaries, archaeologists began recording finds, monuments and excavation, as well as their daily life in Greece. Often their thoughts and personalities are evident on the pages. More recent notebooks are more ‘objective’ and standardized but offer no less to the interested reader.
Clearly the recorders of the metadata became more "objective" as well in that they documented the names of the recorders and not just the excavation director (in the case of Notebook 974 it would be Guy Sanders). The failure to do this in the earlier notebook captures a bit of the spirit of an earlier era of "heroic archaeology" where the personality of the excavation director stood in the foreground of knowledge production. (It also seeming has to do with the difference between Blegen's project at Zygouries and the American School's project at Corinth).
The absence of Harland's name from the public notebook metadata also made me return to the idea that this could be the kind of data captured by the public as they use these notebooks. If it was possible, I would not have hesitated to add Harland's name to the notebook's metadata or to some publicly tagged version of the metadata. I might have even been inclined to add a link to Harland's papers at Princeton which Kostis Kourelis pointed out to me especially since he apparently kept a a dairy for over 50 years. One could imagine a researcher at Princeton adding notations from Harland's diaries to dates in the notebooks which would allow a researcher to "drill sideways".
I know some people who committed tremendous energy to this massive digitization project read this blog from time to time, and I want to stress that my remarks here are not meant to be critical of the tremendous effort that this project took. In fact, my only criticism of the existing interface — the lack of high resolution images — I am sure is easily adjusted in the future as more people have access to significant bandwidth necessary to handle large images. At the same time, my observations about the lack of public markup to these incredibly valuable archaeological resources may be more directed at the scholarly community who makes use of this material than the institution that provided it. After all, it would not be particularly difficult to begin such a project (although it would benefit immeasurably from collaboration with the American School). More importantly, the idea of collaborative projects which add real value to the data available on the web shows how thinking about the internet publication has changed quickly over the past five years. The next generation of digitalized archaeological data is likely to expand the concept of the notebook, context, photograph to include a range of dynamic metadata that embeds the digital artifact within an academic and intellectual context that is every bit as robust as the archaeological context provided by the original excavator.
I’ve been invited to give the Elwyn B. Robinson lecture at the library at the end of the month. This is a fun event where a nice cross-section of the university community shows up to commemorate the life and work of the historian Elwyn Robinson. So, as per usual, I am being overly ambitious in putting together a paper for this event and trying to articulate the historical and practical links between technology, practice and basic assumptions about archaeology as a discipline. In practical terms, I am trying to tout our new Working Group for Digital and New Media by arguing that digital technology (broadly construed) holds particular potential as a medium for cross/trans/post-disciplinary dialogue.
To make this argument, I first suggest that a kind of “heroic archaeologist” characterized the earliest days of “modern” archaeology in the Mediterranean. Think Carl Blegen, not Indiana Jones. The vision of these heroic archaeologists adhered closely not only to the data that they produced, but also the conclusions they drew from this data. The legacy of these men’s work can be seen even today when we refer to certain archaeological field notebooks as “Blegen’s Notebooks”. The importance of the paper notebook as the locus of the primary data that these men collected from the field (and through which they actualized their vision of a scientific archaeology) led to incredible steps being taken to prevent these notebooks from being lost or damaged. As a result, we have the notebooks today, but access to them, up until very recently, has been limited. I think that this is both institutional and technological. In the case of the former, these notebooks became so closely related to the heros of archaeology’s early days that they acquired relic status. The preservation of the notebooks was regarded as an crucial requirement for the preservation of knowledge in part because notebooks were and are fragile. Moreover, publishing raw notes by traditional means was both prohibitively expensive and perhaps even intellectually risky as it exposed the heroic underpinnings of archaeology to the outsiders’ gaze. To get access to the notebooks then, the institutional keepers of the data had to approve. This was both a matter of preserving the fragile media and preserving the past’s heroic legacy. In the most extreme cases, notebooks become family possessions and completely removed from any academic circulation.
