Adventures in Podcasting 3

Richard and I have released our third podcast this morning. If you’ve missed the first two go here and enjoy and check out the show notes here.

This one was edited by Richard and is probably our best so far. We talk about abandonment in the Bakken, the speed of modern society, and whether academia funding models can keep up with the rapidly changing modern world.

Richard also prepared extensive show notes:

Season 1, Episode 3 brings you:

  • A question from a listener! Richard talks more about how to document structures using HD video.
  • Man Camps are emptying? Is the boom over? (No). Is the bust here? (No). What do we learn from the “abandonment” of some camps.
  • The Slow Movement
  • The North Dakota Quarterly! Subscribe!
  • How to be a capitalist spend all your extra money on chasing earthquakes or audiophilic delights.
  • “Just-in-Time” Research and funding in slow-moving Academia.
  • Why are Universities so slow and risk adverse?
  • Faculty now have to work for a living – this has changed things.
  • Richard says tenure is “crippling,” says age-discrimination may be real, and suggest faculty may be bored (as the listeners may be with this section).
  • What does “moving out” mean in a Man Camp – what did Richard see in his last visit?
  • How video can manipulate your opinion of Man Camps.
  • Interviewing Man Campers, finding the edge, and abusing graduate student Aaron Barth.
  • Man Camp Talk at Killdeer (not Dunn Center like we said): 8 March 2015, Killdeer, High Plains Cultural Center
  • Richard tells an earthquake story.
  • The History of Presence, why we are welcomed when we pry into Man Camper’s lives and how our Man Camp project (and similar projects) help people in unexpected ways.
  • For your viewing pleasure, here is some of the high definition video from the Fox Run RV Park, Williston, N.D.

One benefit of viewing this in YouTube is you can enjoy the “slider” effect. Once the video has loaded, you can drag the video backward-and-forward to find the structure you want to see. YouTube, understandably gives you a low resolution preview as you slide. So download the actual video file (compressed, so imagine higher resolution). If you load the file into your favorite media player, you will notice you don’t get a preview (or a good preview) as you slide back and forth. What you need to use is a video editor to see the slide in all its glory. Windows users, get Window Movie Maker. Mac users, find the equivalent.

An evocative and manipulative video of an abandoned trailer:


The Alec Soth video that defines your emotions with music and annoys Richard:

An earthquake photo from Gölcük, Turkey


Finally, we’re thinking a bit about branding and now have a snazzy Caraheard website, and are beginning to think about how best to disseminate these podcasts moving forward. Any opinions or advice would be great!

More on Slow Archaeology

Over the past 12 months, I’ve put together three papers on slow archaeology that a more ambitious and organized scholar could envision on a nice article. Instead (or, more optimistically, in advance of that work), I’ll put them together here in one glorious blog post for your consideration.

The first paper was given around this time last year at the University of Massachusetts. This paper mainly focused on archaeology as craft and the role that technology has played in deskilling certain aspects of archaeological practice through the application of Taylorist principles. 

It’s titled “Practice and Method in Creating 3D Models in Archaeology.”

The next version of the paper took on a more popular tone and reflected a return to some basic scholarship in archaeology and developed the slow angle more specifically. This paper was published in North Dakota Quarterly earlier this year. For an earlier and I think more substantial draft of this article click here.

Finally, I have finished a draft of my paper that I’ll deliver over the weekend in Boston at the Mobilizing the Past for a Digital Future. The final program is available here, and it looks like a fantastic event. It’ll be live streamed starting Friday afternoon here. It’s going to be particularly tricky to both attend a plenary talk and a dinner while watching the Australia v. New Zealand World Cup Cricket Match. It is possible that Steven Ellis and I will come down with some kind of strange 8-hour flu. 

