Wesley College Entombed

Last fall, my colleague (and student) Wyatt Atchley published a photo essay in North Dakota Quarterly based on our work with Wesley College buildings on the campus of the University of North Dakota. You can download this essay (and the entire volume of NDQ for free here) or go and check out the digital exhibit here. For more on the larger Wesley College project, go here.

This past week, Wyatt developed more of film photographs from this project and sent them along to me and agreed to let me post them here on my blog. He took this next group of photos from the Wesley College “bone yard” where that UND has stored the various architectural members of the demolished buildings. Wrapped in plastic, encased in wood, and set on pallets, the glazed brick facades and cornices of the Wesley College buildings are still shockingly modern. Their Classical motifs represent efforts in the contemporary university to preserve parts of their past — albeit out of sight and maybe out of mind—while moving forward.  

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In Production: Failing Gloriously and Other Essays

It’s International Open Access Week which means it’s a good time to talk a bit about The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota. It just so happens that we have a new open access book in production even as we speak: Shawn Graham’s Failing Gloriously and Other Essays which features a foreword from Eric Kansa and an afterword from Neha Gupta. 

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It’s an intriguing volume that updated the venerable academic memoir for our contemporary situation and, at the same time, offers personal commentary on the digital humanities, archaeology, teaching, and our changing professional landscape.

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The table of contents don’t really do it justice, but if you’re interested in an advanced copy and would consider blurbing it, drop me an email! 

Here’s the table of contents:

FAILING GLORIOUSLY DRAFT1 10 21 TOC

From a design perspective, I used Miller Text for the body of the book for the first time ever. It’s a “Scotch style” font that often appears in newspaper and periodicals. I thought that it fit the short essays in this book and communicated their contemporaneity and vibrancy. The use of Miller style fonts in magazines like The New Yorker also ensured that it communicated an accessible seriousness of purpose. For the titles, I used a compressed version of Akzidenz-Grotesk because it echoes the balance between the significance of this book in the present (Akzidenz-Grotesk being famously favored in early 20th-century emphemera) but also a kind of historical weight. Despite it’s modest origins, Akzidenz-Grotesk has become a serious font that harkens to a day before the ubiquity of Futura, Helvetica or other mid-century san serif typefaces. Age does that to a font!  

Flow and the Digital Press, Part 2

Last week, I presented part of a final, albeit working, draft based on a paper that I gave last spring at the annual IEMA conference at Buffalo. It’s due at the end of the month, and right now, I’m starting to feel deadline pressure.  

Here’s the final 1000 words or so of the paper, where I try to bring The Digital Press into conversation with the larger conversation about workflow and flow in a digitally mediated environment. It’s starting to take some shape.

As the fluid world of digital archaeology is creating new opportunities and challenges for publishing the results of our work, it also seems likely that it will transform entrenched attitudes toward publishing in our discipline. Digital Press at the University of North Dakota offers one example of how new boundaries between publishing and research emerge from the growing interest in digital workflow and its impact of the social organization of disciplinary practice within the field. To be clear, scholar-led projects such as the Princeton/Stanford Working Papers (Ober 2007) offered models for publishing that depended upon the digital affordance of production and distribution. The emergence of platforms like University of Minnesota Press’s Manifold which supports the transparent and interactive production of academic work likewise relies on the interoperability of digital flows from author’s laptop to the print-on-demand book. The digital affordances of our current scholarly workflow can be as simple as the practice of most academic papers taking shape in word processing software which can be easily converted for distribution on the web. Scholar-led platforms such as Open Context, which publishes peer-reviewed archaeological data, essentially makes artifacts of the digital flow susceptible to review through close attention to metadata and linked data standards.
The Digital Press is a rather more conventional project in comparison, but perhaps the conventional character of its work reflects the maturing of digital practices and a tipping point in how these practices shape professional relations within our discipline. Our current publishing model is fluid, but follows certain relatively consistent conventions. First, we use digital tools to produce and distribute our books at a low cost using print-on-demand printing for paper books, we distribute also through PDF downloads on a low cost website running WordPress, and finally, archive our books at UND’s institutional repository and the Internet Archive. Second, we publish mainly under various open access licenses. This eliminates some of the institutional friction that limits the circulation and distribution of our works. Finally and most importantly for this paper, we strive to collaborate closely with authors on all aspects of a publishing process. While none of these things are particularly radical or innovative, we feel like we are harnessing the flow of the the digital world and territorializing it as a conventional and familiar looking book. The involvement of archaeologists in the production of publishable data at the edge of the trench opens the door to a more dynamic model of archaeological publishing.

