End of the Blog?

Over the last week or so, I’ve been thinking a good bit about the future of this blog. I’ve been writing this blog for 10 or 11 years or something, and I’m starting to feel that it has strayed pretty far from its original intent. Or maybe it hasn’t. Maybe it is the context for the blog (and maybe blogging in general) has changed over the last decade.

I know for certain that my position in the field has changed and in academia has changed, and, as a result, my priorities have changed. 

I also know that all projects should come to an end and, sometimes it is better to fade away rather than burn out.

This is what I’m thinking:

1. Internet Culture has Changed. Over the last year or so, I’ve had a few missteps in managing my online persona. Some of these are more visible than others for casual readers of this blog. For example, this summer, I responded a bit too assertively to an article.

More recently, I was scolded by a couple trusted colleagues for responding a bit too puckishly to scholars on social media. In hindsight, I was clearly in the wrong and more than a bit tone deaf to both the medium and the particular conversation (and this isn’t the first time that I’ve been a bit off base). More than that, I responded in haste like I would in a casual conversation over beers rather than in a deliberate and thoughtful way. So not only were my comments hasty but they were unproductive as well. From the start I viewed social media as a kind of casual space designed for playful banter (something like the banter one has at the bar at an academic conference), but if we’ve learned anything from an armada of Russian bots, social media is much more than that. There is probably less space in it for my silly (and largely selfish) sense of humor today than there once was. People are doing serious work in social media and my fucking around is not helping.

At the same time, I wonder whether there is less space today for a blog like this. I’ve always seen it as a platform for the informal exploration of ideas, for half-baked throughs, and for intellectual ephemera. But as many of my colleagues have demonstratedespecially lately – blogs should do more than just serve as a platform for my assorted ramblings or as a self-indulgent expression of my puerile personality. More to the point, I worry whether continuing to write this blog runs the risk of diluting the good work that other folks are doing in this media. Things done changed.  

2. Professional Persona. When I started this blog (approximately 2500 posts and a million words ago), I felt pretty marginal in academia. I was an Assistant Professor at a school on the edge of the frozen prairie. I worked on Cyprus and the Late Antique and Byzantine period. I was a specialist in material culture and archaeology in a history department. Even the archaeology that I did – intensive pedestrian survey – stood at the margins of conventional archaeological practice. I was relatively un-published and anything I wrote could be easily dismissed as the inconsequential thoughts of a junior faculty member at University of Southern North Dakota at Hoople. This gave me a good bit of cover and allowed me to cultivate a persona grounded in alternative practices whether punk archaeology or my overly enthusiastic embrace of blogging. 

While I hate to admit this, I am no longer at the margins of my profession. I’m certainly not at the center or even a central figure, but I can no long indulge my vox clamantis fantasy. I have too many conference papers, invited talks, articles and books, and various other academic gewgaws to be a genuinely marginal figure in my field. I’ve run my own project, I have tenure, and I even have two dogs. With my professional development, however, comes greater expectations, and, as I asserted in point (1), probably requires me to embrace a greater seriousness of purpose in my online persona. This really struck home when in a debate this summer a scholar pointed out to me in a twitter thread that my position and academic credentials give much greater platform to assert my views. 

It goes without saying that as a tenured, married, middle-class, white, male my very identity carries additional authority in public sphere. Even my scruffy beard and largely unkempt hair reinforces my academic credentials in an inescapably masculine way. My interest in stereotypical male things, from my editorializing on sport on my Friday Varia, to my fascinations with high-end stereo gear and fancy watches subtly (and unintentionally) assert my position as a male scholar.   

My position then as a mid-career male scholar with tenure means that, whether I intend it or not, people take the things I do seriously. Even ideas and projects tinged with a bit of intentional frivolity, like Punk Archaeology, have attracted serious academic attention (and this has been remarkably gratifying to me!). More importantly, by taking on the role of editor at North Dakota Quarterly and developing the profile of The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota, I’ve accepted responsibility as a steward of other people’s work. My frivolous behavior online and the half-baked ideas spewed forth to the world from this blog could reflect poorly on other people who have trusted me to promote and support their ideas.

