November 21, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Several members of the Working Group in Digital and New Media have been discussing glitch art. Some of this was inspired by Mark Amerika‘s glitched contribution to the Arts and Culture gallery show titled “The Eastern Shore of Maryland”. The term glitch art refers to digital images that are manipulated by deleting lines of code or through sometimes random processes of data and file corruption.
In a few brief conversations I became interested in the performative aspect of glitching art as much as the results. So on a grey Saturday, I started glitching some of the images that I prepared for the final publication of our survey at Pyla-Koutsopetria. The first step was converting the .tif files to .jpg files. Jpegs appear to be more susceptible to glitching and less likely to fail. Once the file is in .jpg format, it it possible to open it up in NotePad or TextEdit to and manipulate the code.
I started with an image like this:
Deleting random code made it look like this:
These images are randomly glitched. I have no idea what code I took out and could not replicate this. Each image is effectively unique. Some attempts to produce this kind of glitched image resulted in the file being too seriously corrupted, and it could not be opened.
A more systematic effort at glitching involved cutting parts of the code and replacing them. The advantages of this is that its replicable. By swapping out the effectively random letters (to me) that made up the code for the image, I began to think a bit more about how to introduce to the images something less random. In other words, to make the language of the image intersect with the more easily understood forms of verbal communication.
For this image I replaced the combination “SM”, the initials of Scott Moore, our ceramicist, with my initials BC:
For this image, I replaced “DP”, for our co-director David Pettegrew, with “BC”:
Finally, I replaced the letter P with the acronym of our project “PKAP” (the Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project):
The idea of these last three images is to combine computer code and human codes to transform our computer mediate image of archaeological reality in unpredictable ways. The process is remarkably similar to analyzing the site via the GIS where we take the “natural” landscape and transform it into a series of symbols, lines, and text. By manipulating the code that produces these images in both random and patterned ways, we manipulate the meaning of the image and the way in which these images communicate information to the viewer. We problematize the process and manifestation of mediating between the experienced landscape and its representation as archaeological data.
November 8, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Today the working Group in Digital and New Media had their third open house. We had a nice crowd throughout the afternoon as various university dignitaries and colleagues came through to check out the newest work.
Tim Pasch provided music, Jim Champion prepared a melting sculpture, and various other projects from music, history, and art and design were on display. A few pictures show off the lab space and the projects.
November 6, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Next year, in April, this blog turns 6. So by then, I’ll have been blogging for five years. So there are children who are going to kindergarten who have never lived in a world without my blog. Or, in statement more appropriate for the day, my blog has run for longer than Barak Obama has been President. In our fast paced, new media world, five years is a long time. In my academic world, however, five years is not a very long time particularly in the humanities. For example, the manuscript for our volume dedicated to the survey we conducted at the site of Pyla-Koutsopetria has existed in some form for close to 5 years and still has not seen publication.
The reason I’m musing on the life of my blog is that I’ve begun to think about what I can do with my 5 years worth of blogging experience. I feel like I should mark this in some way, and I have begun to think about producing some kind of traditional publication reflecting my experiences blogging archaeology. The problem is, of course, translating my experiences to a contribution to the large and growing scholarly discourse on social media, new forms of publication, and new methods for documenting and analyzing research. Part of me wants to write an reflective essay that eschews the limitations and requirements of academic writing, but another part of my wants to put my experiences in a broader and more rigorous academic context.
1. Research Transparency. I wonder what impact increased research transparency has on the academic discourse. Blogging has always been a way for me to make my “creative process” (such as it is) visible to a wider audience. Is there a value to letting people see the man behind the curtain and is this kind of transparency significant across academic life in general? In other words, is my transparency (albeit of a studied kind) significant for how scholars read academic production more broadly?
2. New Forms of Publication. Blogs exist in the uneasy place between the formal standards of academic publication and the more spontaneous social media. As formal publication standards adapt to new media and methods associated with digital publication and social media becomes increasingly fluid and informal, the middle ground of the blog is increasingly emptied of its place in the publishing landscape. It can be more spontaneous than studied, more individual than collective, and more austere than elaborate, but I wonder whether this is enough to keep the practice vital into the second decade of the 21st century?