The Digital Press is almost entirely run by academics who lay out manuscripts, prepare marketing materials, use their own and their colleagues’ social media reach to promote the books, and manage acquisition, peer review, and copy editing. We even try our hand at cover design (with varying results). Our ability to perform these functions is possible largely because the basic publishing tools common to most presses – Adobe InDesign, the PDF format, Adobe illustrator – are available for relatively minor costs and they are increasingly simple to use. It is now possible to link descriptive text to discrete pieces of archaeological data, to create familiar and portable media rich documents, and to produce and archive these digital objects easily. In short, the development of digital infrastructure allows archaeologists to extend their workflow from trench side to final publication while remaining involved in all aspects of knowledge making. To be clear, my work at The Digital Press does not, necessarily, emphasize the creation of standardized, linked data. We leverage the kind of interoperable data the flows freely across the discipline only inasmuch as our works are largely open access and available for disaggregation. Instead, it leverages the breakdown of certain barriers present within the discipline, particularly between research and publishing, to expand the process of knowledge making and complicate the traditional black boxing of the publication process.
In short, we emphasize to our authors the opportunity to see knowledge making as extending from the earliest work in the archive or in the field all the way to its final presentation as a publication. In some cases, the Press is invited to participate as a publisher from the first efforts to conceptualize a project in much the same way that data archiving or publishing is now an expected part of a data management plan for any new research project. This integration allows us to work with authors to understand how best present their research and acknowledges that issues of presentation often have a direct impact on the perceived value of academic work.

Conclusions

To conclude, The Digital Press – and digital publishing practices in archaeology (and I’d propose in academia more broadly) – offers at least one way to think about the tension between the fragmenting of digital archaeological data and social practices at the core of knowledge making. The concept and practice of archaeological workflow in a digital environment has a social impact on our discipline. In publishing, digital tools and practices have contributed to a collaborative environment that is not grounded simply in the relative ease of using mainstream professional design tools and the basic interoperability of digital wordprocessors, but in the concomitant transformation in the social and professional context for creating new archaeological knowledge. Following the fragments of digital knowledge along the rhizomic streams connecting field practices to final publications challenges some of the traditional forms of organization that define archaeological work. The ease with which objects, human remains, and even buildings can move through digital media demonstrates, at some level, how digital workflows can transform the social and disciplinary limits on archaeological practice. This work to reterritorialize the digital workflows goes beyond producing a digital object with the familiar form of a book and extends to attempting to re-create the convivial spaces of premodern craft in an effort to wrest archaeological knowledge from the flow of fragmented data. In the end, the Digital Press aspires to contribute to the creation of new critical models for digital archaeology that both unpack by the black box of publishing and create a new, digitally mediated model for the production and dissemination of archaeological knowlege.

Friday Varia and Quick Hits

Apparently, we’re going to enjoy a few days of “fall” in North Dakotaland this weekend. It’ll give our community a chance to clean up branches broken from the heavy snow last weekend and try to get their gardens into shape for their long winter nap. Hopefully the nice weather will give us a chance to take leisurely strolls along the banks of Lake Agassiz and to enjoy the foliage. If the weather isn’t as autumnal where you are, I hope that the weekend brings calmer weather. 

