Objects, Media, and Moviemaking: Narrating the Alamogordo Atari Expedition

It took me much longer than I imagined to get to this point, but I finally have something scholarly to show for my adventures at the Atari Expedition in Alamogordo, New Mexico. For something less than scholarly, you can read this.

This is not a final product, nor will it be the last word, but I feel like I have finally wrangled the maelstrom of ideas and experiences into a cohesive (if not coherent), presentation. The paper linked below represents my efforts to bring together five areas of thinking. First, I wanted to present a formal, archaeological description of the excavation of Atari Games from the Alamogordo landfill. Second, I wanted to do this in a way that explicitly references the complexities of both academic and popular archaeological narration. Third, I wanted to acknowledge the influence of the archaeology of the contemporary world on how we document 20th century archaeological work and the complicated and complicating concept of contemporaneity in understanding our recent past. Fourth, I want to recognize the materiality of the games themselves and demonstrate that this materiality influenced the way in which we narrated their discovery. Finally, I wanted at least to reference the growing and sophisticated field of media archaeology and demonstrate that the media, message, and materiality all contributed to our view of the Atari Alamogordo excavations.

This is too much to do in a single paper, but in the spirit of “always leave them wanting less,” I attempt to tell a compelling story amid a dense and complicate analysis. And I wrote this all in about 3 weeks.

This article would not have come into existence if not for the persistence and infectious enthusiasm of Andrew Reinhard and that Archaeogaming crowd. Richard Rothaus’s good humor, experience, and inventiveness ensured that we documented things “on the ground.” Bret Weber provided all sorts of intellectual and “social” support. And Raiford Guins provided an academic framework for the understanding of these artifacts in their material and cultural history. None of these people are to blame for this jalopy of an article draft. 

What I desperately need now is feedback. The citations in this article are minimalist and the argument is tangled. I recognize that I need to include figures. The conclusions is more of a concession of defeat than a brilliant synthesis and the introduction serves as a christening in which the ceremonial bottle of champagne fails to break. That all being said, I do think that this is salvageable, but not without help.

Please help. 

Here’s a link to the paper in Hypothes.is so you can comment on it. Or, if you’d rather, feel free to download it and shoot me feedback (or despair that I have a Ph.D.).  

Finally, where should I send this? 

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