I guess all this is to say that I need to grow up or at least acknowledge that I have grown up and start to behave more like a profession and less like a failed graduate student or a former age-group swim coach (which is how I’ve always thought of myself).

[As an aside, I’m increasingly anxious about the book I just had published on the Bakken. It was very much experimental in approach and content, but in today’s increasingly politicized culture (and extractive industries in North Dakota are nothing if not political) a book like this might be seen as poking the bear rather than a genuine academic exercise. While I’m not worried that the book will cause me discomfort, I do worry that it might cause other people discomfort from my colleagues (by association) to folks who work hard to represent the University of North Dakota in a positive light in the state. I don’t want to say that I regret having written so publicly on the Bakken, but it can’t shake the idea that there is a time and a place for everything.] 

3. The Food is Bad and the Portions are Tiny. Over the past couple of years, the number of page views on my blog have declined steadily from usually well over 100 a day to just over 80. On the one hand, maybe this does say that my ideas are genuinely marginal, but it probably suggests that they are increasingly banal and the blogosphere has more appealing options. The decline also reflects my reluctance to Tweet or Facebookle my daily posts out of concern that some half-baked thought upset or annoy someone. 

I know that the internet is not, strictly speaking, a zero sum game, but I wonder if people who are reading my blog are people who are not reading other much better blogs out there. A year or so ago (and I can’t find the post), I got to thinking about how to ramp down a project or transform it when it no longer is working. The decline in readership, the change in online culture (and readers’ expectations), and my changing professional status have made me really think that this blog has more or less run its course. 

That being said, I do like to write this blog and like to write in general, and I’m pretty sad at the thought of bringing it to an end, but maybe I’ll figure out something else to do that fills my morning and gives me a space to work out ideas in an informal voice that is less public, less frivolous, and less fraught. 

Friday Varia and Quick Hits

It’s been a long finals week with lots of grant-reviewing, grading, and some start-stop writing that probably just made me more work to do later. That being said, there was some exciting Sixers basketball, the start of a tense test match in Perth, and even some fluffy white snowflakes to holiday up North Dakotaland. 

It’s a busy time of year for most folks, but if you have the time, perhaps by the fire or on the veranda, here are some quick hits and varia:

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2018 AIA Abstract: The Medieval Countryside at a Regional Scale in the Western Argolid and Northeastern Peloponnesus

It’s Archaeological Institute of America Season, and I offered to take the first swing at our paper for this January’s annual archaeology festival.

Here’s our abstract:

The Medieval Countryside at a Regional Scale in the Western Argolid and Northeastern Peloponnesus
Dimitri Nakassis, University of Colorado, Sarah James, University of Colorado, Scott Gallimore, Wilfrid Laurier University, and William Caraher, University of North Dakota

The study of the medieval Mediterranean is paradoxical. On the one hand, scholars have continued to define the master narrative for the Medieval and Byzantine periods in the Mediterranean through politics and church history. On the other hand, few periods have seen as concerted an effort to understand the life and experiences of nonpolitical classes from villagers to monks, mystics, and merchants. At the risk of simplifying a complex historiography, historians of the Annales School pioneered the study of everyday life in medieval and early modern Europe. At the same time, Byzantine historians have drawn influence from concepts of cultural materialism to critique the codevelopment of particular economic and political systems and to recognize the fourth to 14th century as a period of rural transformation. This work has found common ground with landscape archaeologists who since the 1970s have sought to emphasize long-term, quantitative methods within tightly de ned regional contexts to understand the tension between local and re- gional developments in the medieval countryside.

Recent work in the Peloponnesus and central Greece by the Nemea Valley Archaeological Project, the Argolid Exploration Project, the Boeotia survey, and the Methana Survey Project, among others, provides a methodologically sophisticated, regional perspective on the medieval countryside that is almost unprecedented in the Mediterranean. This paper adds to this existing body of regional evidence based on three seasons of the Western Argolid Regional Project. From 2014–2016, this project documented 30 km2 of the Inachos River valley through highly intensive pedestrian survey. This work has revealed significant postclassical activity ranging from Late Antique habitation to 13th-century settlements and Venetian towers. These sites derive greater significance from both the impressive body of recently published fieldwork on the countryside of the northeastern Peloponnesus and the well-documented histories of the urban centers of Argos, Nafplion, and Corinth. The existence of both rural and urban contexts in this region offers a unique opportunity to consider the tensions between town and country and rural life and urban politics in the postclassical centuries. The result is a study of the medieval countryside that probes the limits of the long-standing and largely urban and political master narrative while also demonstrating significant regional variation.