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Whatever your situation, enjoy some quick hits and varia:

In their comfort zones:

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Flow and the Digital Press

For the last few weeks, I’ve been slogging through a revision and expansion of a paper that I gave last spring at the annual IEMA conference at Buffalo. It’s due at the end of the month, and right now, I’m starting to feel deadline pressure. 

Here’s my revised introduction.

Collaborative Digital Publishing in Archaeology: Data, Workflows, and Books in the Age of Logistics

Over the last two decades, there has been the growing use of the phrase ”digital workflow.” As you might expect, the Google ngram plot for this term looks like the proverbial hockey stick. The term ”workflow” has its roots in the language of early 20th century scientific management, and the notion of “digital workflow” appears to have first emerged at the turn of the 21st century in the field of publishing. In this context, digital workflow spawned a series of “how to” style books that described both the role of computer technology in the production of print media and the new way of organizing practice. Among archaeologists, the concept of digital workflow has emerged in the early 21st century with the widespread use of digital tools, technologies, and practices in the discipline, and, as a result, digital workflow has come to occupy a distinct place within archaeological methodology.

This paper considers the idea of a ”digital workflow” in the context of archaeological publishing. Recent work on archaeological writing and publishing has started to explore the reciprocal relationship between archaeological work and the publication process. Ian Hodder considered how the character and structure of archaeological description and narration shape the kinds of arguments possible in the field (Hodder 1989). This anticipated a growing emphasis on craft in archaeological knowledge production with work on illustration, for example, demonstrating the embodied nature of the processes of translating archaeological knowledge from the field to the published page (Morgan and Wright 2018). This finds ready parallels with recent critiques of archaeological photography that have recognized how media affordances shaped the kind of arguments that archaeologists make from their data (Gartski 2017). With the emergence of digital practices in archaeological field work, scholars have come to understand the data produced through a growing range of digital tools required thoughtful curation and, increasingly, publication under the terms of various federal grants. As a result, archaeologists have started to extend the notion of archaeological workflow from data collection in the field to the archiving and dissemination of data on platforms like Open Context, TiDAR, or the ADS.

This move among archaeologists will have, I propose, wide ranging impacts on the nature of archaeological publishing especially as academic publishing itself has entered a period of considerable change. Most large academic publishers now have digital publishing platforms of various descriptions and have supported various efforts at creating more dynamic and interactive ways to engage with archaeological description, interpretation, analysis and data. The best known and perhaps most innovative of these is the University of Michigan’s recent publication of the Mid-Republican House at Gabii. While this work received some significant criticism from reviewers for the limits of its functionality, the authors have been commendably reflexive in the motivations and processes surrounding its development (Optiz 2018). Publishers have also sought to embrace Open Access publishing models as pressure from authors, libraries, and institutions has sought to make publicly funded research more widely available, remove profit margins from the consideration of academic work, and pushed back against escalating prices for library resources. These initiatives often inform the development of new publishing platforms — like Luminos from the University of California Press, Fulcrum from the University of Michigan Press, and PubPub from MIT. In some cases, such as the Manifold platform from the University of Minnesota Press, these platforms are open to new compositional strategies for authors that expand the character of the academic books as living documents susceptible to revision and to accommodating responses within their fabric. These significant changes to publishing intersect with a growing reflexivity in archaeological workflow to create the potential for new ways of understanding archaeological knowledge making.