For the past decade, this trend has reversed. Digital technology has made it easier and easier to publish archaeological data. Numerous projects are underway both to preserve and make accessible archaeological field data once hidden deep within the bowels of the archive. The increasing use of digital technology in the field has increased the amount of born digital data and streamlined (in most cases) archaeological workflow to the point where it is feasible in some cases to release data directly from the field into circulation. For example, at the end of every season on my project in Cyprus, we can circulate a completed (albeit provisional) data set that encompasses plans of trenches, (some) finds data, study photographs, and preliminary analyses, and we are far from unique in this respect. The born-digital character of this data makes it particularly easy, then, to circulate data sets. Moreover, the act of circulating even relatively “raw” (that is unanalyzed) data serves as a means to curate this data as well. This is the opposite of the old style notebook which is locked away (after perhaps being copied) at the excavation house under the careful eye of the excavation as an institution or the director. The responsibility that the institution or the person of the director feels toward this data contributes to the status of the notebook as the property of the excavation (or, in some cases, the director). There are obviously other issues at play as well, but I’d contend that the tremendously fragile nature of the archaeological notebook is a significant contributor to the idea that archaeological data is property.
With the increasingly easy circulation of archaeological field data, however, there is a growing sense that the data collected from intensive surveys and excavations in the Mediterranean should be made freely available. Sebastian Heath is among the biggest advocates of this idea and he has explored some of the intellectual justifications and consequences of this movement in his blog. He makes, for example, the link between curating archaeological data and sharing it. On the simplest level: when digital data is shared it is inevitably copied. When archaeological data is made available, the community will put forth increasing efforts to make sure that it is preserved. The simple practice of circulating data freely from a server will not only ensure that at least several copies of the data exist as a result of server architecture, but it will be accessible for people to download and copy onto their own computers, backing it up, and then recirculating it. In effect, the curation is left to the community because the data becomes their possession. The solitary, heroic, archaeologist gives way to the collective community who replace the person or institution as both archive and interpreter of data.
While this all sounds pretty cool, I am not naive, however, and recognize that some provision of long-term archiving must exist. After all, the collective effort to preserve the “most important knowledge” from antiquity has produced a body of texts filled with lacunae and hardly suitable to answer every question of significance for every age. Long-term, “deep” and stable storage of archaeological data should remain a key component of any archaeological enterprise, but the easy proliferation of digital texts will surely complement these efforts by creating an environment where the archiving and circulation of data are not incompatible.
At the same time that digital technology and intellectual shifts within the discipline of archaeology has made it easier to access and circulate data from projects, scholars like Ian Hodder and Michael Shanks have pushed for a greater reflexivity in archaeological practice and have come to see archaeological knowledge as product of far more sophisticated forces than the singular vision of a project director or the weight of a seemingly enduring historical problem. The heroic archaeologist is under assault not just from the perspective of technological change. As scholars have articulated the profoundly anti-modern aspects of archaeological practice — some with closer parallels to craft production or even punk rock music, the hard edges of the discipline have begun to erode. For example, the growing recognition of indigenous archaeologies which articulate how traditionally alienated groups understand their material history has shown that archaeological practice in a modernist mode offers only one of any number of perspectives on the past. Even within the traditional boundaries of the discipline itself, the growing number of specialists involved on even a modest sized archaeological project has produced a space of overlapping and often times conflicting discursive, disciplinary, and even interpersonal agendas and practices. The heroically linear flow from the fieldwork to documentation to publication is now a very crowded space filled with voices. In such a context, archaeological knowledge is negotiated.
Digital technologies have made it far easier to document and to disseminate the negotiated character of archaeological knowledge. For example, my wife and I were just talking yesterday about our experiences on archaeological project not that long ago that had only one “official” camera. Typically, this was a pretty nice camera — often the nicest on the project or with the highest quality film. Now it is common for everyone in a trench to have a good quality digital camera. Unlike just 15 years ago, when developing and circulating slides was an expensive and time consuming process, now we can instantly develop and circulate photographs of the archaeological experience. While there might still be a limited number of “official cameras”, the official photograph of a trench is now just one of any number of competing photographs of that archaeological space. Moreover, it is possible to capture this diversity of perspectives and even to publish it on the internet at limited cost. The ease in disseminating the numerous perspectives on a project comes through with inexpensively captured digital audio and video. Consider how easy it is for archaeologists to produce their own documentary films that compete in quality and content with the professional productions of just decades ago. Low cost, HD video cameras and YouTube even hold forth the prospect of making everyone on the project a documentary filmmaker. At my project in Cyprus, we’ve used blogs to publish instantaneously myriad perspectives offered by undergraduate, graduate students, and even within the senior staff.
