End of Blogs?

Last week Neville Morely wrote a little piece on his declining blog statistics over at his Sphinx blog and has since followed it up with a new podcast. I haven’t had a chance to listen to the podcast yet and I should have commented on his blog post when he asked other bloggers to chime in on their statistics. I feel like I let the community down.

If I look closely, I can tell that my visitor and page view numbers are down. At the same time, my monthly averages appear steady (or even slightly improved) over the past five or six years. My March numbers, for example, were 106 page views per day which is the highest since 2015 and the fourth highest total in the last 9 years. Two very popular posts, however, in the first half of the month drove a good bit of the traffic. These posts circulated rather widely (for me) on Twitter and Facebook, and social media platforms accounted for over 500 page views (or about 18% of the traffic). In an ordinary month, Twitter and Facebook account for 5%-8% of views. Despite my erratic use of social media to promote my blog, it is notable that for 10 of the last 12 months, my page views have been high than the previous year and for 8 of the last 12 months, they’ve been the strongest since 2015.

It is worth noting, however, that my 2014 and 2015 page views were also buoyed by a series of very prominent posts that led to spikes in traffic. Most of these spikes, like the publication of Punk Archaeology or Visions of Substance, tended to have a much longer tale and while they were abrupt, they attracted readers to my blog for months. 

It may be that the shorter term spikes in my blog’s page views reflects the function of blogs within at least American academia has changed. When I started my blog I wanted both to draw the public into my research and give them a bit of a perspective on how scholars (and, in particular, archaeologists) build their arguments. In fact, I celebrated the fuzziness of the knowledge making the process and the ragged edges of what we know. This seemed like a good thing to do at the time when fetishization of “facts” was undermining the careful work of scholars in the humanities to present a world where structures, power, and practice matter more than black and white judgements. Today, this mission seems more problematic and my audience, perhaps, less interested and sympathetic.

Today, my most popular posts serve as open letters which attempt to address issues that face my discipline and academia more broadly. The audience is more academic, more engaged with social, political, and economic situation within academia, and less curious about how knowledge is made in my little corner of the discipline. This isn’t meant as a critique or even criticism of my readers, blogging, or academia, but speaks to the shifting landscape of blogging as practice. Instead of blogs maturing into a less-formal and more intimate complement to the scholarly discourse, blogs have become places where we negotiate the social conscience of our fields. This is not a bad thing, but it creates a different rhythm of blog viewing. 

Quick Thoughts on Open Access

Over the past week I’ve been thinking a good bit about publishing and disseminating archaeological data and yesterday I had some thoughtful conversations with Becky Seifried who was fresh from a recent conference in Athens on the topic (pdf).

I don’t really have anything profound to say about data except the observation that for archaeological projects, the more stakeholders involved, the harder it is to determine how best to disseminate project data. On the one hand, it is easy enough to envision how open data will allow our data savvy community to “dig into” the results of our field work. Moreover, those of us publishing both data and analysis of our projects can understand the value of making the link – no mater how fuzzy – between field work and interpretation clear. In fact, our field increasingly embraces this kind of transparency and openness as both a way to allow researchers and communities to engage with what passes as “raw material” in archaeology.

At the same time, we also recognize the rights of communities to control their own pasts and realize that the past – and its material and digital surrogates in the present – operates within diverse spatial, political, economic, social, and discursive regimes. As a result, openness in data can at the same time be decolonizing and colonizing, progressive and regressive, and collaborative and “going rogue” all at the same time. In fact, the more stakeholders invested in the data and the work, the more openness is seen as a challenge especially among communities who already feel that their control of their own past is vulnerable. 

What’s interesting, of course, is that we often position open, digital heritage as a way to engage more diverse communities in the process of understanding their own past. For archaeology, sharing archaeological data invariably engages those who want to use public data for personal gain (e.g. looters), those who see the digital surrogates of archaeological objects as deserving the same protections as the objects themselves (e.g. limited or highly curated access), and those who see the tools necessary for digital dissemination of archaeological data as a barrier to access.

I recognize that people have thought seriously and expansively about the challenges  of open publishing and digital heritage in practical and theoretical terms. I tend to be so deeply immersed in the data themselves (and the processes of moving data from the survey unit to the final database) to think very hard about these issues. It’s only now as parts of our dataset has taken on its final shape that I’ve had reason to think about its open or not so open after life. 