This chapter offers my modest contributions to these conversations based on two things. First, I have two slightly unusual points of departure. One is a passage from an article by Michael Given in which he applies Ivan Illich’s idea of conviviality to an understanding of the premodern agricultural landscape of Cyprus (Given 2017, 2018). Illich proposed his idea of conviviality as a way to describe the creativity that arose from the fluid interaction and interdependence between individuals in the premodern world, and he articulated it as a critique of an impoverished modern condition. Toward the end of the article, Given suggested that a convivial collaboration between archaeological specialists from soil scientists to ceramicists, bioarchaeologists, architectural historians, and field archaeologists would produce a deeper understanding of the convivial landscape in which premodern Cypriots lived (Given 2017, 140). My first reading of that passages was relatively uncharitable (Caraher 2019, 374-375). Illich’s notion of conviviality was anti-modern and attempting to reconcile this idea with the assembly line practice of archaeological work and specialization seemed as doomed to fail as the plantation style sugar works established by the Venetian colonizers on Cyprus’s south coast. If convivial relationships mapped the seamless sociability of premodern production, specialization and workflows created Frankenstein creatures which have the superficial appearance of reality, but are, in fact, mottled monsters of recombined fragments (in the vague sense of Freeman 2010).

At the same time that I was thinking about Illich and Given, I read Anna Tsing’s work, The Mushroom at the End of the World (2015) and Deborah Cowen’s work on logistics, The Deadly Life of Logistics (2014). Both books, in their own ways, describe the fluid of movement of people, things, and capital around the world. They explore the tension between the local and the global, places and movement, and the Deluezian “dividual” and the Enlightenment individual (Deleuze 1992). While Cowen’s work is, as the title suggests, practical and pessimistic in tone, Tsing’s work offers the rhizomic world of the matsutake mushroom holding forth the “possibilities of life in capitalist ruins.” She draws freely (and playfully) upon Deleuze and Guattari’s ideas of deterritorialization and flow adding a new conceptual layer to our concept of workflow (Deleuze and Guattari xxxx). While I dread bringing too much theory to this chapter, I do think that Deleuze and Guattari offers a way to understand Given’s use of conviviality as a rather radical way to conceptualize the reterritorialization (perhaps the recoding) of modern archaeological knowledge making. This chapter will swing back and forth between these two poles and offer both an angst-filled critique of archaeological practice as well as some more optimistic reflections on why maybe Michael Given was right (and maybe I knew that all along) and convivial social practices in archaeology are possible, even in our digital age.

The second pillar supporting my arguments in this chapter is my experience founding and operating a small university press, The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota, which I co-founded about five years ago. At the risk of being solipsistic or self-referential, my experiences talking with authors, book makers, archaeologists, and other publishers has helped me to formulate ways of producing books that bring them closer to the convivial practices associated with archaeological work. To be clear: The Digital Press is small with no permanent staff; our budget is based exclusively on the generosity of donors and a slow drip of paper book sales; and we have no experience in the publishing industry at any level. These things are both features and bugs. On the one hand, we had no expectation for how a press should work other than those that we had acquired as publishing scholars. We have also developed a strong sense of common ownership over the books that we have published with our authors. This has emboldened us to think about the Digital Press as a model for other publishing projects in the digital era. On the other hand, we do rely more heavily on the experiences and energies of our authors than a conventional press and this has not only complicated certain features common to academic publishing, including peer review, but also created a greater professional burden for our authors (and, indeed, our publisher) in an environment already crowded with obligations. In short, this chapter is not offering The Digital Press as the model for the future of publishing, but rather offers our experiences as an example for how the landscape of academic production is changing.

Redefining Academic Work and Academic Knowledge

Yesterday Sarah Bond and Kevin Gannon wrote a reply to a widely circulated piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education by Manya Whitaker. Whitaker’s piece suggested that early career scholars should avoid writing for public audiences because these types of publications tend not to chart a clear path to tenure. This is undoubtedly true, particularly at mid- and higher- tier research institutions that continue to see conventional peer review as the gold standard for evaluating faculty development. I can say this with a bit of confidence because my university (and the universities where many of my friends and colleagues work) fits into this category. 