If you’re more of a reader than a watcher-of-live-streamer (or have other cricket-related issues) then you can enjoy my paper below. This is the most mature version of my slow archaeology paper, and I think that the three papers not only demonstrate my effort to wrap my head around the effects of digital practice on our discipline, but also a kind of critical and productive luddism. Again, in the hands of a more able scholar, I think these three papers would make a lovely article:

Sabbaticals, Study Guides, and the Man Camp Dialogues

I’m entering the last leg of my sabbatical and feeling pretty good about wrapping up the projects that I had set out to accomplish. I will not have a completed manuscript documenting our excavations at Pyla-Koutsopetria prepared by the end of the spring, but it will be far enough along to guide our study season. I won’t have submitted an article on the site of South Basilica at Polis-Chrysochous, but that manuscript will be submitted this fall and will serve as a useful guide for this summer’s study season on that project. With any luck (and a bit more collaboration from my colleagues) we will have submitted the first major article from the North Dakota Man Camp Project to a top tier journal. 

This winter and spring, however, I have spent a good bit of my time working on my little press, and a little time working on writing for a wider, public audience with my Tourist Guide to the Bakken and my essay on Slow Archaeology for North Dakota Quarterly.

So last week, I wrote a humanities study guide for a series of public talks called the Man Camp Dialogues. These are funded by the North Dakota Humanities Council. The first one is on March 8th in Killdeer, North Dakota at the High Plains Cultural Center. Some time today, our study guide will be ready to circulate, and I’ll put up a link as soon as it’s live. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, I’ll share a little design study that I did for a cover. Another thing that I’ve worked on during my sabbatical is becoming more comfortable with Illustrator and more comfortable with the mechanics and aestheticsof cover designs. 

Man Camp Study Guide Alt Cover 01 01

Here’s the guide:

Audiophiles, Sciences, and Democracy

Over the last few months, I’ve begiun to wonder why audiophiles are so angry with each other and why journalists, bloggers, and ordinary people seem to take so much pleasure in criticizing carefully engineered gear, high resolution music formats, and other typical audiophile fare.

Just over the past few weeks, for example, I have read articles claiming that Neil Young’s overhyped Pono is no better than an iPhone (echoed endlessly). I’ve read Fred Kaplan’s “courageous” public claim to being an audiophile on Slate attract some rather nasty comments (but do click through to the story about the conflict between Michael Fremer and the Amazing Randi!). I’ve seen one of my favorite tech bloggers, a man with no audiophile interests at all, chime in on the longstanding debate on whether 24 bit audio actually sounds better, and another get into some kind of crazy Twitter flame war with the Wirecutter about headphone preferences (it all worked out). I’ve even seen the fine folks at Pitchfork chime in on whether high resolution audio is worth it, and witnessed endless new fronts in the cable wars.

These are my thoughts on the issue:

Much of the recent interest in audiophiles stems from the attention garnered by Neil Young’s high-resolution, crowd-funded audio player, the Pono. The anger and bombast leveled in many of these conversations, however, stems from something deeper in American (and more broadly Western) society: our ambivalent relationship with science.

Anyone who has watched the news, listened to the oldy timey radiophone, or read the interwebs lately knows that many Americans look upon science and scientific authority with more than a jaundiced eye. People have questioned the safety of vaccinations, the existence of man-made climate change, the basis for evolution, and the universal applicability of the law of gravity.

The reasons are not complicated. Science and democracy have always had a strange relationship. On the one hand, science has served as a leveling institution in society by demonstrating how all humans function under the same set of limitations and rules. The universality of science has played no small part in our view that all people are created equal. In fact, Enlightenment reasoning undermined the authority of earlier political regimes that depended upon the idea that some folks were superior to others on the basis of their birth.

At the same time, the role of science in leveling society has come at a cost. Those who understand science have come to represent a key voice in maintaining equality in our communities. While scientists and their supporters have stopped short of being philosopher kings, knowledge and understanding of scientific truth is unevenly distributed, and those of us without the skills to understand scientific arguments have to trust scientists when they tell us that the earth is getting warmer, vaccinations are a good idea, and that we should never lick the seats in a New York City subway. So science gives us a kind equality, to some extent, but the rules within which this functions are not equally understood. It’s a fraught predicament for a society like ours in the US where everyone’s vote counts the same and most of us can run for office and participate in decision making. It is hardly surprising that the tension between our (let’s say) equal access to political power (writ large) and the uneven distribution of scientific knowledge manifests as frustration and anger in the media especially when we’re asked to make changes to our lifestyles to accommodate the newest scientific finding. To put it personally, I want people to be REALLY sure about climate change before I give up my Ford F-150.