3. New Forms of Audience. One of the key aspects of digital publication is the ease with which audience behavior can be tracked. Statistics make our readers more visible than ever, but in the spontaneous world of digital publication, they also tempt us to respond to reader and viewer statistics in ways that a previous generation of content providers (in an academic realm) could push into the background. There have been days when I sat at my computer wondering what I should write about and knowing that I need to provide content to my blog in order to keep my reader’s attention. Is this a good thing?
October 25, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Yesterday I walked across the street to hear the panel discussion hosted by the 2012 Arts and Culture Series. The panel brought together practitioners of various forms of digital art ranging from music to animation to digital and new media journalism. The panel was packed with smart, thoughtful people. (The screening and conversation with Max Porter and Ru Kuwahata from Tiny Inventions was particular remarkable.)
The panel discussion began with an interesting question regarding the place of digital technologies as a kind of “philosopher’s stone” that could transform one media to the next. This resonated a bit with some of my thoughts regarding the role of archaeology as a mediating discipline between physical objects and ideas. Texts (and photographs, plans, drawings, and increasingly video) do much of the heavy lifting between object and idea within the archaeological discourse. As Max Porter and Ru Kuwahata and Andy Ihnatko noted at several points in their talks, the goal of the (new) media’s philosopher stone is to tell stories and create experiences.
Another useful question that the able moderator asked is how digital technologies have transformed the rhythm of life for the artists on the panel. The journalists commented on how the digital age has created a 24 hour new cycle in which they must at least attempt to engage. Others commented on how they could now communicate in realtime with collaborators and partners around the world. Others still noted that the manual components of their work (practicing piano or making prints on paper) seemed to stubbornly resist any of the supposed efficiencies presented by a digital commons.
I got to think about our academic pace of life on how digital technologies have transformed it. One thing that the panelists make clear, the ability of the digital world to collapse space has a clear connection with its tendency to compress or collapse time. Global workflows and instant communication have changed work patterns and professional expectations. I blog every day because not only because I think I might have something to say, but also because the digital rhythms of internet-mediated, personal publishing demands a kind of regularity in the production of content that a group of writers would have managed to fulfill the expectations of earlier media.
This is all to set up an advertisement for myself (in a round-about way). Check out the Cyprus Research Fund Lecture today at 4 pm CST. Keeping with the theme of collapsing space and time, the talk will be streamed live on the internets. Click here to get to the talk.
If you’re old school, stop by the East Asia Room in the Chester Fritz Library at 4 pm to hear the talk live and in-person.
August 28, 2012 § Leave a Comment
One of the thing that I was pretty unprepared for when I became a university professor is learning how to deal with media attention (and, if necessary, create it!). While I like to tell people about my research, as readers of this blog know, my research tends to be relatively inaccessible.
(My hope that this blog would open up my work to new audiences has not been entirely unsuccessful.)
These days, however, when public patience with and support for academia seemingly at all time lows (whether this is really the case or not, if very difficult to determine), it feels all the more important to make my research not only relevant but also visible to a wider audience. The fact that it is a legislative year in North Dakota makes it all the more important that we connect our position in the public trust and to the work we do.
So this past week has been a bit of a crash course in media management as my North Dakota Man Camp Project has blown up (this is the locus classicus for this phrase, but it’s not rated-pg) in the (local) media. So, here’s what’s happened:
First, I wrote a press release here.
Then, the writers in the University of North Dakota’s Office for University Relations turned it into this press release.
It was also quickly picked up by the local TV; it is at the 4:00 mark of this broadcast by WDAZ.
The most in-depth coverage came from Prairie Public Radio here.
None of this is likely to change the world or even make much of an impact as hurricanes and conventions have taken center stage in the ever-churning news cycle. On the other hand, it does feel good to play a part in getting some of my research out of the cul-de-sac that is academic conversation.
