Three Things Thursday: Epoiesen, The Bakken, and NDQ Supplements

It’s the end of the semester and that means a time to look back, but also to look ahead to the break and beyond to various little projects on my slate for the next couple months (and beyond!).

While I have a good many odds and ends of my own to wrap up in the near future – including a peer review, an article draft, and the first words of a new book – I’m also looking forward to doing some work with projects from The Digital Press. 

Here’s what’s going on in that department. 

1. Epoiesen 2. Last year, I had the privilege of publishing a paper version of the first volume of Shawn Graham (and co.)’s journal Epoiesen. I thought of it as the Epoiesen annual and it is a total gem of a volume. (Download it here or buy it for $10 here). Over the next month or so, we’ll complete layout of Epoiesen 2 which will include this brilliant comic, Sympathy for the Devil, by H. Laurel Rowe.  It’ll also push us to continue to explore the relationship between print media and digital media in how we think about academic and artistic content and to consider the work of mediation to be part of the creative engagement with the content as well as the field of publishing archaeology and art in a digital/analogue hybrid world. We already have a great piece of art for the cover of the volume thanks to Katherine Cook

2. Sixty Years of Boom and Bust: The Impact of Oil in North Dakota, 1958–2018. Kyle Conway and an impressive gaggle of scholars are working in this project right now. It is a republication of the 1958 Williston Report, a relatively obscure, but nevertheless significant report on the impact of the first Bakken oil boom on communities, the economy, and infrastructure across western North Dakota. The book itself will interleave chapters from the Williston Report and updated chapter from a range of authors on related topics recontextualized in light of the 21st century boom.

3. North Dakota Quarterly Supplement 2. I’ve started to think a bit more seriously about the North Dakota Quarterly supplement series. 2018 saw the publication of a small poetry collection call Snichimal Vayuchil as the first NDQ supplement. For 2019, we’ll have another small volume of translated Maya poetry thanks to Paul Worley connections in the region and tireless energies. This should appear in early 2019 as NDQ Supplement 2. 

This past week, I received an email from an author inquiring whether I might be interested in publishing a collection of short stores. This got me thinking about whether I should formalize the NDQ Supplement series as annual volumes that either expand or focuses in some way what the Quarterly already does. I’m sketching a plan out in my head that could include collections of stories, essays, poems, or even complete novels or non-fiction works that are available in a range of different (and varying) formats from open access to more limited, print-on-demand formats. 

Hopefully, I’ll be able to share more on all these projects over the next few weeks as I get some momentum. I can’t promise that any of them will be available for the holiday season, but there’s always a chance a few of those industrious elves can help me get more done than I expect!

Accessing the Annual of ASOR

This past month, I was named editor of the Annual of ASOR. It’s a book series organized into annual volumes on various archaeological topics. Historically, it would appear that the Annual began as an outlet for research from the various members of the schools of Oriental research. How it differed from the contemporary Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research is a bit unclear except that the Annual was in its early years more substantial and included longer, more lavishly illustrated articles. These two publications of ASOR represented the technical and professional output of the American Schools in distinction to Biblical Archaeologist (now Near Eastern Archaeology) founded in 1938 and dedicated to more accessible and popular writing about archaeology in the Middle East.

Today, the function and scope of AASOR is a bit less clear. Work on contemporary sites has increasingly appeared in the Archaeological Report Series which began in 1991 or in BASOR which is a modern and well-edited professional journal. As a result, AASOR has become the outlet for legacy projects and edited collections of articles that deal with topics broadly of interest to ASOR members. I find this eclecticism appealing especially in a world of increasingly specialized publications in our field, but I also recognize that this eclecticism might be confusing to scholars who are looking for an outlet for their work. It seems like the 100th anniversary of the AASOR in 2020 might be an opportunity to make the series more visible and to reflect on its history, contributions and potential for the future.

Along similar lines, the eclecticism of AASOR has made it a bit of a challenge to make the series more available in open digital forms. ASOR has been fortunately to benefit from the efforts of Chuck Jones who led the committee on publications for over a decade and worked to release back ASOR content in relatively open, digital forms. 

