This weeks podcast is early and short, because we are super-excited about some audio and podcasting we will be doing from the 7th Annual Cyprus Lecture and North Dakota Premiere of Atari: Game Over. If you can’t make the premiere in Grand Forks on 9 April, you can watch the documentary on XBox Video, or Netflix. Atari: Game Over has an IMDB rating of 7.2 from 368 (!) users, and you can watch a video review of the video by two dudes here.
Listen to the Cyprus Research Fund Lecture Live HERE. And be sure to celebrate our sponsors: The Cyprus Research Fund, The College of Arts and Sciences, and The North Dakota Humanities Council.
But, first, Bill and Richard discuss historians who have become concerned that they have lost their public, and how public activities and outreach, like a crazed dig in Alamogordo, NM might address that issue. We also discuss whether the Archaeology of the Recent Past is an outreach gimmick, or whether it is something that is helping the science of archaeology grow. For our jumping off point, we discuss/attack/mock a recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education: Thomas Bender, How Historians Lost Their Public.
Bill makes the case that specialized studies full of technical language are appropriate, and that calls to be less-specialized can be condescending, and lead to dumbing down the discipline. He points out that specialization is good in cancer doctors, but somehow bad in historians, and that makes no sense. Being accessible doesn’t produce new knowledge, Bill notes, technical and specialized writing does. Richard sort of agrees, but argues that there is plenty of room and opportunity for historians to break out of their uber-specialized cubbyholes if they want, and if they don’t want, they shouldn’t complain. The public aren’t crying out for more historians to engage them, as they have so much to watch and read from other sources, says Richard. Rather an insecurity within historical communities generates these cries. Bill notes that there is also real push back from funding agencies about outreach, and that is cause for concern. We seem to end up agreeing that there is a need and room for general practitioners of history and specialists in history, and perhaps there is no crisis at all. Bill, however, suggests that he sometimes expects people to pay attention to him, while Richard is resigned to never being heard.
Richard admits that he started working on the archaeology of the contemporary world because he thought it would be easy (for outreach and students), but he has since been converted to thinking that it actual has significant contributions to the field. Bill discusses ways archaeology of the recent past has been done and applied to actually make the world a better place right now, especially studies of trash. Bill questions whether outreach via the recent past is useful, or is it so bizarre, like digging up Atari cartridges, that it is just a novelty and actually diminishing rather than enhancing dialogue with the public. Richard and Bill discuss how such projects can wind up with other professionals not taking the work seriously. Richard talks about some work that has been done on the archaeology of fraternities, and how the The Lost Boys of Zeta Psi is so very relevant right now. Richard claims that winners try to solve problems through outreach rather than trying to be a policy wonk. Bill talks about how non-exotic archaeology can be effective help produce responsible citizens. We digress into a brief discussion of the potential iconography and archaeology of UND
Fighting S___x Ice Dragons (?) logos and paraphernalia. We close by referencing Andrew Reinhard’s bleeding-edge venture into Archaeogaming.
The Links to things we talk about:
That obscure website where you can buy HISTORY books – Amazon.com.
Rathje and Murray, Rubbish!: The Archaeology of Garbage.
Laurie Wilkie, The Lost Boys of Zeta Psi: A Historical Archæology of Masculinity at a University Fraternity.(Be sure to enjoy the hilariously nitpicky Amazon review, from (surprise!) a member of the fraternity from 50 years ago).
A handy bibliography of Contemporary Archaeology.
Black-Haired Irishmen – quit being racist.
Big Canine Teeth – really, quit being racist.
Andrew Reinhard’s IMDB Page.