Publishing 3D Models

Between grading papers yesterday, I read through Elaine Sullivan’s and Lisa Snyder’s article in the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians on their work producing a digital model of the site of Karnak in Egypt. It’s a pretty nice article that offers a detailed discussion of the various design decisions and general strategy involved in making Digital Karnak a reality. As a Mac user, I wasn’t able to explore the actual 3D model which is available through their proprietary Vsim software, but it appears to combine the 3D model with chronological, historical, and archaeological information linked to various places in the immersive 3D environment. It sounds really cool!

What interested me more than the model and its presentation was the authors’ discussion of how they approached publishing the Digital Karnak model. This has an immediate impact of a collaborative project that my Digital Press at the University of North Dakota is working on that looks to publish a group of 3D models of limestone and terracotta figurings from the site of Athienou on Cyprus. The challenges associated with disseminating 3D images and models are relatively familiar to anyone who has explored the recent Gabii project or (like me) was unable to explore Digital Karnak. The formats for 3D viewing are not standardized and even common 3D viewers like Unity3D require generous bandwidth and significant server speeds to function optimally. The medium through which a project presents a dynamic 3D model is part of the message and the limits of the various interfaces and technology directly impacts the way in which the model functions. While this is undoubtedly true of all forms of disseminating archaeological information – from texts to line drawing and artist’s reconstructions, the technical challenges associated with producing 3D models are distinct at present because they require third-party viewers. The limits of these viewers, their proprietary status, their compatibility with existing publication platforms, and their functionality all impact the ability of the authors, reviewers, and users to engage the 3D image.

For Digital Karnak, this led to the production of their own 3D viewer and content which delivered both the 3D site, related “paradata” which presents argument for various design decisions, and interpretative and analytic texts. The article offers a useful summary of what a review of the entire 3D digital Karnak package would require. They identify four things that require review:  (1) the model, (2) the software, (3) the arguments and interpretations, and (4) related material hosted online separate from what is presented in the Vsim viewer. The authors further note that the deeply integrated character the interface, the model, and the arguments mean that revising the 3D model is not an easy task and in many cases is simply impossible.

The deeply integrated character of the viewer, the data, and the argument creates a environment for the peer reviewer that is similar to reviewing field projects in which the arguments possible remain dependent on the nature of fieldwork and the archaeological information collected from the field. As with a digital model, the fundamental integration of methods, procedures, and arguments offer only limited opportunities for revision. Of course, field projects and elaborate 3D projects also tend to have multiple stages review as the projects develop from grant proposals to focus groups and the feedback of team members throughout the gestation of the project. Moreover, the iterative character of digital projects where the interface and data change with technology further complicate the review process. The long-term, iterative character of digital work creates a  scenario similar to open review where projects change in response to academic and public critique over time. 

The Digital Karnak package was technically part of the article in the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, but for a reader like me without access to the digital content, the article stood well enough on its own to be a useful and substantive contribution. At the same, the absence of links – live or otherwise – through the article sketched out the limits of integration between the digital and textual.  

 

Archaeology of the Contemporary World

I’ve been toying with the idea of writing a little book on archaeology of the contemporary world lately (actually, I’ve been thinking about this book for some time now). I’ve been collecting bibliography for the last few months, and this weekend, between grant applications, I read Rodney Harrison’s and Esther Briethoff’s survey of the field from this years Annual Review of Anthropology (here’s a preprint).

The article demonstrates the complexity, diversity, and expansiveness of the field which ranges from well-established and methodologically-defined sub-disciplines like forensic archaeology to small and distinctive studies involving objects, political, social, or economic situations, or marginal groups. There are a series of ideas that I extracted from this article that could help shape any future work on my part in this area.