The first 20-some volumes of AASOR are available for free download various places (with some obviously in the public domain):

The annual of the American Schools of Oriental Research 1919/1920, vol. 1 (jstor, Hathi Trust, Google books).
The annual of the American Schools of Oriental Research 1921/1922, vol 2/3 (jstor)
The annual of the American Schools of Oriental Research 1922/1923, vol. 4 (jstor, Hathi Trust, Archive.org)
The annual of the American Schools of Oriental Research 1923/1924, vol. 5 (Hathi Trust, Archive.org)
The annual of the American Schools of Oriental Research 1924/1925, vol. 6 (Hathi Trust)
The annual of the American Schools of Oriental Research 1925/1926, vol. 7 (Hathi Trust)
The annual of the American Schools of Oriental Research 1926/1927, vol. 8 (Hathi Trust, Archive.org)
The annual of the American Schools of Oriental Research 1927/1928, vol. 9 (Hathi Trust, Archive.org)
The annual of the American Schools of Oriental Research 1927/1928, vol. 10 (Hathi Trust, Archive.org)
The annual of the American Schools of Oriental Research 1929/1930, vol. 11 (Hathi Trust, Archive.org)
The annual of the American Schools of Oriental Research 1930/1931, vol. 12 (Hathi Trust, Archive.org)
The annual of the American Schools of Oriental Research 1931/1932, vol. 13 (Archive.org)
The annual of the American Schools of Oriental Research 1933/1934, vol. 14 (Archive.org)
The annual of the American Schools of Oriental Research 1934/1935, vol. 15 (Hathi Trust, Archive.org)
The annual of the American Schools of Oriental Research 1935/1936, vol. 16 (Hathi Trust, Archive.org)
The annual of the American Schools of Oriental Research 1936/1937, vol. 17 (Hathi Trust, Archive.org)
Explorations in Eastern Palestine, III, vol. 18/19 (Hathi Trust, Archive.org)
Introduction to Hurrian, vol. 20 (Hathi Trust)
The Excavation of Tell Beit Mirsim. Vol. III: The Iron Age 1941 – 1943, vol. 21/22 (Not Available)
The annual of the American Schools of Oriental Research 1943/1944, vol. 23 (Hathi Trust)
The annual of the American Schools of Oriental Research 1944/1945, vol. 24 (Hathi Trust

After volume 24, things get a bit more irregular, with the exception of volume 32/33:

The excavation at Herodian Jericho, 1951, vol. 32/33 (Hathi Trust)

Things get better again, however, after volume 55:

Preliminary excavation reports and other archaeological investigations : Tell Qarqur, Iron I sites in the North-Central highlands of Palestine, vol. 56 (Hathi Trust)
Across the Anatolian plateau : readings in the archaeology of ancient Turkey, vol. 57 (Not Available)
The Near East in the southwest : essays in honor of William G. Dever, vol. 58 (Hathi Trust)
Results of the 2001 Kerak Plateau Early Bronze Age survey AND Two early alphabetic inscriptions from the Wadi el-Ḥôl: new evidence for the origin of the alphabet from the western desert of Egypt, vol. 59 (Hathi Trust)
The archaeology of difference : gender, ethnicity, class and the “other” in antiquity : studies in honor of Eric M. Meyers, vol. 60/61 (Hathi Trust)
The middle Bronze Age IIA cemetery at Gesher : final report, vol. 62 (Hathi Trust
Views from Phlamoudhi, Cyprus, vol. 63 (Hathi Trust)

The three most recent volumes (64, 65, and 68) are only available via Jstor with a subscription. All in all, 27 of the 66 published volumes are available for free download (and a few more can be viewed at Hathi Trust, but not downloaded). This is something that should be easy enough to sort out and it would be outstanding to try to get all 66 volumes of AASOR available for free download by 2020 (or at least those still not generating some income for ASOR).