Plans and Tables

Yesterday was uncharacteristically muggy her in Ancient Corinth and that fit my mood. Not only did I forget to save an ArcGIS project and lose a good bit of work when it crashed, but I also found myself mired in some curious database quandaries that while fun to work through, were frustrating. Whatever the weather here, I’m facing a few more days of similar data oriented challenges.


On the other hand, staring at data from both my own project – the excavations at Pyla-Koutsopetria – and the half-century old project at Isthmia in the Corinthia (not to mention the Polis on Cyprus) has pushed me to think about the future of archaeological publishing in new ways. Our data isn’t tidy because archaeology isn’t tidy. More than that, linking our not-so-tidy data to efforts to make compelling (and tidy arguments) reveals the inevitable disconnect between the data that we have and the arguments that we (ideally) believe. 

Nowhere in the archaeological process do we feel this disconnect more intensely than when we’re preparing material for publication. I wonder how much the aesthetics of our efforts to prepare data obscure the reality of archaeological knowledge making… 

From Cyprus to Greece (and an advertisement for myself)

Yesterday, I wrapped up the first of my of three little study seasons and traveled from Cyprus to Greece.

As a kind of poetic gesture, our long-gestating article on the South Basilica at Polis appeared yesterday in Hesperia 88 (2019). Here’s a link to it (and if you want an offprint and don’t get the Hesperia, drop me an email or a DM on the Twitter). 

The article offers an archaeological argument for the date of two phases of the South Basilica. The second phase will likely be of most interest to architectural historians for Early Byzantine Cyprus because it involves the conversion of the church from a wood roofed structure to a barrel vault. We also managed to phase, and date, the construction of the narthex and a portico that ran the length of the southern side of the basilica. Plus, there’s a massive “French drain” (and who doesn’t love Mr. French’s drains?) designed to help deal with the flow of water against the south wall of the church. 


The weakest part of the article is our discussion of the urban context for the basilica, and, in fact, this is a work in progress for our understanding of the site of Polis and the arrangement of Early Christian churches in the changing urban landscape of Late Antique Cyprus more generally. If you’ve been reading this blog, you’ll undoubtedly know that this is something that I’ve been thinking about lately

We’re also happy that this article involved links to our publication of data from Pyla-Koutsopetria in Open Context. This summer, we’ve started to work a bit on the “digital backbone” for Polis in Open Context (as well as preparing the data from our excavations at Pyla-Koutsopetria and Pyla-Vigla). This involves making our notebooks available as well as our analysis of the context pottery. The inventoried finds from Polis are already available on Open Context in draft form, but they will acquire addition significance only when linked to descriptions of the excavations and other material from the trenches. This is a big job for the area of E.F2 (in the Princeton Polis grid) which includes the South Basilica, but we hope to produce a model for organizing the E.F2 data using the smaller and more manageable area of E.F1 over the next few months.

Thinking about digital publication and curation of archaeological data is always good thing! For the next week, my old buddy David Pettegrew and I will be working with Jon Frey and Tim Gregory with some Isthmia Excavation data and trying to wrangle and think about how best to organize, disseminate, and curate their data. More on that over the next week or so…  

Legacy Data as Data

In January, I am contributing to a panel at the annual Archaeological Institute of America meeting on legacy data. I’ve already blogged a bit on this last week

One of the unanticipated aspects of this work is that I’ve had to think about what constitutes “data” in an archaeological setting. For example, we’re studying a small corpus of lamp fragments from a particular area at the site of Polis. The “legacy data” consists of a notebook of preliminary observations from a scholar who has more or less abandoned the project. The notebook entries range from cursory descriptions to detailed documentation with measurements and comparanda. There is little in the way of analysis or synthesis.

At the same time, these legacy notebooks are data points that can be integrated into larger contexts. In fact, part of the lamps data already exists on Open Context where a version of the inventoried finds database for Polis currently lives

Recontextualizing legacy data was perhaps the most interesting part of our work this summer. Part of the challenge is negotiating the flow between streams of data that constitute arguments. As I think more about flow – whether workflow or flow in a Deleuzian sense – I’m wondering about the relationship between flow and the character and structure of archaeological arguments. Historically, I think, archaeologists have seen data points as the structuring element of archaeological argument. In this highly empirical form of knowledge making (not to say positivistic) “data” forms foundation upon which stable archaeological arguments are built. In its most extreme manifestation, the presentation of archaeological data points can be rather “siloed.” In this situation it becomes difficult to navigate between examples of objects found at one site or in one region, for example, and those found at another site or another region. There is a tension, then, between describing objects at a site effectively and aligning an object with a type common across a region.