Most of the time, those of us not steeped in the most recent scientific research have to make decisions based on a certain amount of faith in the scientific processes. In a recent series of blog posts (part 1, part 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, part 3, part 4) on expertise over at Parttime Audiophile, Scot Hull ruminated on how difficult it was to understand expertise and to identify experts among audiophiles. Hull finished his impressive series of essays with the conclusion that most audiophiles rely on aesthetic judgements to declare a product “good” or “bad.” At the same time, he concedes that there is a science to audio, and “good” and “bad” equipment does related to “good” or “bad” engineering practices. And, often times, the good or bad engineering and good or bad scientific measurements coincide with the aesthetic judgement of reviewers. This is not always the case, of course. Poorly engineered gear is rather less likely to sound good than good sounding gear is to be a paradigm of rigorous engineering.

The ambiguous reality at the intersection of measurement, engineering, and aesthetics is hardly satisfying to those of us whose very concept of society is grounded in the authority of science to help us make important social, political, and economic judgements. After all, how is it possible for us to trust science in some vitally important areas of our life and ignore it in others?

The result of this kind of ambiguity is predictable. People get angry, and on the internet this anger often quickly escalates to irrational fury. This is typically most visible among audiophiles when debating high resolution audio, the value of cables or various room correcting devices. On the one side of the conversation are those who often argue using engineering and science that high resolution audio, $2000 speaker cables, or various acoustic gewgaws do nothing to improve our sound quality and our listening experiences. On the other side of the debate, are people who insist on the greatest high resolution standard, wire their systems with cables the size of my wrists, and can understand (frankly) the latest digital room correction technologies. Both sides claim science supports their perspectives and the other side is selling unscientific snake oil.

The arguments are generally dull. And, if these arguments remained confined to audiophile forums and ended with both sides dismissing the other as fools, we might simply overlook them.

Recently, however, these arguments usually escalate to something more when the internal wrangling of audiophiles becomes public fare. Audiophiles are attacked as arrogant elitists who lord their tastes over the “common man.” It is not enough to attack their taste, however. For justice to prevail, ordinary folks must demolish the foundation of their tastes and disclose that the emperor is, indeed, naked. The goal of these attacks is to eliminate the basis for a perceived audiophile elitism and return the listening world to a kind of equality where democratic opinions can thrive. No longer will some arrogant audiophile lord the supposed superiority of his or her system over iPods, phones, or other affordable media players. Taking down some audiophile conceit is a win for democracy!

Why are audiophiles, in particular, the object of such scorn? On the one hand, I have detected some of the same anger directed against athletes who swear by gear, supplements, or training techniques of dubious scientific value. On the other hand, we don’t usually see folks arguing that their 1992 Honda Civic is every bit as good as a 2015 Ferrari FXX-K. I suspect the distain shown audiophiles, in particular, comes from three things.

First off, audiophiles are a minority and have perpetuated a steep learning curve to participate in audiophile conversations. As I have argued elsewhere, most of this the language used in the audiophile media is specialized and as a result, exclusionary. Most people do not have access to audiophile quality components: there are relatively few high-end audio stores in the U.S. and the brands associated with the hobby are unfamiliar. Our encounter with the hobby and high-resolution sound is typically through the media. In other words, for most of us, encountering high-end audio is not a first hand experience (and this includes many audiophiles!), but encountered through other folk’s descriptions of how gear sounds. Some audiophiles can compare these descriptions to their own authentic experiences, but this requires that one has heard a good bit of gear and understands the language used to describe various kinds of gear. As I have argued elsewhere, the language of the audiophile media represents formidable barrier dividing the world into into those who get it an those who don’t.