The existing content available from AASOR offers an intriguing body of data that could, for example, be analyzed for the history of the publication or the discipline, mined for spatial data and plotted on a map, or queried for references and citations. While the earliest volumes have entered the public domain making them available for all sort of remixing and classroom use, the latter volumes are often under a CC By-NC-ND license making them a bit harder to play with. 

(If you notice a mistake in this list, please drop me a line in the comments. I’ll post a list of AASOR volumes and their accessibility to Google Sheets when I tidy up my own spreadsheet.)

I’m also scheming up some ideas for new AASOR volumes, but I’ll share that with the ole blog when they begin to get a bit more focus (and when I have a better sense for whether people will be interested!).

New Book Day: The Beast

Over the past year, I’ve been collaborating with a Nicole Burton and Hugh Goldring from Ad Astra Comix, Patrick McCurdy from the University of Ottawa, David Haeselin from the UND Department of English and The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota, and some remarkable contributors to produce an expanded, digital version of The Beast: Making a Living on a Dying Planet.

The book has been available as a comic for the over a year (and you can buy it, in the U.S. from AK Press and in Canada from Ad Astra), but our expanded digital edition offers a good bit more content putting this remarkable comic in a wider context.

THE BEAST digital edition cover 1

Here’s the media release:

Ad Astra Comix Partners with the Digital Press at the University of North Dakota on an Expanded Digital Version of The Beast: Making a Living on a Dying Planet.

The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota is thrilled to announce a collaboration with Ontario-based Ad Astra Comix to release a new expanded version of the provocative graphic novel, The Beast: Making a Living on a Dying Planet.

The Beast takes a critical look at the media war over the tar/oil sands debate and the endless struggle for the public’s imagination. The original, paper version launched on Earth Day, April 22, 2018, and emerged from a collaboration between Patrick McCurdy, Associate Professor in Communication at the University of Ottawa, Ad Astra’s writer, Hugh Goldring, and illustrator, Nicole Burton. The project brought together McCurdy’s academic research on environmental communication with the genre of comics.

The Beast seeks to stoke a public debate on the incessant role of public relations campaigns on shaping the public perception of the tar/oil sands. These campaigns discourage thoughtful and nuanced discussion of the cost of tar/oil sans and, instead, for the public is forced to “pick sides”: the environment or the economy; protestors or industry; live with or without oil. The Beast cultivates a more ambiguous and ambivalent middle ground through what David Haeselin, UND English and contributor describes as, “A compelling investigation into the people behind the media messages that shape how we think about energy.”

It tells the story of two recent college graduates, Callum and Mary, who find themselves negotiating a muddy path between environmental activism and having to live and work in a world driven by the resource-extractive industry. “The Beast is a reminder that if we are going to save the planet, we need to be honest with each other, and ourselves,” said Goldring.

The Expanded Digital Edition includes the original published comic as well as four new critical essays by Patrick McCurdy, Kyle Conway, Tommy Wall and Chris Russill, and Benjamin Woo along with an interview with Hugh Goldring and Patrick McCurdy.

McCurdy says, “The academic edition brings together a collection of scholarly essays intended to further conversation and reflection about how energy resources and environmental resources are talked about and understood. While the comic focuses on Alberta’s oil sands, The Beast addresses issues which are equally relevant to the oil fields of Texas and California to the Bakken shale which sees how these energy sources and the future of these resources are framed in the media matter.”

“The Digital Press is excited to partner with Patrick McCurdy and Ad Astra Comix to publish this expanded version of The Beast. This book has already attracted international attention for taking on a difficult topic and expanding the debate beyond academia and specialized media”, said publisher, Bill Caraher. “The free, expanded, open-access version of the The Beast puts the project in a critical context and opens this work to new audiences, including in North Dakota, who struggle with tensions around ‘making a living on a dying planet.’”

The newly released The Beast is available for free as a download at https://thedigitalpress.org/thebeast.

The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota serves “to publish timely works in the digital humanities, broadly conceived. Whenever possible, we produce open access, digital publications, that can attract local and global audiences”.

For further insight, read the LA Review of Books August review of The Beast: Making a Living on a Dying Planet.