Here they are:

1. Historical Archaeology. The relationship between archaeology of the contemporary world and the long-standing discipline of historical archaeology varies widely. On the one hand, the division is more or less chronological with historical archaeology typically involving material that has recognized heritage status (often 50 years before the present) or clear connections to figures or events of conventional historical significance (i.e. not every day life). On the other hand, the line between the contemporary and the historical is indeed a blurry one. Industrial sites, for example, may have long functional lives meaning that they are both conventionally historical and contemporary in use. The persistence of ruins, for example, in the contemporary world further complicates the line between historical and contemporary in the thinking of both contemporary and historical archaeologists drawing them both into one another’s methodological and experiential space. 

2. Time. I’ve recently thought a bit about the issue of contemporaneity on the blog and how it shapes both our encounter with the Atari excavation in Alamogordo and the way that we narrate it. The archaeology of the contemporary pushes us to think not only about time but about how temporality and chronology locates us as archaeologist in relation to what we study. For example, the tension between (a) our desire to isolate archaeological objects by removing them from our own temporal frame and locating them as part of a broken tradition, and (b) the basic familiarity with the objects that we study as part of the same modern world as the intellectual (and literal) tools that we use to document and analyze these objects. This ambivalent attitude toward the idea of contemporaneity represents a major epistemological challenge as well as a practical one. On the one hand, archaeology of the contemporary world insists on the archaeologist’s contemporaneity with their objects of study complicating the potential for the kind of empirical observations that have proven foundational to historical archaeological practice and the “new archaeology.” On the other hand, it has remained challenging to establish disciplinary metrics of rigor for archaeological practices grounded in experiential, phenomenological, or less formally empirical engagements with the past without eroding ties to the fundamental expectations of the archaeology as a discipline.       

3. Politics. There is a remarkably explicit political dimension to archaeology of the contemporary world. By this, I don’t mean political in a broadly theoretic way, but in a practical way. For example, Jason DeLeon’s recent work on migrants on the U.S. – Mexico border has an overt political dimension. Work emphasizing the role of archaeology in defining and understanding of climate change and the anthropocene in the contemporary world fits neatly and explicitly into a political narrative. Work in forensic archaeology and the archaeology of war is never without obvious political dimensions and the archaeology of homelessness and other projects that emphasize the marginal and hidden in western society represent clearly political commitments toward social justice, peace, and democratic ideals. Even when projects are somewhat more removed from the politics of the national headlines, there are commitments at the center of the archaeology of the contemporary world that frequently involve critiques of late capitalism and late modernity and the threat to the individual.

4. Theory. The political and chronological tensions in the archaeology of the contemporary are deeply embedded in the concerns of contemporary theory even if they are not articulated in this way. From the critical theory of the 1970s and phenomenological (and post-processual) approaches pioneered by Tilley and Shanks to crucial perspectives offered on science and technology by folks like Bruno Latour and Tim Ingold, archaeologists have almost universally assumed the grounding of archaeological practice in the contemporary would. This, in turn, opened the door to applying archaeology to the contemporary world in explicit ways. The acknowledgement of explicitly theoretical perspectives is, as one might expect, uneven as (see point 1) practitioners have varying degrees of investment in less overtly theoretical discourses (such as historical archaeology in the Anglo-American tradition), but the theory is there just below the surface. In fact, it is impossible to read archaeology of the contemporary world as existing outside a late-20th century (or at very least modern) theoretical context.

5. Method. Finally (and perhaps in some vague way, most importantly), there is the issue of method. As someone who has attempted to practice an archaeology of the contemporary world, the complexities of documenting the contemporary world in all of its contingency and dynamism remains a consistent challenge. Digital tools from video to photography, audio recordings, remote sensing, and various data collecting tools produce avalanches of data that contribute to an impressive and growing archive. The rise of crowd sourcing practices and platforms extends the culture and methods of data collecting from skilled practitioners to much broader audiences. Ethnoarchaeology, archaeological ethnography, and the reflexive ethnography of archaeological practice pollinated archaeology of the contemporary world with methods and practices from cultural anthropology, sociology, and oral history. The complexity and challenges facing an archaeology of the contemporary world is part of what gives this field its potential for both transforming more conventional archaeological practice and how we see ourselves. 