For archaeologists, interpretation and analysis is often about resolving this tension. At its best, archaeological work is tied to organizing and understanding objects, buildings, and contexts between the level of the site and that of the state, region, time period, or proposed trajectory of development. In other words, archaeology is concerned less with objects (however defined) and more with the relationships between objects. These relationships are navigated – vividly in a digital context – by the flow between sets of data. Workflow describes both the production of datasets from contexts and negotiating and structuring the relationships between contexts.

Analyzing and interpreting legacy data is all about finding this flow.

Making Digital Archaeology

I read with considerable interest Ethan Watrall’s very recent article in Advances in Archaeological Practice, “Building Scholars and Communities of Practice in Digital Heritage and Archaeology.” The article is very useful outline of how Michigan State has worked to train and develop the next generation of digital archaeologists through a series of three initiatives. (The article can be read productively against two recent article co-authored by Paul Reilly: one with Jeremy Huggett and Gary Lock, “Whither Digital Archaeological Knowledge? The Challenge of Unstable Futures” in the Journal of Computer Applications in Archaeology and one with Costas Papadopoulos, “The digital humanist: Contested status within contesting futures” in Digital Scholarship in the Humanities.

Watrall’s article is unabashedly top down and offers an interesting template for developing the next generation of digital archaeologists, social scientists, and humanists. The programs developed at Michigan State and funded in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities cultivate the ability to plan, organize, and develop digital projects in real time. They emphasize skill building, collaboration, project management, and shared, public outcomes. These are indeed the building blocks for developing archaeologists comfortable with digital approaches and tools and present a model that is consistent with the kind of “high impact” practices that are increasingly common across the U.S. Participants work in groups, develop key skills through rapid development project, present regular updates, and deliver a product that whenever possible is public, open, and relevant. This is good stuff in terms of providing a framework for practical engagement with not only digital practice, but, one could argue, any collaborative project in the social sciences and humanities. I suspect this thoughtful, contemporary design also contributed to the generous funding that these initiative have received from the NEH and Michigan State.

One things that I was particularly intrigued by was the idea that the approaches developed in these programs cultivated communities of practice. Watrall offered a furtive glimpse into how these communities of practice functioned. For example, in the NEH funded Institute on Digital Archaeology
Method and Practice participants found a home on Twitter (with the hashtag #msudia) to communicate eschewing applications like Slack designed to support collaborative research in primarily a corporate environment. Another hint at the way in which communities of practice began to develop was the tendency for groups to change over time with members shifting from one collaborative environment to another. Obviously, the long term results of programs like those developed by Watrall at MSU and whether they develop sustained communities of practice will be difficult to evaluate. At the same time, the particularly dynamic character of the digital world magnifies the need for resilient and sustained communities dedicated to navigating the challenges of new technologies, new social and institution structures, and new ethical parameters grounded in practice.

It’s also intriguing that these communities of practice will have to carry on the work of producing a digital archaeology long after the institutional work and institutional communities provided (funding and staffing and access to technology) by the NEH and large universities like Michigan State disperse. As Reilly, Huggett, and Lock have suggested, the future of digital archaeology may well rely on this kind of institutional support to ensure that communities of practice thrive. At the same time, there are, as Watrall himself recognizes, other models for a healthy digital archaeology in the future. This doesn’t undermine or diminish the success of Watrall’s Michigan State initiatives, but makes it clear that existing communities of practice will continue to shape the future of the field.  

Legacy Data

I might be giving a paper at the annual meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America in January on legacy data. Because of that, I’m trying to be particularly reflective when working with legacy data here at Polis on Cyprus. Over the past ten years (yikes!), I’ve been working with notebooks from the Princeton Cyprus Expedition and working with some colleagues to understand the architecture, stratigraphy, and artifacts from the site.

The notebooks qualify as legacy “data” inasmuch as they document the excavations, and we couple this data with some freshly minted data based on our analysis of the finds and time at the site. We’ve been tempted to ask for permission to excavate a bit more, but never have. At its heart, our project seeks to produce meaningful analysis from what already exists.

This summer, for example, we’ve started to work on pulling together all the basic information prepared in the past for the analysis of the Hellenistic to Late Roman lamps at the site. Most of the original notes on the lamps are in notebooks written between 1997 and 2004. There are some photographs dating to those years and earlier as well as some taken in 2012 and 2013. This information is particularly significant because many of the lamps were stolen when the project’s storeroom was burglarized in 2013. The proxy data – notes, photos, database entries, and archaeological context – are all that remains.