Bond and Gannon argue, as you might expect if you’re familiar with their work, that programs should not only support public outreach, but it should be encouraged early in a scholar’s career and baked into evaluation rubrics perhaps using the well-known Boyer Model for assessing scholarly work. The Boyer Model recognizes a wider range of scholarly outputs as valuable and defines them around four categories: discovery, integration, application, and teaching and argues that this expanded definition of scholarly work provides a more dynamic and diverse foundation for rewarding faculty work. The Boyer Model celebrates its 30th birthday next year and despite its popularity as an idea and a talking point, it is still a rather marginal model for evaluating scholarly work.  

The reasons for this, as Bond and Gannon recognize, is that the professionalization projects particularly in the humanities has been closely tied to peer reviewed, scholarly, publishing. Some of this dates to the late 19th century and the rise of the PhD as a professional research degree grounded first in preparation of a dissertation and then in the rise of the peer reviewed journal and monograph. Professional standards followed the rise of the university in the U.S. and abroad and the growing ability for professional researchers to monetize their work as faculty. As academia diversified, particularly after the WW2, efforts to evaluate scholarly accomplishments remained in lockstep with the changing professionalization project. Double blind peer review, in particular, became a key approach to undermining long-standing racial, gender, and institutional biases and to create, at least in theory, a more level playing field grounded in the merits of work.

In contrast, public scholarship, particularly in the humanities, became associated with older forms of scholarship rooted in elite or even aristocratic values (consider, for example, George Bancroft’s History of the United States). In fact, the tension between professional values and public outreach led to the famous turn of the century split in the American Historical Association, where scholars engaged more deeply in the public project found themselves marginalized for the professional discipline.

Times have changed, of course, but the structure of academia has persisted and public oriented scholarship has often been seen as bonus work or less significant than scholarship oriented toward a more professional audience. Today, this trajectory has encountered challenges from within academia, from the general public who have embraced certain strains of anti-intellectualism, and from the increasingly populist political leaders who have sought cut funding to higher education on the grounds that its out of touch with the general public. As Bonds and Gannon note, for many smaller, regional, teaching-oriented, and tuition-dependent small liberal arts colleges, promoting public outreach may necessary to stave off a looming demographic and economic crisis. There is a real urgency today in efforts to convince a public regularly stoked by anti-intellectualism and a kind of virulent populism that higher education especially in the humanities has value.

At the same time, establishing authority in the public sphere s a difficult task. It involves, on the one hand, establishing claims to expertise and these claims remain grounded in the traditional academic discourse. Traditional, peer-reviewed academic work is intensive, time consuming, and process driven, and it often leaves little time for more public oriented scholarship that nevertheless will leverage a scholar’s status as a professional expert.    

More than this, evaluating the quality, importance, and impact of public oriented scholarship remains a challenge that may cut to the core of the larger academic project. The structures of peer review, academic publication, and the larger scholarly process formed the key element to a professionalization process that is widely seen as ongoing.

Public scholarship, in the other hand, remains more murky not only in how it should be evaluated, but also in relation to the structure through which recognizable outreach can and should occur. In theory, any scholar can prepare an article for peer review publication provided it meets the recognized professional standards of a particular journal or publisher. Getting a work of public scholarship to an audience is often a far more complicated and variable process. On the one hand, you could submit it to one of the hundreds of little magazines that publish non-fiction and essays. These range from Harper’s to smaller publications like North Dakota Quarterly (which is accepting submissions for non-fiction for two more weeks!) or my personal favorite N+1. Many of these publications read professionally, but few have the same “double blind” procedures as academic publications. They also reflect a wide range of audiences that may not entirely be clear for an academic who is not already an avid reader of these little magazines. 

Alternately, you might get lucky and have the connections necessary to publish from time to time in places like the Chronicle of Higher EducationThe Atlantic, or any other more mainstream publications that feature academic work. The pathways to these opportunities, however, tend to be more about invitations, connections, and contacts (if not pure chance) and less professionally transparent. Writing for the wider public often introduces the vagaries of the commercial market – page views, bounce rates, marketing plans, and the like – to academic work and shape how scholar can connect to an audience. In many cases, commercial pressures, for example, exert a greater influence on a work intended for public consumption than an academic project. This isn’t to suggest that these works are somehow compromised by this, but calls for outreach and public scholarship aren’t just about making what we already do more visible and accessible, but are also about doing more accessible scholarship. 