How these five themes would appear in a little book remains a bit hard to understand, but pulling these themes from the Harrison and Briethoff article feels like a meaningful start.

Friday Varia and Quick Hits

There’s a calm before the storm between the end of the semester and the beginning of grading. This weekend it will be filled with reading approximately 400 grant application (actually, like 35 of them) and recovering from a pair of stirring Ashes test matches.

But first, The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota will team up with the College of Arts and Sciences Aha! Lecture Series and North Dakota Quarterly to host Micah Bloom (Minot State) and Thora Brylowe (University of Colorado-Boulder) this afternoon along with Sheila Liming (UND) and David Haeselin (UND) at an event celebrating the release of Bloom’s Codex. If you’re not from these-here parts, we got you covered. The event will be recorded and we’ll release it next week.

Codex Flyer 2017

If you’re just not that into books or whatever, then here are some quick hits and varia:

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Free Beauty, Boxes of Books, and Austerity: Three Updates from North Dakota Quarterly

This week, I spent a ton of time doing North Dakota Quarterly stuff.

The most fun NDQ project was perhaps the easiest. This morning I posted a link to a free book by our new art editor Ryan Stander called Wayside Sacraments. Check it out here and download it for free!

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Less fun was the approximately 20 hours spent over the last two weeks putting North Dakota Quarterly volumes in boxes so that they could be moved from our existing storerooms to new storage in various places across campus. While the work was tedious and largely unrewarding, I did find myself leafing through the table of contents for many of the issues and stumbled upon a few remarkable gems.

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Among my favorites was Maxwell Anderson’s senior play which though penned in 1911, it was not published until 1957. Titled Masque of the Pedagogues: Being a Dream of President McVey, it offers witty perspective on turn of the century life on the UND campus from the perspective of a student. Predictably, it features such fan favorites as O.G. Libby, A.G. Leonard (who famously recognized the potential for oil in Western ND), George Abbot, Wallace Stern (a Near Easternologist), and James Boyle (an early student of Gillette who goes on to Cornell), oh, and Satan. 

Finally, hanging out in the NDQ storerooms gave me time to think about our upcoming spring issue on humanities in the age of austerity. I’ve been carrying around (well, digitally) a copy of Mark Byth’s new(ish) book on austerity, but I’ve also been thinking about how to link the crazy quilt of ideas dumped here on my blog into something coherent. Part of me wants to do a series of rather disconnected “observations” that range from my overused “Billboard vs. Factory” (combining posts from herehere, and here) to something on branding in the humanities (like here and here), neoliberalism and competition in academia, and collaborative publishing.

I have some work to do before the February deadline!

College Campuses

This semester I’ve had a few opportunities to stop for a second and recognize how much I enjoy being on a college campus. I know that sounds trite and cliche. Fine. Whatever. 

I do love college campuses and for some reasons the campus of the University of North Dakota has just made me super happy lately. The last week or so I’ve been boxing old issues of North Dakota Quarterly in an obscure storeroom in an old campus building slated to be demolished next year. The building is old and kind of decrepit and probably not suited for much in the way of modern university activities. The volumes of NDQ, like the old building, tell stories of the university that are both familiar and sepia toned. And like so many university traditions they are both oddly relevant and fairly easy to discard. 

This week I also got a charming calendar from my alma mater, the University of Richmond. Each month features a beautiful college Gothic building from URs campus, but most of the buildings are more recent than my time there. And only two of the buildings date from the great early period of college Gothic construction on campus or were designed by the original campus architect, Ralph Adams Cram. In other words, the presentation of campus is traditional, but also entirely new. 

Closer to home, what’s great about walking around a campus like UND’s is that, despite budget cuts and consistent lack of funding, they still try. In fact, I have often thought “we do try” was a kind of unofficial campus motto. As part of their efforts to try, they’ve created a bunch of new student gathering spaces in our building. They have a particular character that I just really groove on. 