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An Abstract for 12th IEMA Conference: Critical Archaeology in the Digital Age

I’m behind with everything including finishing my abstract for the 12th annual IEMA Conference at the University of Buffalo. The conference is titled: Critical Archaeology in the Digital Age and from the looks of the preliminary program, it should be fantastic! 

My paper will be an effort to weave together my evolving thoughts on publishing and my interest in how digital approaches to both fieldwork and data dissemination are challenging the fundamental paradigms that shape how archaeology is practiced. Hopefully, some of my stuttering and stammering paper for the European Journal of Archaeology staggers its way into this paper.

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

Historically, the culmination of archaeological work was a final report or definitive monograph. In fact, publication has become an ethical imperative for our discipline and major excavations became known as much by their neatly arranged series of publications as monumental remains. For most of the 20th century, the expertise, care, and funds necessary to produce these publications represented a separate phase of knowledge making shaped by its own technical, economic, and practical limits.

In the 21st century, digital practices are transforming both archaeological practices in the field and the concept publication. The fragmentation of archaeological knowledge as digital data produces portable, sharable, remixable, and transformable publications that are less stable and less definitive than their predecessors in print. As a result, while final publications continue to appear, they are joined by published data of various kinds – from GPS and total station coordinates to digitally generated point clouds, photographs and videos, and XRF results. Project are also more invested than ever in creating unique ways to understand, interpret, and engage their site. These collaborations have eroded the conceptual and disciplinary barriers between field work, analysis and publication. It is possible, for example, to publish from the trenchside or survey unit and to create definitive digital publications that are modular and open to revision. The growing permeability between the processes of field work, analysis, and publishing, has both the potential to transform the concept of publication in archaeology (as well as across the humanities) and marks the rise of a new intellectual model for the production of knowledge. If 20th century archaeology followed the linear logic of the assembly line and culminated in the final publication, 21st century archaeology draws on the disperse efficiency sought in the contemporary focus on logistics. Logistics, with its emphasis on streamlining the movement of goods, data, and people, offers a useful, if problematic paradigm, for a discipline increasingly committed to finding new ways to make archaeological knowledge accessible and usable to a broader constituency. 

Analog and Digital

This weekend, I worked on a few images that are going to appear in a long article in a well-respected journal. The images are digital but built atop an analog base. The original analog images were hand-drawn by field architects and then scanned at a reasonable, but not outstanding resolution. The base images are state plans and serve their purpose well, but do very little to show the various structures and phases present at the site.

You can see the images below:

Figure 6

Figure 7

Figure 9

Figure 10

To make these images more legible in print, I’ve added some digital enhancements which are primarily thickened lines to show the courses of walls associated with particular phases or, in some cases, adding features that were removed over the course of excavation. In other words, these are digitally enhanced images.

The journal editorial and production team has some qualms about the quality of the underlying analog images. While this journal is known for its impeccable production quality protected by merciless editorial standards, I have to admit that their critique of the analogue images gave me particular pause. The fuzzy lines of the analog drawing reflects the character of the original in ink on mylar and, in particular, the limits to the technologies available to bring these images into a digital medium. A super high resolution scan is possible, of course, but at the scale of the original illustrations, the size of this scan would make it difficult to manipulate. Moreover, a high resolution scan would make the lines more precise, but also introduce more analog flotsam – smudges, flecks of ink, dirt, and other detritus from the material world – that would require digital manipulation to remove. In short, the current scan is a compromise between the material realities of an analog object and the requirements of digital manipulation. The comparison of these analog base plans to the relatively more immaterial and perfect digital components of the figure only serves to bring out their imperfect character more clearly.

What’s particular interesting for this project is that most of the work my co-authors and I have done is to bring information collected in analog ways – notebooks, field illustration, and unanalyzed pottery – into digital forms. In other words, the project itself is an exercise in digital remediation which invariably involves processing the information selectively to create normalized, regularized, and standardized objects that can be compared, remixed, and combined across the site. In this context, preserving the analog images with the digital enhancement is more than simply an act of convenience, but an effort to represent the work of the larger project in as honest a way as possible.