Second, the defining quality of audiophile equipment is the experience that its provides. Since in most communities, it remains challenging to find high end audiophile systems – much less listen to it over a sustained period of time – people are fundamentally unfamiliar with the experience of high performance audio. Of course, people are generally unfamiliar with the experience of high performance cars as well, but cars and other luxury commodities that offer rarified experiences have more accessible aesthetic qualities. Cars are highly visible design studies and a series of numbers (quarter-mile times, 0-60 times, skid pad figures, or even lap times) represent more accessible surrogates for automotive performance. So folks will argue over whether a Porsche or a Ferrari is a better car, but they rarely argue about the fundamental validity of the criteria used to compare them. They have different styles that might appeal to different tastes, but their performance figures can be readily compared.

Finally, audiophile stereo equipment is not only discussed in exclusionary language and difficult to access and experience (even through available surrogates) but it also tends to be expensive. Audiophile gear smacks of economic elitism and nothing disrupts the placid life of contemporary democracy like visible symbols of economic inequality.

This short column argued that some the anger present in audiophile forums derives from the uneven distribution of scientific knowledge among audiophiles. Like the anger directed at folks who who do not vaccinate, who deny climate change, who believe in so-called “evolution,” or who insist the gravity does not effect them, most people lack the training in science and engineering to challenge the scientific claims made by audiophiles and their opponents. This is profoundly undemocratic. It’s simply unfair that everyone’s opinion and methods for understanding the world are not equally valid.

Anger toward audiophiles often comes from practices used by those in the hobby to distinguish those inside the hobby from those outside the hobby. Particular language, access to the experience of high end equipment, and, of course, economic privilege likewise appear to undermine the universal experience of music.

So next time we read an irate comment on an audiophile blog or read about a scientistic A/B test that proves your favorite cable, component, or format is really no better than than listening to the neighbor’s internet radio through a closed window, take a moment to remember that most people are not arguing about sound, engineering, or technologies. They’re arguing for freedom.

Friday Varia and Quick Hits

This has been a complicated week here at Archaeology of the Mediterranean World Headquarters. I’ve been writing frantically, then watching the cricket world cup, and thinking about Sunday’s Daytona 500, and keeping an Cyclone Marcia, while tending to a crazy yellow dog with an injured tail. When you have a 2 year old yellow dog, it is impossible to “limit his activity.”

That all being said, I can see the faint light at the end of the tunnel and am looking forward to a trip to Boston next week for the Mobilizing the Past for the Digital Future workshop and catching up with some friends. Now I just need to finish that paper…

In the meantime, enjoy some varia and quick hits and hopes for a less eventful (but no less entertaining weekend):

IMG 2902Is it playtime, NOW?

IMG 2904What’s up? 

Speed and the Academy

This week’s Twitter query leading up to the next week’s Mobilizing the Past for a Digital Future conference is: what new technology are you hoping to experiment with in the upcoming field season? You can reply to their query on Twitter using #mobilearc

1. Time. It’s not new technology, but as I’ve thought more and more about my slow project, I’ve become increasingly interested in think about how to document the process of field work. I realize that there are fine archaeological ethnographies already exist, and I have neither the time, training, or interest to document every movement a field team makes as they document a survey unit. That being said, I am curious where efficiencies our field work processes could occur and where it is in our best interest to create incentives to slow down our field processes in the name of greater nuance and analytical value. While I recognize that an approach that seeks to quantify the value of time and efficiency during a field day or a field season evokes dreaded efficiency studies, I do wonder how carefully we have considered how long it takes for a project or a site to negotiate the complexities of an archaeological workflow.  

Of course, I recognize that not all technological innovation in archaeology promises efficiencies. Some technologies offer ways to collect data more accurately and consistently, whereas others facilitate the presentation of data by producing easily interpreted images or tables. These types of technology do not in themselves improve efficiency in the field or in the interpretation, but they allow us to recognize archaeological patterns. What I want to understand is how an object, survey unit, a stratigraphic unit, or a trench, makes its way from field observation to published analysis. 