Issues of audience and activism also play a role in how we understand the place of public scholarship in academic career advancement. There’s a tendency to see the public as somehow fundamentally different from an academic audience. There might be less of a difference between a targeted “public audience” and a targeted professional one in terms of numbers and even impact. We tend to think of specialized work primarily of interest to other scholars, but there are any number of activist communities who appreciate more accessible scholarly work that supports their missions. This work overlaps between academic and public audiences because scholar activists tend to move easily between groups as well. Such ambiguities between the role of scholar and the public are not fatal to any effort to evaluate the work of public oriented scholars, but demonstrate that these categories are relatively loosely defined. 

Finally, there is the sticky issue of identity and the public. Authority and expertise are undoubtedly performative. Looking, speaking, and acting the part of the expert goes a long way to establishing public trust. At the same time, many academics would eschew outward expressions of expertise and the conventionalizing elements that the public associates with academic knowledge. We tend to equivocate and avoid both dogma and doctrine in our approach to defining what we know. On a personal level, I can say that I’m a far LESS confident scholar now than I was 15 years ago when I started at my job. It’s not just that academia has beaten me down, but also that I recognize that academia is a process and only chumps make statements unbound by disclaimers. The tension between academic knowledge and public expectations, of course, can be productive and serve to shift public perceptions of professional scholars, but, at the same time, there continues to be no lack of tweed-clad, middle-aged, white-guy professors pontificating on the hourly documentaries that appear on television (for example). Balancing between public expectations and the academic realities of scholarly appearance and behavior without compromising the integrity of the academic undertaking is something that public oriented scholars understand, but it’s not easy or simple to execute in practice. 

These comments are not meant in any way to undermine or even challenge Bond and Gannon’s piece. It’s important and good because it implies these more complicated moves that may well reshape academic culture in the coming decades. This isn’t about recognizing public scholarship, but about creating an intellectual space for public scholarship to develop as part of the larger professionalizing trajectory of contemporary higher education.  

More on Islands in Late Antiquity

Yesterday evening, I finished reading Miguel Angel Cau Ontiveros and Catalina Mas Florit’s new edited volume, Change and resilience: the occupation of Mediterranean islands in late antiquity (2019). It’s pretty good and filled with things that I should follow up on as I try to reconstruct a bit of what I used to know about Late Antiquity.

As I noted yesterday, most of the contributions don’t so much explicitly address the interpretative potential of insularity (change or resistance, for that matter), as offer case studies on the archaeology of various Mediterranean islands from the Balearics in the west to Cyprus in the East. The book represented a few interesting trends in how we think about islands in Late Antiquity, but these trends have to be sussed out across various contributions. I try to do some of that here:

Islands as Islands. In most cases, the authors took the integrity of the insular space for granted. In other words, even when contributors considered the coastal islands like those along the Adriatic littoral of Croatia, the islands themselves remained the primary interpretative lens through which to understand the history of settlement in the Late Roman period. It is assumed, for example, that the Cyclades or the islands of the southern Adriatic enjoyed similar historical trajectories, which is fair enough, but that these played out in similar ways over the varying landscapes. 

Island Refuges. Anyone who has worked on Late Roman Greece has undoubtedly thought a bit about Sinclair Hood’s famous “islands of refuge” theory. He argues that small islands near the coast often served as refuges for a cowering population faced with the Slavic depredations of the 6th century. By the mid-1990s, scholar had begun to challenge Hood’s arguments and instead suggested that coastal islands in the Saronic and the Gulf of Corinth were the opposite of refuges. Instead, these islands represented a last gasp of economic expansion where mainland dwellers sought to utilize marginal lands – such as the waterless and desolate near coastal islands – to feed their flocks and to engage in other activities best conducted at a distance from more productive lands. This interpretation accounts for the significant quantities of Late Roman ceramics often found on these islands and the presence of church, cisterns, and other buildings perhaps best suited to the needs of a season community. Whatever the interpretation, these islands were understood in a context that depended, at least in part, on the nearby mainland and their insularity was less a concern per se, than the absence of water and limited vegetation. 