IMG 3767Legacy data with dried apricots for scale 

The first day working on a project like this always causes me anxiety as the tasks of recoding data, linking photographs, and interpreting someone else’s notes makes me fear that new knowledge isn’t possible. At the same time, there is something vaguely liberating in being able to reflow this information in different ways without the burdensome material affordances of the objects themselves (although to be fair enough still exist to pass judgement).   

Summer Work in Cyprus

With the semester winding down, I’m beginning to organize myself for a three week summer study season at Polis in the Chrysochou Valley in western Cyprus. For the last ten years (almost!), Scott Moore and I have been working with the Princeton Cyprus Expedition team to to document and publish the rather remarkable assemblage of material from the Hellenistic to Medieval periods. The site is particularly rich in Late Roman material and includes two Early Christian basilicas, innumerable burials, lots of ceramics, and some evidence for the organization of Late Roman and post-Roman neighborhoods including roads, drainage, and industrial spaces. You can read more about our work at Polis here.

This summer, Scott and I will focus on completing our work on the area of E.F1, which was a Late Roman installation of some description that appears to have spanned the 6th to 7th century and underwent several modifications. The building itself is not terribly interesting architecturally (although a complete pane of window glass was preserved!), but it was associated with several assemblages of Late Roman ceramic material. The latest assemblage is from levels that we can date on the basis of a burial that cut into the final phase of the building. The burial contains a lead seal presumably on a document important to the deceased allowing that dates the inhumation to sometime after the final decades of the 7th century. We discuss that here. It provides a terminus ante quem for the abandonment of the building and the materials associated with the levels into which this burial was cut. We have a feeling that the material from this site will offer a distinctive Late Roman horizon for at least one episode of abandonment at Polis that might pre-date the reconstruction of the South Basilica in the neighboring area of EF2.

The cause for the abandonment of the installation at EF1 is likely to remain unclear, but what’s particular interesting is that at some point in the penultimate phase of the building’s life, there was a growing concern with drainage. The resulting covered water channels presumably represented an effort to move water around the building in a way that preserved its architectural integrity.  The final phase of the building’s life saw wall thickening and buttressing in a way reminiscent of the modifications to South Basilica indicating that the structure was compromised probably at some point in the 7th century. 

The relationship between the modified drains and the later reinforcement of the walls suggests that something about the location of this building and the flow of water made the building vulnerable. A similar scenario led to the collapse of the South Basilica nearby and this hints that the water management and drainage system of ancient Arsinoe had changed between the original construction of these buildings and the need to install drainage and reinforcement. There are many possible reasons for the change in the flow of water, but I’d be tempted to associate it with changes to the grid and roads in Arsinoe which would have disrupted the functioning of drainage systems during Late Antiquity. In other words, the modified water management systems at EF1 and EF2 may represent proxy evidence for changes to the urban fabric.

Our work at EF1 and EF2 (the South Basilica) will also contribute to two papers that I’m scheduled to give next year. One, in the fall, will consider the insularity of Byzantine Cyprus with reference to our work at Polis and Koutsopetria, east of ancient Kition. I don’t have a clear idea for that paper yet, but I think it will focus on the Early Christian architecture across the island and compare it – maybe – to the character of contemporary ceramic assemblages. I’ve argued, here and there, that both reflect choices and practices of communities across the island as well as the flow of material and knowledge (and tastes) over time. 

The second paper considers “long Late Antiquity” on Cyprus and our assemblages from Polis speak to the 7th and maybe even early 8th century material signature of these communities. The understanding of the changing ceramics and their place in everyday life reveals both the different connections between various communities on the island and across the Eastern Mediterranean as well as changing and unchanging habits and footways. 

Finally, I need to thing reflexively about how we have been dealing with legacy data from Polis for a paper that I’ve proposed for the 2020 AIA annual meeting. The migrating of data from one form to the other is an act of translation and transformation that both adds meaning but also reflects a set of priorities for how information moves through the distributed archaeological ecosystem. These priorities and values are not independent of our larger view of how our field (and the contemporary world) makes meaning and knowledge with a range of social, political, and historical implications for how we understand the past.

It should be a good summer!


Indexes and the Bakken

I’ve recently become fascinated by indexes. Partly this stemmed from a rather arduous effort to index our Oxford Handbook of Early Christian Archaeology (2018). Partly my interests stem from thinking about how and whether indices matter in the age of digital books. The ability to search a document for a particular word, for example, makes the conventional index of proper names and key terms irrelevant.