As the collaborative environment within archaeology reveals archaeological practice as inherently transdisciplinary. There are too many moving parts to subject archaeology to a singular disciplinary practice. This should be no surprise; the disciplines are a product of a particular moment in the development of the academy. The influence and faith in modernity and in systematic scientific approaches to knowledge about the past allowed archaeology under the watchful gaze of its heroic founding fathers to carve out a lasting place within the academia and the university. The archive of notebooks protected and preserved the modern disciplinary achievements of the archaeological method. Digital data, however, resists the enclosed space of the “finite” archive just as digital technologies make it more and more difficult to maintain a singular voice in archaeological research. Any effort to accommodate the myriad voices produced by any archaeological project challenges the notion of a “project” and an “archaeology”. The easy dissemination of both archaeological data (in a proper, modernist sense) and the various “unofficial” voices of archaeology make it impossible to limit the multi-vocal character of archaeological research and reinforce the centuries old disciplinary strictures. Moreover, the inability necessary to distinguish between data produces by “amateurs” and that produced by “professional” (professionalism is the hallmark of a discipline) suggests that the end of the discipline is near.
This is not suggest that people will not continue to use archaeological methods for studying the past; after all, the methods of indigenous archaeologists, undergraduate bloggers, fine art photographers, and casual videobloggers will not answer every question that an individual or community might have about the remains of a past community, building, or event.
Technology is all over the news this week with both Apple's announcement yesterday and the official publication of the 2010 Horizon Report; so I thought it might be a good time to talk a bit about some of the high-tech new and its potential impact on teaching and some of my own efforts to use technology in the classroom. This will also set up today's contribution to the Teaching Thursday blog. It might be a bit later than usual, but it will certainly be worth it!
1. Apple iPad. Every other blogger is talking about so, I would feel left out. As much as I love my MacBook Pro, I am deeply skeptical about claims that the iPad will have a significant impact in the classroom. Having said this, at least one school, Abiliene Christian, is already talking about the possibility of requiring the iPad for all of its students and Steve Jobs' consistently linked the iPad with Apple's goal to position itself at the "intersection of technology and the liberal arts". So, it seems clear that Apple conceives of the iPad as being at home in a university environment and at places like Abiliene Christian, where a significant relationship with Apple already exists — they require their students to have either iPhones or the iPod Touch — the iPad will certainly provide an appealing upgrade to the hardware that they are already using. Moreover, the prospect of students being able to bring their digital textbooks (or most online content) to class with them will be hugely appealing.
From the perspective of someone who teaches at a school that occupies the trailing edge of tech trends in higher education, I think that the iPad will struggle at places without a consistent equipment to Apple products. First, there will be interoperability issues with the existing technology infrastructure. Basically, the iPad which is built around Apples iPhone OS, will require students and tech folks to accommodate a new operating system. At a place like UND, there is only minimal support for OS X and very little support for Linux, so I can't imagine their being sufficient technical support for integrating the iPad into the day-to-day classroom environment. This isn't to suggest that the iPad would not function splendidly in those environments or that I can't imagine it's potential, but like a slow moving ship, large, underfunded, university's change courses slowly and if the iPad can not function within the existing technological infrastructure which, for better or for worse, is focused around Microsoft and Windows (XP!), there will be real barriers to its systematic adoption.
Next, I suspect that it's inability to handle Adobe Flash applications and its inability to run multiple programs simultaneously will be series drawbacks. On a phone or smaller and more simple mobile device, the lack of Flash is an acceptable annoyance — after all you're surfing the web on a tiny screen that fits in your pocket; it's not whether the horse can ride the motorcycle well, it's that it can ride it at all. But on a full screen table, the inability to run flash will be a significant draw back. As an example, the iPad will not be able to run the BBC's spectacular History of the World website or the proper web version of the UND homepage. Since Flash remains an economical way for universities, museums, and the media to produce content rich web experiences, the incompatibility with Flash on the iPad will limit some of its popularity among a group who relies heavily on Flash to make their web go. The inability to run multiple applications simultaneously will make it hard to ask the students to jump back and forth from a digital textbook, to an online interface, to a Twitter application and these are the kinds of expectations that we already have with analog media in the classroom. We expect students to be able to "run multiple applications simultaneously" (take notes, annotate a text, and participate in a classroom discussion) and we need to expect our teaching technology to follow suite.