Churches. At one point, I had considered including the Cyclades in my dissertation which I ultimately decided to confine to the mainland of southern and central Greece. I am glad that I didn’t do that. The Cyclades have well over 100 known churches. Islands have so many churches and both Crete and Cyprus have over 100 as well. The density of church building across a diverse range of island communities in the Eastern Mediterranean (simply because am not sufficiently familiar with the island of the Western Mediterranean) clearly mark economic prosperity as well as the emergence of new religious and political institutions across the region. If these buildings reflect the needs of congregations (either as space of worship or as a expressions of piety by other means), there is reason to suspect a diversity of communities both on the larger islands of Cyprus and Crete, and across the smaller islands of the Aegean. Whether this reflects fragmented identities on these islands that either complement or complicate notions of a larger insular identity is difficult to know.     

Identity. Cau and Mas offer the observation in their brief introduction that islanders often have a sense of identity that ties them closely to their island homes. Unfortunately, few of the contributors take their personal perspectives explicitly to heart when considering the character of Late Roman islands. That being said, its intriguing to speculate whether the reuse of Nuragic structures on Sardinia, for example, represents an explicit effort a cultural continuity and Sardinian identity. Do efforts to build churches in places that are visible from the sea reflect efforts to announce an identity defined by the insular landscape? Are the political claims of large islands like Crete or Cyprus distinct results of their insularity and do they leverage a sense of identity?    

Historicizing Islands. It’s hard to divorce discussions of insular identity from modern concepts of culture and politics. For places like Cyprus, there is no doubt that its insularity formed part of strongly articulated political claims over the course of the 20th century. It may be that Crete and Sardinia explored similar claims to political sovereignty – if not outright independence – during their long histories. While it is easy enough to fall back on essentialist claims that assert islands have similar political, social, economic, and even cultural characteristics, I wonder how much of this is shaped by political aspirations in the modern era. 

~

Whatever the complications surrounding the notion of insularity, resilience, and change in the Late Roman Mediterranean, the book represents a useful survey of the island landscapes of Late Antiquity. The references throughout will add significantly to my “I feel a need to read” pile and probably shape future posts here on the ole bloggeroo!

Epoiesen, Islands, and a New Phone

This weekend ended up being a good time to hunker down with a book, a couple dogs, and some student work (and a few footballing contests) and tough out the first storm of the winter. 

First, the best thing about the weekend, though, was the appearance of my first piece in Epoiesen. Epoiesen is an innovative journal for “creative engagement in history and archaeology” edited by Shawn Graham at Carleton University in Ottawa. Instead of the traditional peer review process, Epoiesen complements each paper with a pair of open responses. In some cases these responses are reviews and in other cases they simply riff on the original piece. 

My piece is a response to an album and essay written by Andrew Reinhard called Assemblage Theory. It’s an attempt to write in a more breezy, conversational style and to bring together my interest in music and archaeology. It’s also another effort to consider how archaeological thinking can open new ways of seeing the contemporary world. As I was writing the piece, I thought of it as a continuation of the tradition of Punk Archaeology

You can read it here.

And better still, you can comment on my piece (or any of the pieces in Epoiesen) using the Hypothes.is plug in. I’d love to have a conversation about my piece or Andrew’s piece.