Indexes also have strange relationship to the world of the hyperlink. On the one hand, an indexes represent a one-to-many relationship. One terms links to many places. Hyperlinks are one-to-one links that connect one term to one place. In this sense, a conventional index is a helpful thing. 

On the other hand, most relationships in a text are actually many-to-many. In other words, a range of possible relationships exist for any location in a text. These range from the relative simple relationship between words or concepts that are either identical lexically or so similar to be virtually synonyms to the much more complex and fuzzy relationship between related ideas, concepts, or even antonyms that require their opposite to produce meaning. Indexes, then, could relate to clouds of meaning, perhaps derived from text mining or other automated analysis of a work. This would offer a non-linear way to read a text and to understand its meaning.  

Recently, however, there have been some creative efforts to engage with the indexing as an explicitly creative act. Anyone who has prepared an index (or edited someone else index) recognizes the intellectual and creative work necessary to make it a useful tool for engaging a work, but this is rarely noted explicitly. Indexers, for example, are rarely formally credited for their work. 

In Lauren Berlant’s and Kathleen Stewart’s new book, The Hundreds, the authors invited five colleagues to prepare indexes to their book and these indexes with their authors offer strange wonderful, and intriguing ways of engaging the text. In Ana Paula Pais and Carolyn F. Strauss’s edited Slow Reader, they run the index on the margins of the page allowing a reader to find similar passages in other contributions and read across these passages rather than in a simply linear way.

Over the past few years, I’ve been trying to get a volume of interviews from the Bakken oil patch published, titled Voices of the Bakken and edited by Bret Weber. At various times, we’ve even released little previews of it. One of the challenges that we’ve faced is how to organize these interviews. Do we arrange them chronologically to map how attitudes toward the Bakken Boom changed over time? Do we arrange them thematically? Do we organize them according to location or the position of the individual interviewed? 

Here’s a word cloud based on that document.

Voyant Tools 2019 04 25 09 12 09

One way to produce this book is not to worry very much about how the chapters are organized in the volume. After all, someone is unlikely to read this volume start to finish. More than that, since the book will be published as both a digital and paper form, simple queries can be conducted digitally with the search function on any PDF reader. Complex queries, however, require more complex reading and indexing the volume. More than that, more complex queries depend upon more subtle readings that are invariably idiosyncratic or, at very least, dependent on the particular questions and interests of a particular reader. I’d be particularly intrigued by an “affective index” that looks to understand the moods, feelings, and emotional character of the interviews. This would not, of course, preclude more conventional kinds of indexing that, say, explored relationships between individuals, a sense of home, or even just places or objects in the text.

What if we invited five or six readers to compile their own indexes to the interviews? These readers could engage these interviews in a range of ways that reflect their own research interests, which they could justify in a brief essay? Rather than indexing by page, we’d index by interview and include the key words that generated by the indexers at the conclusion of each interview, attributed to the authors, and with references to the other interviews.

This could get more wild, of course. We also have thousands of images that I started to analyze last year before getting distracted by other projects. These photos also need some kind of indexing to be useful and engaging. I’ve long considered publishing this data via, say, Open Context, but I wondered about the utility and value of a slightly organized dump of images. Maybe these images would be more useful if they were indexed according to some of the same criteria that our indexers would create for the Voices of the Bakken volume. After all, our interviews and archaeological investigation of workforce housing in the Bakken informed one another. There are obvious links between these two data sets, but also the potential for more creative ways to link these two sets of documents.

A project that links the interviews and the images would embody some of the ideas behind “slow data” that archaeologists have discussed recently. It would also demonstrate explicitly how publishing and curating data is work that creates new constellations of knowledge that revolve around critical engagement that starts in the field and continues through the organization of data for publication. 

To be clear, I haven’t yet convinced the editor of these interviews to go along with this kind of approach, and I’m not sure that I could find willing indexers. More than that, indexing thousands of photos seems like a daunting task, but one that would be worth it even if done on a relatively small scale. 

Critical Archaeology in the Digital Age

This weekend’s IEMA conference, Critical Archaeology in the Digital Age, was pretty great and thought provoking. I thought I might share some of my impressions of the papers and the general themes of the conference. The papers were universally remarkable and, in some ways, it’s going to take me a long time to digest the entire conference, but I wanted to offer some preliminary thoughts while the papers (and my notes) were fresh in my mind.

So here are five thoughts on the IEMA conference. Most of them overlap in some way.