May 1, 2012 § Leave a Comment
It was about 5 years ago that I started this very blog to “keep our friends, families, donors, and colleagues up to date on our work both in the field and back in the office.” Here’s a link to that first post tucked away deep in the bowels of the Archive for the Archaeology of the Mediterranean World. Our hope was that we could provide a window into the daily work, social relationships, and experiences of archaeological work to provide a context for the sometimes de-humanized empirical data produced from our time in the field.
Since that time, most archaeological projects have developed some social or new media aspect to their work (or have chosen not to for reasons grounded in the discourse of social and new media rather than just naiveté or petty resistance). With near ubiquitous mobile phone coverage it is now possible to use microblogging platforms like Twitter from almost every corner of the world. Twitter and its rather more reckless cousin Facebook have provided important places for the circulation of up-to-the-minute updates on projects and for the development of community among the researchers, volunteers, staff, supporters, and interested observers around the world. Projects have worked to produce guidelines to help folks new to blogging and social media negotiate the world of archaeological blogging. Conferences and conference panels, both virtual and real, have occurred discussing the virtues and potential pitfalls of blogging and archaeology. In general, projects have found new ways to use the internet to engage a longstanding fascination with archaeological work among a wide range of people and to feed the almost insatiable hunger among professional archaeologists for news from the trowels edge.
Our field staff and volunteers have become more tech savvy. For example, this year, our three trench supervisors – Brandon Olson, Dallas Deforest, and Aaron Barth – all have blogs. My two co-directors, David Pettegrew and Scott Moore, are experienced bloggers as well. I expect that we’ll continue to provide a platform for our students to blog on their experiences. This may be rather more foreign to them, but our Twitter hashtag for the season (#PKAP12) and our volunteers’ Facebook or Twitter accounts will provide them with their own communities and audiences for their reflections on their work. We (well, Scott Moore has) a YouTube channel.
This summer, we’ll extend our social and new media reach into the field. Messiah College – one of our three co-sponsoring institutions – will provide the project with iPads for the students to use in the field, the museum, and the hotel. They should be able to publish photographs, video, and reflections directly from the field. Prof. Sam Fee from Washington and Jefferson College, has developed an application for us that we will test this summer to collect data from our trenches. We are very close to being able to publish our raw archaeological data from the side of our trenches in realtime. In an era where “transparency” is becoming a watchword for academic, political, and institutional integrity, we are very close to achieving complete transparency in archaeological data collection and analysis. Every step of the process could be made visible to an outside observer.
There are reasons, of course, to limit some of our transparency and these have little to do with issues of integrity and much more to do with issues of security around a site that has already suffered significant degradation at the hands of looters. Moreover, we have done little to provide tools for a wider audience to interrogate raw archaeological data “from the trowel’s edge”. The data rich immediacy of the trowel’s edge perspective rarely serves even an experience archaeologist as any more than a starting point for their own understanding of a trench. It is only in aggregation and comparison of stratigraphy, features, objects, and relationships that real archaeological knowledge emerges.
So over five years, we’ve moved from the rush of providing a window into life and work of an archaeological project to the prospects of almost immediate data transparency.
April 18, 2012 § Leave a Comment
When I started this blog several years ago, I regularly included more news-like updates about my day to day academic life (whether here in North Dakotaland or in Athens, Greece). At some point, the blog drifted more toward being a research journal. In the end, I don’t have a tremens personal or ideological commitment to one form of blogging or the others.
So, I’ll offer some photographs from last Tuesday’s Working Group in Digital and New Media event at the Firehall Theatre in Grand Forks. The presentations were lively and the food was amazing (and generously provided by the Cyprus Research Fund).
The photos are by Ryan Stander.
The assembled masses
Prof. Crystal Alberts served as an able M.C.
One of Prof. Paul Worley’s characters from the Yucatan where he works with Prof. Joel Jonientz to produce Maya language animated films.
Prof. Travis Dessel, the newest Working Group member, discusses the use of volunteer computing to document Wildlife@home.