Second, I spent a few hours with Miguel Angel Cau Ontiveros and Catalina Mas Florit’s new edited volume, Change and resilience: the occupation of Mediterranean islands in late antiquity (2019). As readers of this blog know, I’m trying to pay a bit more attention to Late Antiquity these days and doing what I can to catch up on a massive and growing body of scholarship. Since I’m giving a paper next month on Byzantine archaeology and islands (and Cyprus in particular), I’m trying to think about how some of the concepts developed in “island archaeology” (in the sense proposed by Paul Rainbird and Cyprian Broodbank) have shaped our understanding of insularity in historical periods. So far, it appears that these ideas have only filtered unevenly into our understanding of Mediterranean islands during Late Antique and Byzantine times. There is plenty of intriguing archaeology being done on islands – from the Balearics and the Cyclades to Sardinia, Sicily, Crete, and Cyprus – but very little of it considers explicitly the issues of insularity, isolation, and connectivity that are so central to the discourse of island archaeology. Those that do, however, rarely compare the situation of islands to the situation of Mediterranean microregions (in the sense of Horden and Purcell) more boardly. That is: is an island any more insular than the kind of small coastal valleys that are so common around the Mediterranean basin or a peninsula with a narrow isthmus? It is easy enough to argue that these places are “island-like” (e.g. literally in the case of the Peloponnesus), but is there enough to distinguish them from real islands for an island archaeology of the Byzantine or Late Roman period to be intellectually productive? 

Finally, it had been about four years since I had updated my mobile phone. My old phone had about 8 hours of battery life if it wasn’t used. Everything else about it was decent but not great: the camera, the size, the speed, et c. So after some angst, I upgraded.

When I go to meetings, I always admire the people who pull out their phone and seem to have the world at their fingertips. They have their schedule, their contacts, relevant facts, and everything else right there. When I pull my phone out, I’m as often lost in one of a few email applications, trying desperate to search for some basic information on the browser, or wondering why my phone isn’t in sync with my computer or various cloud drives. In short, I’m not a phone person.

The thing is that I want to be a phone person. I admire their confidence and organization! So my solution, as materialistic as it sounds, was to upgrade my phone. Not only did I get a bigger phone, which I’m hoping makes it easier to engage with, but I got a fancier and faster phone with a better battery, camera, and processor. The plan is to actually use it. Regularly.

And not just for dog photos:

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Friday Quick Hits and Varia

We have an official snow day here at UND, but even I celebrate over my morning cup of coffee, I know that if this storm doesn’t deliver, this will cost us a snowy commute in the future.

In the end, it doesn’t matter. I’m hunkered down with my laptop and coffee by the fire and looking forward to some decent football (Eagles versus Vikings, and Penn State playing an always pesky Iowa team), a slightly disrupted Formula One weekend, the NASCAR boys at Talladega, and some decent, boxing. Plus I have some books to read, papers to grade, and a few other things to putter around with until the weather clears. I’ll post an update to my “first snow” snapshot from yesterday when there’s a bit more light.

In the meantime, enjoy a short list of quick hits and varia:

MilseyHug

A Milo Story: Yesterday, in the sleet and rain Milo and I were playing “stick” in a local park. A swarm of deer caught his eye and in a wink, he was gone after them. I figured he’s circle back around after he gave up on the chase, but 20 minutes later, he was still no where to be found. After an hour of increasingly desperate searching in the rain and some kind of pellet sleet, he reappeared, drenched to the bone (which is quite a feat for a yellow lab), covered in burs, and clearly rattled. We got him home, dried him off, and he’s recovering from his adventure. It was a scary evening for all involved!  

First Snow

Like last year, this year’s first snow is in the evening which makes a bit hard to photograph, but we’ve been promised more tomorrow. I’ll update the blog then.

IMG 4329

I’ve posted a photo of the first snow (or what I considered the first snow…) pretty regularly since 2007. Here they are: 2018 (October 4)2017 (October 26), 2016 (November 22), 2015 (Nov. 5), 2014 (Nov. 8), 2013 (Oct. 20), 2012 (Oct. 4), 2011 (Nov. 10), 2010 (Nov. 21), 2008 (Oct. 28), and in 2007 (Sept. 11).