In some ways, the different standards applied to analog and digital work offer a nice analogy for the different standards expected during the work of archaeological reconstruction. Roshni Khunti’s recent article in Studies in Digital Heritage which unpacks the political and ethical issues surrounding the 3D-printed version of Palymra’s now-destroyed arch. While the tension between the analog and digital character in the illustrations posted above does not have the politically charged context that surrounds the reconstruction of Palmyra’s arch, some of the issues are the same. For example, efforts to tidy up the digitized versions of the analog images would constitute a digital adjustment to the analog originals that would obscure the limits of the analog in potentially compromising ways. Whereas the main thrust of the larger project involves converting and remediating the analog material into new digital forms that are in no way commensurate or comparable to the original, adjusting the analog state plans, however, hints at a kind of dishonesty. Tidying them up overwrites their analog character and blurs the distinction between the digital enhancements and the analog original. 

Of course, I’m not accusing this particular journal of making unethical demands. They’re doing what they need to do to create a legible, aesthetically pleasing, and intentional publication. On the other hand, as moving objects between the analog and digital realms becomes easier and as this can produce digital objects that are essentially indistinguishable from their analog counterparts, we need to think more carefully what we need to do to ensure that the relationship between the analog and digital world remains clear.

Three Things about Publishing

This is a big week for The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota. The first in a pair of fall releases happens tomorrow with another on schedule for mid-November. My colleague David Pettegrew and I are also wrapping up page proofs from our Oxford Handbook project.

Because I’ve been thinking about publishing and digital publishing a good bit lately. As I’ve noted before, the work of thinking about how a book is designed, laying out a book, and reviewing proofs, provides ample opportunities to think about how books and publishing work on a practical level.

Lately, I’ve thought about three things:

1. Collaboration. One of the great things about The Digital Press is that I’ve had the opportunity to work closely with some many good people. It is remarkable to me that so many scholars want a more hands-on involvement in the publishing process. The scholar with whom my press has worked are interested in fonts, margins, cover pages, and layouts. More than that, they’re interested in contributing actively to the process of moving a work from an idea, to a document in a word processor to a set of page proofs and to a finished book. 

The willingness and interest in the process of publishing suggests that there is a growing realization that publishing isn’t just what happens to a finished work when the hard work of thinking and writing is done, but extends through the process of designing, presenting, and even marketing the work. The collaborative spirit of the press serves the break down the barrier between author and publisher and not only give authors greater control over their work, but also challenges the idea of publishing as a commercial enterprise that acquires the rights of an author’s work in exchange for the work and risk associated with producing a published object. While I believe that commercial, academic, small, and large publishers should always exist for there to be a healthy publishing ecosystem, readers of this blog know that I’m also committed to models and modes of publishing that hybridize and complicate the current system. 

2. The Digital Page. Over the past year, I’ve thought a good bit about what the digital page looks like. On the one hand, the web page, coded in HTML and laced with hyperlinks, has a long tradition of standing as quintessential digital page. On the other hand, the development of the codex page in the analog book is deeply embedded in our intellectual and cultural world. From our system of academic citation to the prevailing metaphor of the “page” as a tool to present information, the page remains a useful way to think about how we communicate knowledge.

Of course, the digital page has its challenges. My preference remains to use the PDF as the basic way to publish new knowledge. The PDF is not the most elegant or dynamic platform, but it shares the basic structure with paper books and represents the kind of hybrid digital/analog space that allows readers to move seamlessly from digital to print media. This does, however, involve certain sacrifices. For example, the digital page does not like columns or densely spaced text blocks. In my experience, narrower text blocks with generous margins and line spacing work better on screen and across devices. Not all fonts move between the analog and digital with equal grace.

The downside of these compromises is that sometimes the analog page looks a bit simple and brash in order to make the digital page feel comfortable and easy to read.

3. Thinking about Digital Publishing in Archaeology. I’m pretty excited to have been invited to the 2019, Institute for European and Mediterranean Archaeology at the University of Buffalo next spring. The topic is Critical Archaeology in the Digital Age and I’ll present a paper titled “Collaborative Digital Publishing in Archaeology: Data, Workflows, and Books in the Age of Logistics.”

