December 30, 2012 § Leave a Comment
The pink sky only appears for a little bit in the morning.
December 24, 2012 § Leave a Comment
On a frigid walk home from a friend’s house, watched the sky around the North Pole prepare for Santa’s annual trek through the heavens.
I had seen hints of the aurora borealis a few times over the past year, but never as dramatic as on Saturday night. I was not expecting to see them, so I wasn’t prepared to do anything with them photographically, but I did try to capture them first with my iPhone 5 and then with a DSLR (without a tripod!).
So, on Christmas Eve when you look north, I hope the sky brings you something spectacular.
December 22, 2012 § 1 Comment
December 13, 2012 § 1 Comment
I spent some time this fall preparing grant applications for my work at Polis-Chrysochous in western Cyprus. One of the points that I make in most of the applications is that our area of the site provides a tremendous opportunity to study the phenomenon of residuality in ancient ceramics. This is the tendency for ancient pottery to continue to appear in contexts far removed from its original function. I am interesting in considering how it is that broken sherds of tableware appear in fills, floor packing, or in discard context created many centuries after the vessels from which these sherds derived arrived in Cyprus or on a Cypriot table.
As I reflect on this very basic and ubiquitous archaeological process, I have become more attentive to residuality in my own life. I have begun to take note of objects that appear far removed in time and space from their original contexts.
So, on Tuesday, as I got ready for my quick jaunt back east, I noted this hanger in my closet.
The hanger comes from North Hills Cleaners in Wilmington, Delaware. I haven’t spent time in Wilmington for over 5 years now, have lived in North Dakota for almost 10, and probably haven’t been to North Hills Cleaners for close to 20! My parents frequented North Hills Cleaners my entire childhood so it is not hard to imagine how this hanger appeared in my closet, but, on the other hand, it is difficult to track the specific sequence of events that would allow something like this to persist in our household through several moves and probably a complete turnover in hangers. Like the Carrefour plastic shopping bag from Cyprus that entered my lunch bag rotation in the spring of 2010, even relatively ephemeral everyday objects can have remarkable histories and life spans.
Now, back to grading…
December 11, 2012 § Leave a Comment
I’m traveling for a few days, which is lovely because we’re having the first cold snap of the year. The best thing about the really cold weather and the blowing snow and ice are the beautiful sun frogs that appear. This gives me a chance to spread knowledge. They’re called sun frogs because the early white settlers in the area thought that they resembled bizarrely gelatinous frog eggs. They are one of my favorite things.
December 10, 2012 § Leave a Comment
The only advantage of having my flight to Minneapolis and beyond cancelled this morning is that I was able to enjoy an amazing North Dakota morning sky.
December 10, 2012 § Leave a Comment
I have a little traveling to do today as I head back east to New York City for an AIA lecture. Ordinarily I’d make some quip about heading to the bright lights of the Big City.
But, as these very recent NASA photographs from space show, the bright lights are now much closer than the east or west coasts. The Bakken Oil Patch now lights up the North Dakota sky, and like the brights lights of New York, it represents both prosperity and heartbreak, affluence and poverty, hopes and miss opportunities. Now, I’m getting carried away.
The detail of the Bakken Oil Patch is even more insane. The dots immediately to the east of the swarming glow of the Bakken are Minot and Bismarck. The glows on the far right of this photo are Fargo in the lower right and Grand Forks, center right.
December 4, 2012 § 2 Comments
And it will be awesome.
I have many projects. Part of my particular limitations as a scholar is my inability to look away from shiny objects or to avoid chasing rabbits. Punk archaeology officially began in February 2008 with a series of posts by myself and Kostis Kourelis on the famous Punk Archaeology blog. Post continued to appear over the next three years and the idea bounced around our heads in an unformed way.
Enter Aaron Barth. Aaron is a graduate student in history at North Dakota State University, and he worked with us in Cyprus this past summer. Over the course of fieldwork in Cyprus, Punk Archaeology came up again and some four or five months later, something has come of these conversations.
Thanks to Aaron Barth’s prompting, some money from the North Dakota Humanities Council, enthusiastic responses from friends and colleague, interest from an amazing group of bands from the Red River Valley, and an open-minded group of collaborators at both North Dakota State and the University of North Dakota, Punk Archaeology is officially happening.
February 2nd/3rd Sidestreet Grille and Pub in Fargo, North Dakota.
Like us on the Facebook (if you want, if you don’t that’s cool too).
Here is the official announcement:
I’m excited to announce that we have secured a venue, funding, and bands for our Punk Archaeology Event at the Sidestreet Grille and Pub in Fargo on February 2nd/3rd. This is going to happen and it will be awesome.
So, in order to get us in the spirit of Punk Archaeology, I thought I might share some of the intellectual background of the “movement”. The idea came up in conversation between myself and Kostis Kourelis and archaeologist and architectural historian who now teaches at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa. We both observed that quite a few archaeologists had some interest in punk rock music. As we considered the causes and consequences of this coincidence, we got to think about how punk rock music – and the larger aesthetic and lifestyle associated with that musical form – influenced archaeology. We then began to document some of these musings in a blog: Punk Archaeology, and, from time to time, talked about turning the blog into something more.