Finally, I have to agree with Jim Groom — the noted and notorious semi-underground higher ed tech guru — who told the Chronicle's Wired Blog that Apple control over the application approval process may be jarring to those in higher education who want to develop specific applications for the iPad. On the one hand, there are universities like Stanford, who have embraced the iPhone apps as a development challenge and teach courses in app development; many more schools, I suspect, will be wary of having to partner with Apple to navigate what most developers claim to be an mysterious and opaque process.
The reason for this wariness, of course, is that the iPad will not be the only player in the high-end tablet market for vary long. Google's Android operating system should soon be powering alternatives to the iPad which will likely suffer many of the same problems with interoperability, but at least represent a more open source alternative to the iPad restricted development model. At the same time, Windows has long powered tablets and these tablet have not caught on the classroom. This probably reflects hardware issues as much as anything, but its hard to imagine that Windows based developers will not soon offer similar products to the iPad with the advantage of being more clearly interoperable with the existing technological infrastructure on a university campus.
2. Twitter and the Wave in the Classroom. Over the last four weeks, I've be experimenting with both Twitter and Google Wave in a classroom setting. Here are some quick updates:
Twitter. I use Twitter in a large, lower division, night class that meets once a week. So far, it has not produced much in the way of immediate results. Students are still unsure how to use Twitter in the classroom. Most of the in-class Tweets are silly comments about the Viking's loss this past weekend (the football Vikings, not the Scandinavian kind) or remarks about how cool they think Sparta is or was. They seem to have forgotten that I know who they are on Twitter because they have provided me with a concordance that connects their Twitter alias with their real names. Outside the classroom, that is during the week between classes, Twitter seems to have at least made the students somewhat more engaged in the material. I ask questions related to the course material in the form of trivia (everything seems more fun if it's called trivia) and get regular responses. I've also had some nice responses to reflection questions: e.g. Would you rather live the Athens of Perikles or Sparta of the Classical Age? (More preferred Sparta, um, largely because the movie made it seem real cool.) At present probably 15%-20% of those in class who have signed up for Twitter have used it in some way. For more on my Twitter experiment see here.
Google Wave. I've been using Google's latest and greatest web-based collaborative platform in a small graduate class this semester. So far, it works brilliantly. Even my most technologically challenged graduate student has embraced (reluctantly at first) the wave and has contributed to a wide range of spontaneous, threaded discussions. We have not been as successful using Google Wave to actually collaborate on a specific document, but this aspect of its operability is less refined. More on this as the semester progresses, but I already feel confident in saying that Google Wave has real potential in a graduate level class.
The other day, for vanity’s sake, I was looking at my Blogging Archaeology article over at the Archaeology Magazine webpage. I noticed that it was formally published on January 18, 2008, two years ago. I began to think about how much archaeology’s engagement with the web has changed over the past two years. It’s not that blogs were revolutionary back in ’08, but they still were things that required, at least in an academic and archaeological context, some kind of explanation. While I don’t think that blogs are self-explanatory today nor do I think they’ve reached a point of widespread acceptance as a useful contribution to the academic discourse, they are at least held in less contempt, which may be enough.
The most remarkable thing about the article is how many of the blogs and their links remain live. A few have been dormant over the holiday season with their most recent posts in November ( Adventures with Yo and Mo, Thoughts on Antiquity) and few have changed urls (Alun Salt’s Clioaudio is defunct, but I am sure that he is blogging somewhere), but the vast majority of the blogs listed in 2008 are still active to some extent. This reveals some impressive stability in the archaeological blogosphere. There have also been some great additions to the blogging world like the informative Blogging Pompeii and the wonderfully dramatic Kent-Berlin Ostia Excavations‘ blog and more than a handful of blogs that I missed in my original article (especially worthy of note is Colleen Morgan’s remarkably diverse Middle Savagery, Diana Wright’s elegant Surprised by Time, Katie Rask’s playful and smart Antiquate Vagaries, and the useful Research News in Late Antiquity).