I’m not entirely sure what this paper will be about, but my hope is that it extends from the paper that I’ve been toiling on for the European Journal of Archaeology which is playing with post-industrial metaphors in digital archaeological practice. I hope that this can be effectively extended to how we think about the book as the goal of the archaeological workflow and how changes in digital practices has complicated any implicit linearity to the course of archaeological work.

Three Things Thursday

It’s Thursday and the week is racing toward its inevitable conclusion. I have three quick things on my mind as I struggle to get focused enough to push through teaching and a writing day tomorrow before a weekend full of layout for The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota

There’s a lot going on in the world, and most of it seems bad (or frankly terrifying). From the Kavanaugh hearings to Presidential alert buzzing my phone yesterday, it feel like all I can do is bury myself in either esoteric nonsense or projects that I feel like I can control. These introduce enough clutter to my brain to keep me from becoming too preoccupied, demoralized, or panicked. Maybe this kind of escapism, when recognized at scale, is part of the problem with society; maybe, for some of us, it’s the only way to stay sane. I worry that my own inability to deal effectively with what’s going on in society today is symptomatic of the problem.   

That being said, I will keep doing even if it looks more and more like I’m fiddling while Rome burns…

1. NDQ Volume 85. I am excited that the first volume of North Dakota Quarterly under my term as “Editor-in-Chief” has gone off to the copy editor. This will be a interstitial volume between NDQ publishing as an independent publisher and as an independent “little magazine” published by the University of Nebraska Press (UNP) (this is an open secret still and there hasn’t been an official announcement yet). In other words, NDQ is out of the publishing business, but still in the content producing business. This is good for us financially and in terms of workload. University of Nebraska Press has production capacity and economies of scale in terms of printing and distribution. It means that I can focus my attention on working with our genre editors on content and with Nebraska to expand our readership, contributors, and subscribers. 

The publication date for this, if we can get it into UNP’s hands by November 1, will be early 2019, which isn’t too far from the 2018 date for the volume.  

2. Digital Ephemera and the Archive. One of the interesting things that has come out of the conversation with University of Nebraska Press is the digital future for NDQ. As a public humanities and literary journal (as if these two things were really different), I always have felt that it was more than ephemera. As such, I pushed for the digital archive of NDQ to be made available via the HathiTrust and had always seen both paper and digital distribution and archiving to be part of the journal’s future. In fact, I had imagined that digital subscriptions, particularly for our institutional subscribers, might be more appealing and easier to manage. In effect, I had imagined that the digital form of NDQ would be the archival format and the paper format would be more ephemeral.

This, of course, represents a pretty significant inversion of how I’ve seen publishing. It used to be that paper versions of books and journals were for the archive because the material nature of paper made it relatively easy to preserve when compared to the changing nature of bits and bytes. Today, however, paper appears more and more as a novelty or for the sake of nostalgia or for reasons completely separate from its traditional place as an archival medium. People discuss the feeling of a book, its scent, and even the way in which paper helps us engage the text in a less distracted way.

The digital form is the archive, which I suppose makes some sense, as most of our publications today are born digital.  

3. Bakken and The Digital Press. One of the little things that have vexed me about Amazon.com (among the many, but this was a little one), is that it never connected my two books on the Bakken through it’s “Frequently bought together” feature. 

It was pleasant surprise this week, then, when I noticed that The Bakken and The Bakken Goes Boom were finally connected. It is now possible to buy both The Bakken: An Archaeology of an Industrial Landscape (2017) and The Bakken Goes Boom (2016) together for less then $30. That’s less than ONE DOLLAR a day or less than your favorite coffee at Starbucks.

I was sort of bummed to hear that The Bakken wasn’t selling very well (or it was selling well, but in very low numbers). I think of it as a kind of accessible experiment in understanding complex, industrial landscapes. Even if you aren’t super interested in the Bakken, maybe you’ll be interested in my approach:

IMG A908BF4B5F47 1

 

 

Three Thing Wednesday

It the time of the week (and frankly, semester) where the best I can do is muster three quick thoughts for the ole bloggeroo.