2. Bakken Research and the Speed of Academia. I’ve been anxious since the work began to spread that layoffs were hitting the Bakken. From the start, the North Dakota Man Camp Project has looked ahead to documenting the abandonment of workforce housing in the Bakken counties. At present, however, we don’t have the funding necessary to complete a full field season. More than that, it’s difficult to imagine how we could get the funding together necessary for more than short term field trips. The funding cycles even at a relatively small university like UND tend to run over the course of years rather than weeks or months.

More than that, the modern academic research is busy. We fill our schedule with conference, papers, deadlines, and classes. Our institutions reward work that requires advanced planning and commitment, so it is difficult to drop everything and race out west. In contrast, as the price of oil drops, workforce in the Bakken is a liability for large multinational companies that rely on maintaining profit margins to reward investors and remain competitive. For the workers, there is little incentive to hang around North Dakota during the winter where life becomes more difficult and the opportunities outside of extractive industries few and far between. Since many live in RVs or pay high monthly rents rather than long term leases, staying on in the Bakken as hours and opportunities decline has no appeal. The Bakken can ramp down in weeks, but it’s impossible for a modern research project to ramp up over the same amount of time.

My colleague Richard Rothaus spent a day out west and checked on some of our long-term study sites. He noted that some of the larger camps have significant vacancies and captured an evocative video of an abandoned RV. He and I will talk at greater length about what he saw out west when we record next week’s podcast on Saturday, and I’ll finally make my way back to the Bakken the first week of March with the hope that I can manage a couple of days of field work.

3. Slow. This past week, North Dakota Quarterly volume 80, number 2 came out. I co-edited this volume with Rebecca Rozelle-Stone and it’s dedicated to exploring the slow movement. I’ve posted on this rather extensively over the past year or so, so I won’t go into great detail, but there are compelling essays on the slow teaching movement, the slow church, and ways to simplify life to gain better focus on things that matter.  

Front Cover 802


I’d urge anyone who is interested to subscribe to the Quarterly here or drop me a line and I’ll send along my slow archaeology contribution.  

Ruins and Memories

A few weeks ago I posted a short piece on Bjørnar Olsen’s and Þóra Pétursdóttir’s,Ruin Memories: Materialities, Aesthetics and the Archaeology of the Recent Past. That was a warm up to a long book review which I have now drafted.

It was a bit tricky to review an almost 500 page book with 25 contributors. And it was relatively difficult to post this blog while being rammed by the Mighty Milo and his stuffed elephant. Finally, have I mentioned that it’s cold here? Today it’s -17 F and falling (don’t worry, it’s a dry cold and it only feels like -33). 

Somehow I managed, so here it is with complementary typos!

Review of Bjørnar Olsen; Þóra Pétursdóttir, Ruin Memories: Materialities, Aesthetics and the Archaeology of the Recent Past. Routledge 2014.

The last decade has seen a rise in the use of archaeology to interrogate the contemporary world. The publication of Harrison and Schofield’s After Modernity in 2010 and the the awkwardly-titled Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology of the Contemporary World in 2013 will likely mark watersheds in applying archaeological methods to contemporary situations. The volume edited by Olsen and Pétursdóttir continues along these lines and offers much to consider even for archaeologists focusing on eras more distant from our own.

Olsen’s and Pétursdóttir’s volume represents the outcome of a four-year Norwegian Research Council grant titled Ruin Memories and focused on cultivating a cross-disciplinary dialogue on modern ruins in heritage practices and scholarly discourse. The 25 papers divide into an introduction and five sections: Things, Ethics, and Heritage; Material Memory; Ruins, Art, Attraction; Abandonment; and Archaeologies of the Recent Past. As such, there is a slight bias toward recent work in northern European countries, but none of the contributions to this volume are location specific. The papers address issues of memory, material agency, modernity and ruins through approaches ranging from the theoretically and conceptually challenging to the poetic and descriptive.