More interesting, however, is the development of alternatives to blogging within the archaeological community. A number of veteran bloggers have moved seamlessly into Tweeting: Alun Salt, the longstanding dean of ancient world bloggers, the Rogue Classicist, Adrian Murdoch of Bread and Circuses, and Chuck Jones, the Librarian at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, who edits and contributes to so many blogs, I can’t keep track. There are some new players as well like Archaeology News. Research News in Late Antiquity provides timely Tweets complementing many of this blog’s posts. The Twitter feed from Archaeology Magazine provides a nice way to keep track of content on their site. Several projects, including mine, the Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project, Twittered from the field allowing a global audience of interested observers to follow the day-to-day or hour-to-hour working of their project.
A simple search of Twitter for the word archaeology produces hundreds of tweets a day dedicated to a whole range of archaeological topics. At the same time, there are a wide range of lists that draw together like-minded tweeters from across the web. These lists begin to bring together the real power of the Twitter as a social-media platform. Like the blog rolls of old, the creators of these lists compile Twitter feeds which interest them. When a particular feed is included on a list, however, it is marked as being “listed”. This allows a user not only to follow a particular feed, but also, to track down and find other similar feeds brought together by Twitter users. Here are the various lists that include the feed for Research News in Late Antiquity and these lists feature the Archaeology Magazine Twitter feed. My Twitter feed only appears on four, lonely, little lists. Despite this obvious snub, these lists remain a great way to track down Twitter feeds that feature content of interest to students of archaeology or the ancient world.
Facebook and other social-media applications have likewise emerged to complement more fully the dynamic “archaeological” blogoshpere. Moreover, it is clear that archaeology will increasingly embrace new media spaces on the web like YouTube (here is PKAP’s YouTube channel) or sites that host podcasts (although these are far less technologically challenging to make available through one’s own website or blog) Perhaps even more important will be the influence of the next generation of communication applications like Google Wave. Already archaeologists have descended upon Google Wav, even though it remains in alpha (not even beta) testing status, to take advantage of its ability to create threaded discussions, realtime chat, and (eventually) integrate a wide range of media.
In any event, this was my superficial effort to bring together some of the applications and spaces that I rely on every day to stay connected to the archaeological world. I will come back and update this page from time to time over the next few weeks. Maybe I’ll even consider writing up a formal article that captures archaeology on the web in 2010.
After a few weeks vacation, I am ready to get back going this semester. And it will be an exciting semester, I think. So here’s something of a preview on the day before my classes start in earnest.
1. Tweaking existing classes. This semester I’ll teach History 101: Western Civilization (in the classroom) and History 240: The Historians Craft. I’ve taught these classes each semester for the past few years. While this can get boring, the one advantage to this continuity is that I can spend time tweaking each class in ways that a more diverse schedule of course preparation just would not allow. For example, check back here to see how I plan to use social media applications in History 101.
2. Public History Interns. As our department tentatively dips its toes in the public history pool, I am going to run a public history internship. Based on the conversations already taking place in Google Wave, it seems like we are off to a good start. The plans include working on an online museum of the Late Antique material from the site of Pyla-Koutsopetria, working with Ryan Stander on the online complement to his gallery show of photographs from this summer’s PKAP season, keying and normalizing the survey and excavation data from the last few PKAP field seasons plus some other odds and ends. Part of their responsibilities will be to write a blog to make their work as transparent as possible.
3. Writing. I am looking forward to wrapping up work on a few articles submitted over the past few years. This includes a co-edited volume of the International Journal of Historical Archaeology and a co-written piece for Hesperia. The PKAP team will submit its last preliminary report to the Report of the Department of Antiquities of Cyprus, and I’ll finish a contribution to Cambridge Encyclopedia of World Religious Architecture on Early Christian baptisteries.