1. Inspiration. In my historical methods class yesterday, we read Michelet and discussed historical writing that sought to convey the emotional power to inspire readers and create the powerful emotional bonds that often define nationalism. My class was singularly unimpressed with Michelet’s project and declared him biased, unprofessional, and (in classic North Dakota style) arrogant. (Reader’s note: In North Dakota, arrogance is a blanket term to describe anyone who does anything in a way that deviates from fairly narrow norms. The assumption is that personal motivations and a sense of individual superiority are the only possible reason to be different. Standing out is the same as standing above and is a moral flaw.)  

This got me thinking about whether I do enough as a teacher (and, here, I’m thinking about UND in particular) to inspire our students. We do well to instill within our students a kind of a sense of confidence in the organization of the university and the curriculum. Students dutifully fulfill requirements, advance through majors, and achieve credentials. In fact, the confidence in the structured experience of credentialing is sufficient that many programs are concocting certificates, minors, and, there’s even talk of “badges” that indicate an individual has fulfilled the requirements for a particular program. The more of these credentials that exist, the more they structure how a student engages with a curriculum and forms expectations of performance and achievement. In such an environment, there is little room for the kind of individual or personal experiences evoked by Michelet, in part, because such experiences fit awkwardly within a curriculum that emphasizes the achievement of certain credentials that have explicit and often quantifiable benchmarks. In this context, experiences like self discovery, inspiration, and, even just chance, are, at best, epiphenomenal to the accomplishment of a common goal, and, at worst, a distraction or complicating factor that requires streamlining. 

In other words, as higher education becomes more formalized, structured, and quantifiable, it also leaves less room for inspiration, contingency, and inspiration. To paraphrase a colleague of mine in music, this song achieves its intended goals because every note is where I learned to put it in class. I need to do more to challenge this view of education in my students. 

2. Open Access. I had a nice chat with a colleague the other day about open access publishing in archaeology. She made the point that many graduate students or early-career academics can’t afford the time (or the risk) to do what I’ve done and start an open access press. In fact, many of them can’t even necessarily afford to publish in open access journals or series because many of these journals rank lower than their limited access counterparts and universities have come to rely more and more on the reputation of journals (some of which are from commercial publishers) to vouch for the quality of academic work. These are understandable and real problems for open access scholarship.

There are, however, some solutions that do not involve taking a risk by publishing in a new, untested, or less well-established, open access publication. Cite open access publications in your work. One of the key metrics for establishing the quality of a journal or publisher is, for better or for worse, citation counts in other quality publications. There are plenty of high quality open access publications that contribute to a wide range of fields. If you want to promote open access publishing, be sure to include these in your footnotes, citations, and bibliographies!  

3. Extended Intelligence. I need to get back to revising the ramshackle paper that I pre-circulated prior to the EAA meeting. It was not terrible, but it had – as the kids say – a lot going on. I would like to develop a bit more fully the sections on “logistics,” “assemblages,” and the archaeological “supply chain.”  In particular, I’d like to tie it a bit more closely to the concept of transhumanism and a transhuman archaeology. 

Yesterday, I stumbled across some of Joichi Ito’s work on extended intelligence and think that it offers an appealing hook for understanding how networked intelligence leverages the rhetoric (and technology) of logistics to transform and expand the very concept of thinking, knowing, and even in some cases feeling and experiencing (check out this rather extensive bibliography of the work of the MIT Affective Computing group). I’m not sure how much of this will make it into the final draft of the paper, but Ito’s reading of Norbert Wiener’s Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society (1954). As quoted by Ito, Wiener opined:

Those who uphold the idea of progress as an ethical principle regard this unlimited and quasi-spontaneous process of change as a Good Thing, and as the basis on which they guarantee to future generations a Heaven on Earth. It is possible to believe in progress as a fact without believing in progress as an ethical principle; but in the catechism of many Americans, the one goes with the other.”