Much of theoretical work in this book continues recent work focused on a critical examination of “things” and agency. Heidegger’s various considerations of things, particularly his well-known “tool analysis” from Being and Time, informs the introduction as well as a Andersson’s two contributions and Pétursdóttir reflections on abandonment. Introna’s valuable essay, “Ethics and Flesh” does the most to leverage the duality between tools “present-at-hand” and those “ready-to-hand” to provide a way of understanding the absent presence of ruins, the agency of things, and the philosophical foundations for a ethical and symmetrical archaeology. Heidegger’s recognition that things exist outside of the human world is foundational to understanding agency in Bruno Latour’s actor-network-theory. The myriad recent archaeological publications that have adopted versions of Latour’s ideas to argue for the material agency of archaeological objects, and many of the contributions to this book continue to expand and develop these ideas. The complex processes involved in the decay of abandoned and ruined buildings offers a vivid way to consider the agency of objects. Moreover, the discussions of agency and ethics in these conceptually demanding contributions offer suitably complicated frameworks for understanding issues of preservation, conservation, and heritage surrounding ruined monuments of the modern era.

More striking, if somehow less substantial contributions to this volume are those that approach modern ruins through less conventional modes of archaeological description. A. Gonzalez-Ruibal’s poetic engagement with archaeological and human remains from the Spanish Civil War was both haunting and thought-provoking commemoration of events and individuals for whom politics has overwritten their heroism. H.B. Bjerck’s archaeological investigation of his recently deceased father’s things connected memory to objects in a viscerally engaging way. A. Á. Sigurðsson poems and N. Elíasson photographs offer a penetrating perspectives on abandoned farms on Iceland. E. Andreassen and D. Bailey approach the activities of a modern Norwegian port and historical memory in the Balkans respectively through visual media with almost no text. Bailey offers a series of chapter headings (“Chapter 1: Art,” “Chapter 2: Built Environment,” “Chapter 3: Mortuary Records,” et c.) with mixed media images that juxtapose archaeological tools – particularly a Munsell soil color chart – with photos of modern and ancient artifacts, sites, and situations. Andreassen’s work is less literal; it shows the closing of some kind of machine at the port of Trondheim in 8 photographs. While the goal of Andreassen’s work remains obscure, the efforts to approach the archaeological discourse through poetry, reflection, and visual media even when less than successful complements the probing tone of the book and the contemporary archaeology project. Applying archaeological approaches to the contemporary world both demonstrates the limits of our archaeological methods and conventions and presents new opportunities.

The remaining contributions to the book present more conventional approaches to the archaeology of our recent past. Several papers treated the archaeology of the World War II: J. F. Jensen and T. Krause documented the remains of German weather camps in Greenland; M. Persson presented the work of her excavations at refugee camps in Sweden; G. Moshenska reflected on children and play among boom site in World War II Britain; and B. Olsen and C. Wittmore detailed their excavations at a POW camp in far north Norway. These contributions revealed that archaeological investigation of sites and events can reveal omitted or occlude details even when documentary and ethnographic evidence exists. The archaeology of modern urban spaces, Cold War installations, industrial ruins, and contemporary conflict zones forges clear links between things, places, and memories. These papers, however, neither appeal to a uniform social memory nor do they dictate a clear course of action for a critical care of contemporary archaeological heritage.

For scholars more familiar with publications of old world sites and studies, the relative scarcity of formal description, catalogues, and architectural and archaeological illustration common to publications involving the archaeological of the contemporary world might appear surprising. Some of this can be explained by the nature of the book which was intended to interrogate the confluence of ruins and memories in the modern era rather than provide formal documentation for particular modern sites. Nevertheless, only a few papers foregrounded the results of excavation with even trench designations or photographs. Discussions of methodology, so common in archaeological publications over the last four decades, were largely absent with the exception of T. Webmoor’s discussion of the use of video to document an abandoned building on Stanford’s campus. No papers built interpretations upon quantitative or other data driven approaches or detailed the use of scientific techniques in either the conservation or discovery of modern sites.