1. Social and Digital Practice. Four years ago, a group of digitally minded archaeologists got together for the Mobilizing the Past conference in Boston. The conference started with a keynote talk by John Wallrodt who was a pioneer in implementing digital tools, at scale, in the field (you can read his paper here as a pdf) and concluded with a talk from Bernie Frischer whose Rome Reborn project represented a landmark in the large-scale use of 3D modeling to create an immersive experience of Ancient Rome. You can get a sense for that conference in the published volume that came out of that event.

You can compare the two programs here and here or through the visualizations below:

MtPMobilizing the Past program. (You can see it better here).

IEMACritical Archaeology in the Digital Age (You can see it better here).

In many ways, if you extended a line between the two talks at Mobilizing the Past and traced its trajectory, it would continue through the IEMA conference, despite the explicitly different themes and modest overlap of participants. While “data” remains prominent in both visualization, the MtP cloud shows a prominent emphasis on “recording” whereas IEMA shows “research,” MtP shows “collection” and IEMA shows “social,” and MtP shows “mobile” and IEMA “media.” I recognize, of course, that the two conferences had different emphasis, but I would also suggest that the difference in emphasis reflects the changing priorities in digital archaeology. 

As we conclude the second decade of the 21st century, digital archaeology has become far more invested in the social outcomes, impacts, and potential of digital practices both in the field and as part of the larger discipline.    

2. Affective Archaeology. It’s only recently that I’ve begun to really think about how affect impacts how we know the world. I had recognized, of course, emotional and intellectual response to a spectacular view, the rush at an unexpected discovery, or the simple physicality of space, an object, or moving through a landscape, but this had always represented a bonus experience to be neatly cordoned off from the “real work” of data collecting and description.

Even my understanding of slow archaeology emphasized not the affective aspect of archaeological work but the patient attention to details and change. After hearing a number of talks at this weekend’s conference, I realize that this was a significant oversight on my part. In fact, it hadn’t dawned on me that some of the excitement and learning that took place during the Wesley College Documentation Project was not because of my brilliantly organized class, but because the students were encouraged to explore the buildings on their own and engaged with them on their own terms.  

The potential of immersive, digital experiences to create similar opportunities for engagement with archaeological spaces and objects pushes us to realize that the experience of the past is perhaps as important as our empirical knowledge of archaeology in creating meaningful and useful knowledge.  

3. Privilege and the Colonial. One of the threads that appeared throughout the papers at the conference was the way in which digital tools and practices create or mitigate colonial encounters or the production of privilege. It was inspiring to hear talks about teaching children in Peru how drones, digital cameras, and 3D scanning works and encouraging them to use these tools to reimagine archaeological narratives or how to reimagine museums where the barriers of expertise and access do less to reproduce privilege of wealth, education, race, and gender. 

Of course, digital tools have their own social constructed affordances that digital archaeologists and practitioners negotiate every day, but, at this conference, it felt like the traditional “boys with their toys” culture that so often surrounds supposed “expertise” in digital archaeology, took a back seat to more thoughtful and complex social critique. The range of scholarly ranks – from emerita to visiting – and the range of contexts and uses suggest to me that the critical engagements with digital practices are changing and deepening as more, diverse voices are coming to conversation.    

4. Open, Closed, and Digital. The final conversation at the conference focused on whether it was appropriate to publish the proceedings as a print only book bound by copyright. So much of the conference celebrated the potential of open, digital scholarly work and offered less than subtle critiques of practices that limited access to information, processes, or results.

This conversation, however, was not naive. Folks recognized that the opportunities and benefits of open publishing are not evenly distributed in academia. The increasingly metric driven world of academic evaluation has created growing pressure particularly on early and mid-career scholars to publish in high prestige journals or to publish books with a short-list of traditional and well-established publishers. This tension was not resolved. Times and practices are changing in academic publishing and dissemination, but they’re not changing for everyone at the same pace and in the same way. There remains risks publishing open access and digital work and those of us who are less vulnerable to these risks and more capable of reaping the benefits of these practices. 

5. Hard Work. Finally, I was humbled by the amount of time, intellectual energy, and personal effort present in the papers and projects shared at the conference. If we imagined more efficient, streamlined, standardized, and seamless digital world that would somehow result in scholars working less or with less energy, then we would be mistaken. Scholars engaged in the digital world are not only pushing forward our discipline’s technical tool kit and expertise, but also thinking in critical  ways about archaeology, the past, and the range of stakeholders and communities who engage with both the material and digital objects that we study and our analyses and interpretations. 

I suppose this isn’t surprising, but it makes me even more committed to doing my part.