Graduate Student Jim Champion presents his marvelous melting sculptures
Prof. Tim Pasch and Prof. Mike Wittgraf make digital music together
The event saw over 50 people come out to see the fantastic digital and new media works of my colleagues, and we considered that a great crowd for the first effort to showcase the efforts of the Working Group in front of the wider university and local community.
March 26, 2012 § Leave a Comment
It feels like I haven’t done a metadata Monday for a while, so maybe, a slow early spring Monday is a perfect time to rectify this oversight.Since I last metadata-ed, I’ve made 123 posts for a total of 323 and have moved from right around 56 page views per day to just over 70. There has been a steady climb in page views as the quantity of content grows and my blog has become more visible and as new readers discover the brilliance (cough, cough) of my musings.
One of the cooler new features offered by the service that hosts this blog (wordpress.com) tracks the location of various readers. They’ve been tracking my readers for about a month now, so I have at useful little dataset.
Only 48.6% of my visits come from the United States. The rest comp from a mix of other places. The UK ranks second (8.8%), followed by Greece (8.6%), Canada (3.6%), and, oddly enough, the Philippines (3.3%). Australia ranks sixth (3.2%), with Italy (2.7%), France (2%), Turkey (1.9%), and Spain (1.5%) filling out the top ten. The vast majority of the countries (99%) on the list have more than page view. It’s interesting that I don’t receive any views from China or Iran. These were countries from which I consistently received views in the past (see here, here, here, here, here, here, and, of course, here (which doesn’t actually have metadata but was delicious!)). I wonder if my blog is blocked now?
UPDATE: I just heard through a friend of a friend that wordpress.com is blocked in China which accounts for the lack of page views from there.
Over the same 30 day span, my internet community looks a bit different. The vast majority of page views (72.5%) come from search engines. My old blog, which I leave up as a cleverly set trap for crawling searchers pushes 6.6% of my page views in my general direction. Kostis Kourelis blog send 2.6% my way (although the author has admitted that many of those might be his views; they still count!). Research News in Late Antiquity, Surprised by Time, Corinthian Matters, Paperless Archaeology, all send right around 1%. I still haven’t quite figured out the extent to which I should use Twitter and Facebook, but the two combined for about 1.6% of my views.
So, if you’re an regular reader, I apologize for turning you into a number, and I appreciate you taking time to view my little pseudo-literary adventure here! Keep coming back!
January 18, 2012 § Leave a Comment
I feel like I probably should do something to recognize the potential damage that the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) could have on the free circulation of information and knowledge via scholarly blogging. A few months ago when the threat seemed a bit more distant, Eric Kansa offered some observations on the legislation. Here’s Google’s take on it. Here’s a more generic take by CBS News. Here’s Gizmodo’s take (and a silly song).
The biggest concern with an act like SOPA isn’t that bloggers will start being dragged from their laptops and thrown into rat-infested jails, but that the infrastructure (companies like WordPress.com or even universities or companies that provide server space) that supports blogging (for scholarly and, indeed, other untoward purposes) could suddenly become liable for copyright infringements by their users. While I’m in a business that relies, to a large extent, on a profession and largely unpoliced respect for copyright, I also depend regularly on the free circulation of information through the good graces of numerous highly risk-adverse institutions. As Eric has pointed out, universities and libraries seek to implement policies that minimize risk particularly in these difficult financial times. The harsh penalties and expansive view of liability proposed by SOPA would have real implications for those of us seeking to discuss, circulate, and archive copyright information on the web as universities and libraries work to limit their exposure to the vague rules and harsh penalties.
While it is unclear how significant the support for this legislation is, several sites on the web are taking it seriously enough to stage a protest. The open web has made my life better. I am not particularly afraid of SOPA passing, but I do think that bloggers should join the chorus of voices who support the open web against organizations and corporations who seek to curtail the free circulation of information to protect the interests of a small group of content producers. In fact, as most scholars’ livelihood depends upon respect for intellectual property, it is particularly important for the academic community to speak out when possible to show that rigorous protection of intellectual property and the free circulation of information are not mutually exclusive propositions.