While it is always inadvisable to review a book based on what it lacks, this critique is perhaps justified for a book that focuses so significantly on absences. The abandonment of techniques associated with longstanding disciplinary practices as well as the New Archaeology in the 1970s represents an effort to distinguish the tool used to document modernity from our deep disciplinary commitments to archaeology as a modern discourse.

Harvest Value: Reprinting North Dakota Quarterly

I spent a little time between cricket overs working on a little side project. Since last year, I’ve been on the editorial board of North Dakota Quarterly, a small literary magazine started in 1910/11 at the University of North Dakota. It was part of the so-called “little magazine” movement that exploded at the turn of the century and were almost certainly the predecessors of today’s blog driven literary publications.  

I’ve taken it on myself to work with the digital aspects of NDQ and, as part of that, I’ve been scouring back issues for content that is current and interesting. I posted a teaser last week with a mock up of a cover. It was a bit of a design exercise, but I think was pretty satisfactory.

Gilette Book Cover

As I played with this a bit more, I’ve come up with three things that I want to do:

1. Find Interesting Content. The great thing about the little magazine tradition is that it provided folks with a platform for sustained comment on events of their time. The sometimes motley group of faculty who had come to UND and the Red River Valley were not timid in expressing their views of the world and their institution. As a result, the comments offered in the early issues of NDQ have a tendency to be both sweeping in perspective and historically relevant 

2. Design. I am not a graphic designer. In fact, I’m not even very good at using Illustrator, InDesign, or Photoshop, but I recognize the value in today’s hyper-visual culture to making an attractive product. The original layout and design of the NDQ is staid and simple, so I tried to maintain the spirit of that practice. I reset the text in Doves Type to add some craft like flair to it. I also tried to make the cover more graphically inviting (and used official colors of the University of North Dakota on the NDQ logo to emphasize the immediate relevance of this issue to the University).    

3. Add Context. For the two offprints that I have prepared recently, I’ve added a short introduction exploring the context for a particular offprint. This not only allows the reader to understand some of the language and ideas that might seem out of date and impolitic, but also reinforce the relevance of a particular piece for our contemporary world.

So, here is my second reprint. It is an article from NDQ 7.4 (1917) by John Morris Gillette titled: “The University in the Service of Society.” 


I’ve also started working on a larger reprint project that will bring together ten articles on The Great War from the 1916,  1919, and 1920 volumes of NDQ. My romantic goal is to drop this content next November 11th (Veterans’ Day), but I get impatient! 

Here’s my tentative table of contents:

I. Introduction

1. One Hundred Years of Peace (NDQ 6)
O. G. Libby,
Professor of History
University of North Dakota

2. The Background of the Great War (NDQ 8)
O. G. Libby
Professor of History
University of North Dakota

3. The Universities and the War (NDQ 8)
George R. Davis
Assistant Professor of Sociology,
University of North Dakota

II. The University of North Dakota and the War

4. Medical Students and the Draft (NDQ 8)
H.E. French
Professor of Anatomy and Dean of the School of Medicine
University of North Dakota

5. War Experiences of a University Student as a Doughboy (NDQ 10)
Wesley R. Johnson

6. An Alumnus of the University Who Did Not Get Across (NDQ 10)
William H. Greenleaf
Secretary Alumni Association
University of North Dakota

7. Experiences of a University Woman “Over There” (NDQ 10)
Hazel B. Nielson

8. The Work of Institutions of Higher Education (NDQ 10)
Orin G. Libby
Professor of History
University of North Dakota

III. Afterward

9. The University and National Progress (NDQ 9)
Bartholomew John Spence
Professor of Physics
University of North Dakota

10. After the War – What? (NDQ 8)
Hugh E. Willis
Professor of Law
University of North Dakota

If you want to encounter the horror of The Great War first hand (actually, the horror of any war), read over the in memoriam for students and alumni of UND.  