First off, they’re kind of gross. The furniture is all institutional, wrapped in garish, wear-resistant fabrics, and constructed out of hard plastic. The floor covering is this bizarre grey fake wood that does nothing to hide its plastic-ness or the dirt tracked across it by hundred of tired undergraduate (and faculty) feet. Despite being created only this semester, the spaces already look a bit world weary, out of date, and for lack of a better word, sad.

What keeps these spaces from being completely forlorn is that they are somehow also profoundly democratic. Their lack of pretension or even functionality. The furnishings exist simply to exist and represent a completely banal gesture toward something. As with so many older places on campus, these new student gathering spaces are destined to accumulate grime of thousands of hands, butts, and feet. Nick and marks of pens, tacky smudges left by snacks, and lost gloves, hats, and scarfs liter this student landscape. They’re used and slightly abused and mostly the spaces are disregarded as neither distinctive enough to be memorable or meaningful nor functional enough to be practically valued. In contract to the exaggerated contemporary college Gothic at the University of Richmond, the student gathering spaces on UND’s campus are unapologetically modern. They’re non-places and meaningless gestures that are consumed simply because they are available.  

Walking through these spaces and watching students embrace them with utter ambivalence is among the highlights of my day. It reminds me of our task to inculcate our students with what it means to really be modern.

More Punk Archaeology

I was pretty excited to read the most recent issue of World Archaeology dedicated to “Counter Archaeologies.” I blogged about Lorna-Jane Richardson’s intriguing article on punk archaeology this past summer, and while I guess my critique of it rubbed some folks the wrong way, I still think her article moved the conversation forward in important ways. And it was incredibly gratifying to see scholars engage the work I did with Kostis Kourelis and Andrew Reinhard a few years ago serious. (Download Punk Archaeology from The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota here or buy a copy here!)

This past weekend, I read John Schofield’s introduction to the volume, “‘Deviants, punks and Pink Fairies’: counter- archaeologies for unreasonable people.” He approaches punk and counter archaeology in a deeply personal way. He located his own interest in counter or even punk archaeology in his experiences in the field in the 1970s and 1980s. Like many of us, he found the tension between the socially conservative character of archaeology as a discipline (and particularly as a practice) and its progressive goals jarring. The tendency to privilege the traditional forms of knowledge making, namely excavation, and periods of study, namely the preindustrial past, limited the scope and influence of archaeology as a discipline. Schofield found himself drawn to landscape practices, to marginal and understudied regions, and ultimately to the modern period which often fell well outside the archaeologist’s gaze. For Schofield, this has as much to do with his own resistance to authority and reluctance to be told what to do as any grandiose intellectual goals. I found this admission refreshing, perhaps because it describes my own attraction to punk archaeology. The more people pushed me to do conventional archaeological or historical work, the more I felt the need to do things and think about things differently. (And it should be clear that just thinking about things in a different way is not the same thing as actually producing new knowledge or contributing to the discipline…)

Schofield then goes on to propose a few principles of punk archaeology practice grounding in C. O’Hara’s Philosophy of Punk (1995) and D. Beer’s Punk Sociology (2014). For these scholars and, indeed, Schofield, punk practice opposed conformity, embraced the DIY, and – perhaps most importantly – valued individual freedom and responsibility.

This last point struck home for me. Recently, I’ve returned to thinking a bit about anarchism (and my recent book, The Bakken: [An archae]ology of an industrial landscape (2017) offers a little play on words that hints at some of my thinking) both as a way to undermine certain structural barriers that seem to limit how archaeology functions both in practice and in the broader area of method. While I’m not entirely sure that I have the ability or energy to reconcile the tendency for archaeological knowledge to be generalized, structural, and diachronic with the individualized character that defines some aspect of anarchic thinking, I do find appeals to undermine traditional practices and our increasingly bureaucratized (and Taylorist) approach to archaeological knowledge making provocative and potentially useful. At the same time, I’d like to think that my interest in archaeology of the contemporary world emphasizes the differences and disjunction between a world created by rules, convention, and expectations, and a world created by myriad individual decisions and practices. I look forward to reading Stuart Rathbone’s article in the same volume “Anarchist literature and the development of anarchist counter-archaeologies.”