4. Lectures. While my conference schedule is pretty clear this spring, I will deliver the Elwyn Robinson Lecture (which I think will be on Digital Archaeology) sometime in February. Even more exciting in our keynote speaker for the annual Phi Alpha Theta History Conference here at UND: Robin Jensen of Vanderbilt University, has agreed to come and talk about some aspect of her work on Early Christian art and ritual in March. More on this soon!!
5. Reading. I am really looking forward to my winter reading list. First, I need to finish Y. Hamilakis and A. Anagnostopoulos edited volume Archaeological Ethnographies for a review for the European Journal of Archaeology. But I am also looking forward to M. Decker’s Tilling the Hateful Earth: Agricultural Production and Trade in the Late Antique East (Oxford 2009) and V. Makrides, Hellenic Temples and Christian Churches: A concise history of the religious cultures of Greece from antiquity to the present (New York 2009).
6. Blogging. I am looking forward to getting Teaching Thursday going again. At the end of last semester I began to despair of ideas, contributors, and motivation, but after a brief break, I am recommitted to making it work as a forum for conversations about teaching and pedagogy here at UND. I am excited to get feedback on transmedia teaching, using technology in new ways in the classroom, and exploring the potential of Foucault’s panopticon for understanding the experience of teaching online. And more!
7. Administrative. I agreed to write up by-laws for our Working Group in Digital and New Media. Having never written by-laws before (and generally ignoring them when they do exist!), this should be an adventure. I am also working with an interesting group on the redesign of the University’s website. Stay tuned for more on the latter.
Lots on tap for this winter and spring. Plus the standard routine of planning for summer fieldwork and writing grants.
So plenty of blog-fodder!
Just before the holidays, I was invited to give the library’s Elwyn Robinson Lecture. The librarian suggested that I do something that highlights how my research will benefit from the newly established Working Group in Digital and New Media. This would coincide well with Elwyn Robinson’s interest in the “new media” of his day, namely radio. Robinson’s Heroes of Dakota radio broadcast brought the University of North Dakota, the department of history, and his research on the history of North Dakota to a broad audience far beyond the limits of scholarly publication. His broadcasts were so popular that he circulated paper copies of his broadcasts to listeners across the state and his research for this broadcasts became the basis for his course on the history of region and the state and eventually his magnum opus, The History of North Dakota. So in some sense, Robinson embraced what some scholars today would call a transmedia approach to scholarship.
My approach to using the digital and new media in the service of historical and archaeological research shares two features at least with Robinson’s: it is both practical and, as yet, under-theorized. I am contemplating using the Robinson lecture to try to assign some theoretical or at very least methodological aspect to my use of digital and new media approaches in my own research. In particular, I am thinking about articulating the notion of digital workflow and its implications in my own archaeological research.
By digital workflow, I mean the use of digital technologies across the entire range of archaeological procedures from pre-season planning, data collection in the field, and the dissemination of our results across multiple platforms for diverse audiences. I like to imagine that our deep dependence on digital data and applications shaped not only how we approached historical and archaeological problems but also how we understood the results of our research and imagined the process of scholarly critique as well as pedagogical . This is, in part, a response to the view of digital technology as merely a tool that scholars and teachers deploy in the ongoing search for truth rather than an “active” participant in the process of determining what truths are significant, knowable, and even imaginable within a particular academic discourse.
This is a pretty ambitious goal for a 30 minute paper and would reach well beyond my intellectual comfort zone. It would require me to link the mundane world of field procedures to the more ethereal world of epistemology. The most obvious point of contact is through an emphasis on documenting archaeology as a performance. If the performance of archaeological procedure and method is central to the production of authentic archaeological knowledge, then archaeological knowledge would certainly benefit from the growing set of tools capable of documenting efficiently the whole range of archaeological experiences (from the daily grind of excavation to evening banter with colleagues and the reflective moments at the end of a chaotic field season).
Another, perhaps more practical, example would emphasize how the wide dissemination of applications designed to facilitate collaborative research from Wiki-pages to blogs and the yet unrecognized potential of applications like Google Wave open the door to more democratic approaches to field research as it became easier to distribute decision making and analysis across a more diverse team. These applications allow almost real-time collaboration across the world blurring the century old division between academic periphery and the center. While such de-centered projects have clear limitations – our project is often better at identifying problems than establishing a clear course of action – and rest on assumptions of how knowledge production is organized that precede the existence of particular digital applications, digital collaborative workspaces rest upon the assumption that so-called “collective intelligence” is superior to judgment of a single individual serving as director.