Objects and Artifacts

Saturday was the deadline for submitting papers to the 2015 American Schools of Oriental Research conference. It dawned on me while I watched the big countdown clock, that I hadn’t given a conference paper in a few years so I put together an abstract for a workshop at the ASOR meeting in Atlanta next November.

The workshop is the second in a series that focuses on object biography. Here is the call for papers:

Object Biography for Archaeologists Workshop II: The Object as Magnet

Chairs: Rick Hauser, IIMAS The International Institute for Mesopotamian Area Studies and Nancy Serwint, Herberger Institute for Design & the Arts

Far from being inert and passive, the objects we excavate have a dynamic identity and significance not always noted in the record, but that must be recounted if we mean to set down the full description of any one item. As became abundantly apparent from papers presented in Year One of our workshop series, an object can take on new meaning and have multiple lives, affording the archaeologist opportunities to establish connections and parallels that extend far beyond field note or catalog description, enlarging the purview of interpretation and enlivening academic debate across disciplines. In Year Two, we aim to explore “The Object as Magnet”—through what agency objects modify their essence and accrue meaning, drawing unto themselves traces of varying states of existence and permutations of being. We particularly welcome imaginative proposals that consider object multivocality; and case studies that explain how the life history of objects becomes entangled in a web of transnational meanings across cultures in legal, ritual or mortuary context. We aim, in short, to explore the “enchantment” we experience when we encounter the archaeological object.

And, here is my abstract:

Objects, Clones, and Context

The first year of the Object Biography workshop demonstrated the “multiple lives” and meanings that an object can enjoy as it moves from ancient contexts into our modern world. In general, these papers recognized how the physicality of an object reinforced its integrity by introducing the metaphor of the object as magnet for meaning and experience.

This paper looks to the digital objects that archaeologists produce, clone, and reproduce endlessly across media, time, and space. 21st-century archaeological projects rely on database objects, 3D objects, and textual objects to construct distinct archaeological realities. The digital environment demonstrates how artifact can exist in multiple places and serve multiple functions simultaneously. These digital clones require different kinds of care in their maintenance, use, and archiving, but they are no less vital to the archaeological endeavor.

The difference between digital objects and physical artifacts reveals the complex role that materiality plays in archaeological discourses. Only through engaging with the social, economic, and disciplinary situation of these objects can archaeologists come to unpack the character and significance of our enchantment. The appearance of an artifact in a museum, in a database, and in a print publication (or even on the antiquities market) represent distinct forms of entanglement with materiality that complicates the notion of a single archaeological object. The elusive character of digital objects provides a convenient point of departure for interrogating the dynamic role of the artifact within our discipline.

Readers of this blog know that I’ve been fooling around with objects and artifacts for the last couple years. Some of this has come from my interest in slow archaeology which focuses on the relationship between archaeologists and their various objects of study. Some of my interest has come through punk archaeology which, among many other things, seeks to defamiliarize the viewer from their modern material world. And, finally, some of this comes from my interest in digital practices in archaeology which have the potential – as this very recent article makes clear – to disrupt how we think about the physicality of archaeological artifacts.

In fact, my paper seeks to challenge the view that physical artifacts matter in 21st century archaeology. Almost any practicing archaeologist recognizes that most of our time is not spent fondling tenderly some ancient object, but pouring over digitized, aggregated, and pixelated data. As a result, the fundamental experience of archaeological discovery has moved from the trench side or survey unit to the laboratory, library, or office. This is not suggest that we don’t need ancient artifacts to do our work, but rather to point out that any search for agency in the networks of meaning that link archaeologists (or the general public) to artifacts should focus as much on the media through which artifacts acquire meaning as the physical reality of the artifact themselves. By focusing on the media through which artifacts manifest themselves in archaeological work, we can bring new attention to the objects that make archaeological knowledge possible. Frequently, the objects that produce archaeological knowledge are computers and various portable, data collectors (cameras, GPS units, 3D scanners) that serve to articulate ancient artifacts in various contexts meaningful to the archaeologists gaze.