Extending this view of the past to our work as archaeologists seems to be a key component of a punk archaeology and perhaps finds a useful, in unintentional, parallel with our concept of an “archaeology of care.” Of course, it would be profoundly un-punk for us to simply replace the orthodoxy of conventional archaeological practice with a model grounded in a different set of expectations and replace one conformity with another. And perhaps that’s the most appealing thing about Schofield’s introduction. By locating his understanding of counter archaeology in his own practices and in an intellectual tradition, he allows us to recognize the personal and the collective and disciplinary in punk practice and allows it to be “a thing” without having to conform to any one set of rules.

One last thing, it was a drag to see that a volume on counter archaeology did so little to engage with the fact that academic publishing not only promotes certain kinds of conformity of practice (both good and bad), but also limits access to our work. In recent years, private companies who seek to monetize the impact of our ideas and work, and this volume of World Archaeology is no exception. We can do better than this.

Come Hear about Micah Bloom’s Codex!

If you’re a North Dakota reader, you should make plans to come over the the North Dakota Museum of Art on Friday, December 8th at 3 pm to hear a panel on Micah Bloom’s Codex featuring Micah Bloom (Minot State University), Thora Brylowe (University of Colorado-Boulder), David Haeselin (UND), Sheila Liming (UND), and Brian Schill (North Dakota Quarterly).

It’s part of the College of Arts and Sciences A-ha! Lecture Series and co-sponsored by The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota and North Dakota Quarterly.

Here’s the flyer:

Codex Flyer 2017

Here’s the press release:

Book Release Event for Micah Bloom’s Codex 

The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota is proud to partner with the College of Arts and Sciences and North Dakota Quarterly in announcing the publication of Micah Bloom’s Codex at a public event hosted by the North Dakota Museum of Art on 8 December at 3pm. The event is part of the College of Arts and Sciences A-ha! Lecture Series. 

Micah Bloom’s Codex explores the fate of books in the aftermath of the devastating 2011 Minot Flood. Bloom, a professor of art at Minot State University, painstakingly photographed, collected, and recycled hundreds of books and this work became the basis of a film (2013) and an art installation (2015). 

This year the Digital Press published two versions of Codex that combined Micah’s photographs with a series of scholarly and reflective essays. The first was a large-format, limited-edition, fine-art book made available to wide audience as a digital download. The Digital Press has also published a low-cost trade paperback version of the book available at Amazon.com.   

The publisher, William Caraher (UND Department of History), connected with Bloom after seeing his 2015 exhibit at the North Dakota Museum of Art: “Micah’s haunting photos captured an event historically rooted in a time and place – 2011, Minot, ND – but by focusing on books, he made it speak to much more universal concerns. The destruction of the flood is brought home in an intimate way through Micah’s photographs and treatment of books. So it made sense for us to capture the exhibit /collaborate in this way.” 

The North Dakota Museum of Art will host a roundtable discussion featuring the artist, and three collaborators: David Haeselin (UND, English), Sheila Liming (UND, English), and Thora Brylowe (University of Colorado- Boulder, English) will join Micah in a discussion of his work moderated by North Dakota Quarterly‘s Brian Schill. 

David Haeselin, who contributed to the book, remarked that “the essays help bridge the gap between scholarship of material culture studies, book history, and eco-criticism.”Haeselin’s course in Writing and Editing in the Department of English collaborated with The Digital Press to produce the book. Haeselin goes on to say “Student copy-editors were asked to work on a real book going to press. This meant that they had to fact-check and mark up their teachers’ writing, me included. Once they got past the awkwardness, they learned how to manage author-editor relationships, a core responsibility of any editor.” 

Bloom comments on this opportunity, “It has been a joy to find so much local support for this project . . . and to now have a way to share a bit of our story with a larger audience. It’s such an honor.” 

To download or purchase Codex or watch the films go here: https://thedigitalpress.org/codex/

For more on the Digital Press go here: https://thedigitalpress.org