This is where Aaron Barth stepped in. He and I had conversations about Punk Archaeology over the course of some collaborative fieldwork and decided to bring Punk Archaeology to reality by hosting a colloquium in Fargo. So far, we have a great group of scholars willing to contribute, an intriguing group of bands, and a fantastic venue for a meeting that will interrogate the borders of the academy, popular culture, and loud, chaotic, and confused social critique.
So, what’s next?
We’re approaching this event in a completely open-minded way, but offer for some guidance our Punk Archaeology blog. The event will feature a series of short statements, stories, or vignettes that capture the spirit and critique of punk archaeology. We envision these to be between 800 and 1000 words or 3-5 minutes in length (in the spirit of punk!). After the short statements, the audience will be invited to respond, and after this conversation more bands will play and the participants in the round table meld back into the audience blurring the lines between performance and reception.
After the event, we will collect the conference proceedings and some invited contributions including some of the comments by the audience for publication. The book will include essays from the Punk Archaeology blog, from the event, and the responses of the audience. Our plan is to invite Kostis Kourelis and Andrew Reinhard to provide some critical feedback on the paper as a level of peer review, but we’re also committed to capturing the live aspects of the evening. The book will be published in house and be available as an ebook, a print-on-demand paper volume, and be raw DIY.
Finally, here are the details of the event.
Music by Andrew Reinhard (feat. Aaron Barth), June Panic, Les Dirty Frenchmen, and What Kingswood Needs.
Papers by Aaron Barth (NDSU), Bill Caraher (UND), Kris Groberg (NDSU), Richard Rothaus (Trefoil Cultural and Environmental), Joshua Samuels (NDSU), Peter Schultz (Concordia College), and Andrew Reinhard (The American School of Classical Studies Publication Office). We are working on Kostis Kourelis (Franklin and Marshall College)!
We are sponsored by the North Dakota Humanities Council, Laughing Sun Brewery, and The Cyprus Research Fund. The Sidestreet Grille and Pub has graciously provided us with a venue.
Graphic art, publication, audio-visual support will come the Working Group of Digital and New Media at the University of North Dakota. Prof. Tom Isern of The Center for Heritage Renewal at North Dakota State University is our Patron of Punk.
November 27, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Balloon and kite photography has increasingly become part of the archaeologist tool kit. As my colleague Richard Rothaus explains, kites provide a relatively inexpensive method for taking aerial landscape photography. Archaeologists have also used balloons for such practices since the early part of the 20th century and balloons with kite-like aspects provide a relatively stable photography platform in even challenging environments. My impression is that kite and balloon photography developed, at least in part, during the 19th century in conjunction with both increasingly scientific map-making and military practices. Archaeologists, particularly those interested in landscapes, followed the lead of surveyors and the military tacticians and adapted both kites and balloons as low-cost alternatives for documenting archaeological remains. (In the 20th century, of course, satellite photographs and even our beloved GPS units are another point in this adapting military tools to archaeological needs. The line between military knowledge and archaeological intent remains quite fine and most archaeologists who work in strategically sensitive areas can tell (sometimes humorous) stories of the tension between local officials and their own easy access to high-resolution images of local strategic assets.)
With the growing popularity and sophistication of various unmanned aerial vehicles, the opportunities for low-level aerial photography and documentation have reached a new threshold. The University of North Dakota has been at the forefront of research into the design and use of UAVs and has come increasingly to recognize the potential threats to privacy that these kinds of technologies pose. For scholars in the humanities, however, the threat of a surveillance society is not particularly alarming or new. Since Foucault’s landmark Discipline and Punish, scholars have recognized surveillance as a crucial component of late capitalism and the production of a society designed around the optimal efficiency necessary to produce goods and ideas for the market. The expansion of the internet and various wired technologies in our everyday life (mobile phones, tablet computers, cars, et c.) ensures that companies monitor our daily transactions and movements to ensure that we can become perfect consumers. Online teaching – as I have argued elsewhere – has taken many of the ideas that we’ve learned from the internet, earlier forms of surveillance, and a pedagogy committed to transparency in the learning process and created an environment that prepares our students to move into a even more closely monitored society. In this context, the concern over privacy and UAVs seems an expected way to secure the barn door long after the horse has left.
That being said, the concepts of surveillance is not exclusive to corporate or government interests, however. Just as archaeologists have found technology developed for military purposes suitable for more subversive goals, we are recognizing low-cost techniques melded to the central tenets of the surveillance society can provide the basis for a subversive critique of at least some of the forces that produced this surveillance (either directly or indirectly). While we are all familiar with the threat that many law enforcement agencies see in citizens’ right to photograph or video record their interaction with the police, some colleagues here on the North Plains have begun to discuss using balloon and kite photography to document the activities of the oil companies in the Bakken Oil Patch. In particular, we have begun to think seriously about using new, low-cost balloon kits and open-source software to train residents of the Bakken counties to monitor the activities of oil companies.
This does two things. First it serves a practical purpose of providing a very recent aerial photographs of the rapidly changing activities in the oil patch. Second (and more significantly, I think), it provides an opportunity for archaeologists to teach local residents how to use surveillance practices to regain some control over their local landscape.