A similar process of relying upon a digital, collaborative environment appears in the way in which the curation of archaeological data will change with the production, storage, and dissemination of archaeological data in digital media. In past, the careful documentation of archaeological information was largely confined to analog storage devices. This included film based photographs, paper notebooks (often archived on microfilm), and carefully archived paper illustrations and plans. Today, most projects have some level of digitization involved in the recording of archaeological information. Forward thinking project store this data on servers which typically include digital back-ups in their basic infrastructure. Once on a server, this digital data, unlike its analog predecessors, is available to groups of researchers around the world. As these scholars use this data, they can typically download some form of the various datasets onto their personal computers, servers, and backup systems, effectively multiplying the copies of the existing archaeological data. As researchers use the data, they invariably move the information from one format to another for analysis or manipulation and, in some case, they produce alternate versions of the original data (hopefully with a full complement of metadata). As a result, they participate in the process of preserving the data by ensuring the proliferation of copies and ensuring that it remains in a useable format. Like the de-centered, collaborative model of decision making, the de-center, collaborative model of archaeological data curation relies upon the (relatively) easy movement of digital data from person to person and from format to format.
The audience of the Robinson lectures is a mix of academics and non-academics. My talk would largely focus on the part of the audience who still struggle to understand why it is important to develop not only the physical aspects of the digital infrastructure (servers, computers, software), but also the theoretical and practical aspects of the digital infrastructure especially in the humanities (which have remained on many campuses bastions of unapologetically analog thinking). At the same time, the paper will continue my own effort to articulate in more sophisticated terms the effect of the digital technologies on my own research.
Some quick notes on Google data for the University of North Dakota Website. I did this mostly for fun, but the results are sort of interesting…
The goal of this short report is to summarize my very superficial analysis of our site data via the Google Trends interface. I suspect that this report will raise more questions than answers, but some of the patterns in the data are interesting (and perhaps vaguely alarming). As with all things Google, they are relatively opaque concerning what variable go into their analysis, but I suspect that they are more or less stable and the analysis is systematic.
Analysis of und.edu
This first graph shows the number of visitors who visit the website over a 1 day period. This chart compares und.edu (in blue) with ndsu.edu (on red), and as a control grandforksherald.com (in gold). The most curious thing about these graphs is the huge drop in traffic over summer of 2008. This could be a simple matter of the data that Google for analysis, but if it is associated with a particular change in the way that the site was organized, the we should make note that visitors stopped visiting our main domain (i.e. und.edu) rather abruptly and most never returned.
Moreover, the general trend, according to page rank, is that our site (as well as ndsu’s site) has become less popular through time. It is interesting to note, however, that the downward trend appears to be the case will any number of university home pages. This chart adds sdstate.edu (gold) and wichita.edu (green) to the chart. The similar slide over the summer months of 2008 suggest that the pronounced slide in und.edu has at least something to do with how Google collected data.
To compare the decline in the number of visits to main domains, here is a chart comparing four major big ten universities: osu.edu (blue), psu.edu (red), umich.edu (gold or, better, maize), and umn.edu:
They all show similar declines with a slide during the summer months of 2008 (although this slide is far less pronounced at osu.edu).
The rather steady decline of the und.edu domain also appears in the data prepared for Google Ad Planner. Of course, in this context Google is trying to sell us on advertisements, so they have every interest in showing declining visitors, but it is nevertheless interesting:
To this can be added some basic demographic data collected by Google. I take this cum grano salis, but it is interesting to contemplate and there might be so real motive for Google to be accurate here. They make money (actually, almost all their money) from per-click advertisements. So the more people who click on your advertisement, the better they do. Consequently it is in their best interest to provide the user with good data to maximize the visibility and profitability of their advertisements.
While the data from these charts is probably inconclusive, it seems to suggest that visitors to the main domain of university pages are on the decline. This may well reflect the proliferation of servers on campus (and multiple domains), but I suspect that it also reflects changes in how the web is surfed, with visitors less frequently jumping from main page to main page and more frequently entering into domains through numerous other entry points.
Google Insights for Search (beta) Data
This service provides data on “the number of searches for a particular term relative to the total number of searches done on Google over time” normalized on a scale of 0-100. To begin, I compared the search terms “University of North Dakota” (light blue) to “North Dakota State University” (red). Since these are specific search terms, it is probably worth noting that NDSU is probably better known was “North Dakota State” than “North Dakota State University”, I included searches for “North Dakota State” (gold). I would guess that the higher “North Dakota State” numbers are bolstered by people searching for things other than the NDSU, like state offices or even general information on the state itself.
This graph shows the relationship between the overall number of searches in the specific category of colleges (dark blue) and universities to searches for “University of North Dakota” (light blue), “North Dakota State” (gold) and “North Dakota State University” (red); the dark blue line represents the relative growth of the number of specific searches against searches for colleges and universities in general. Apparently “University of North Dakota” performs better as a “global brand” than in the subset of university and college searches. Note the huge spike in searches for North Dakota State and North Dakota State University precipitated by the flooding last spring!
It is important to note that the downward sloping
line does not necessarily mean that the number of searches for “University of North Dakota” is declining, but that the number of searches for this term in relation to the number of searches through Google overall is declining. The line however does decline at a significantly steeper slope than the lines for either “North Dakota State” or “North Dakota State University”. This suggests that the number of searches for our university name have declined more significantly in relation to all searches than searches for our friendly rival to the south.
As a check on this, I also compared Google searches for UND versus those for NDSU, recognizing, of course, that und is a very common word where I don’t thing ndsu means anything (it may be a kind of Asian fungus, but even then a rather rare one). To compensate for this I limited our comparison to the U.S. where people use the word und somewhat less frequently than, say, in Germany. I also did a comparison for North Dakota and Minnesota. UND is light blue and NDSU is red.
In the US:
In North Dakota (with forecasted data):
In Minnesota (with forecasted data):
The results here were surprising. Despite the fact that “UND” is a word, it is still being searched for less than “NDSU” in North Dakota and they are very close in Minnesota.
As another point of comparison for the analysis of various searches, I produced a chart based on searches for “Penn State” (blue), “Ohio State” (red), “University of Michigan” (maize) and “University of Minnesota” (green). The very dark blue line shows the overall searches for the Colleges and University Category.
It clear that the searches for the name of the university reflect the rhythm of academic life (and presumably recruitment), with peaks in September and October. To see whether I could isolate other, non-academic influences, I plotted searches for WCHA (red), “Fighting Sioux” (gold) and “University of North Dakota” (blue). To be safe, I checked the WCHA against searches for “Frozen Four” and found them almost completely parallel. I also checked “Fighting Sioux” against “Sioux Hockey” and found that they carved a similar pattern. In any event, it is interesting to note how little the Fighting Sioux’s end of the season battles has on searches for the term “University of North Dakota”.
Like the charts based on visits to various specific pages and domains, these charts (which show specific searches) also show a decline of searches for broad forms of classification. This chart reflects the decline in specific searches for the name of the university (i.e. University of North Dakota) and it more or less coincides with the decline in site visits to und.edu as a specific domain. The best analysis of this correlation is that visitors to our site (which according to our in-house Google Analytics data have remained relatively stable) are entering through venues other than the main und.edu page and they are not searching for the university through general search terms like “University of North Dakota”.
I digitized the last trench plan for the Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project field season yesterday. In general, we digitize trench plans on the fly in the field directly into our GIS. This allowed us to produce publication quality illustrations (or close to it) while still excavating and allow us to make sure that we have the detail in the trench plans correct and identify problems while the trench is still fresh in everyone’s mind. This year, however, we experienced some complicated trench plans that simply defied quick digitization. So the digitizing process was put off until now, when I was finally able to digitize the last trench plan. The plan below shows a trench at the southwest corner of an annex building of an Early Christian basilica. The majority of the annex room was excavated over 10 years ago by a team from the Department of Antiquities. We excavated a trench to the southwest of the main excavated area to both clarify some stratigraphic issues and to determine whether there was more architecture to the west of the annex room.