 

 

Publishing Hybrids

One of the best parts of book production is that it’s a pretty intensive operation. Once a book going into typesetting, it tends to occupy all of my attention until layout is complete. In my experience, layout does not accommodate multitasking and any interruption (four-legged or otherwise) invariably leads to mistakes, delays, and problems. (And as someone who is not prone to be attentive to details, even the smallest interruption (like searching for a new album or fixing a little problem) can let an error slip into the final text.

In short, the attention required to layout and produce a book is, for me at least, delightfully un-modern, despite the fact that it usually involves sitting in front of a computer rather than setting movable type. This experience got me thinking (once again) about the modern publishing process as a distinctly hybrid process. This hybridity, at least for me, emerges both from my process and from the nature of publishing in a digital world. 

Here are three quick thoughts (before I have to put the final touches on a book!):

1. Publishing as Craft. My colleague down at the NDSU Press takes students in her publishing class to work with a series of letterpresses and movable type presses in Braddock, ND. The point of the trip, from what I gather, is to emphasize the craft aspects of publishing which stem from the deep integration of all aspects of book making from the moment a manuscript comes into our hands as publisher to the moment it leaves as a completed book. Of course, in practice, most publishers outsource various aspects of book making – from copy editing and review to layout and design – but generally this outsourcing happens internally with the publisher maintaining control over the process. 

With the re-emergence in small-scale publishing, like The Digital Press, the publisher – as an individual rather than as a corporate entity – takes on even greater control over the entire production process. Moreover, with digital publishing, even the most frequently outsources function of the publication process – printing – tends to be done in-house. In other words, digital work, despite its tendency to fragment processes into bite (byte!) sized entities also encourages the processes of publishing to be more smoothly integrated with, for example, editing, design, typesetting, and printing all taking place in the same digital environment (and often at the same workstation!). This kind of integration is typical to craft practice and challenges a view (that I myself have spouted) that digital practices tend toward dis-integration and the logic of the assembly line or the supply-chain.

2. Finding Focus. I’ve been playing with various little applications for my phone that encourage me to remain focused. I have a busy fall semester and my attention span, which is fragile in the best of circumstances, is doing me no favors (while I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve checked the football scores, responded to two emails, let the yellow dog in and out twice, had a brief conversation with my wife, and reflected on the absence of interesting “Explorer-type” watches from micro brands). While my writing process, which focuses on sentence level execution, tends to endure my scattered approach to life, integrated workflows like typesetting and layout suffer when I get distracted. (Just forwarded another email to colleague…)

For example, texts have flows. Each section of text has to work with every other section. Chapters start on odd number pages, so each section must have an odd number of pages. The first page of each chapter, should have the same design, which means that the most complicated chapter title and the least complicated chapter title must all work within one’s design parameters. Changing one chapter title, for example, requires that we change ALL the chapter titles. Changing one element of layout must extended to the entire book. A change in one section cascades through the entire production flow. Blank pages must be added or removed to make sure that the spread aligns with the binding (for tightly-perfect bound books, the inner gutters and margins must accommodate the binding) and that chapters begin on odd number pages. 

This process requires sustained attention because any change must be reproduced the same way throughout the book. Modern layout and production software does help streamline this process of course, but since every manuscript, section, and text will be slightly different, there is inevitably small adjustments that must be made by hand. For example, a text block might be extended a few millimeters to prevent an orphan line or a hyphenated word eliminated if it causes confusion or a strange rhythm in the text body.

All this requires focus because each change ripples through the entire manuscript. It is a distinctly un-modern kind of focus that reminds me a bit of archaeological work at the end of a field season when things must be done in a particular order to a particular deadline. Even the most efficient project likely finds that certain tasks must fall to the project directors who are responsible for the field season and its results. 

3. Digital and Print. The main project that I am working on right now is Eric Burin’s Protesting on Bended Knee: Race, Dissent and Patriotism in 21st Century America.  This is, on the one hand, an edited volume with over 20 individual contributions. On the other hand, Dr. Burin’s introduction runs to over 80 pages in the book and close to 20,000 words (without citations). This is a mini-monograph. 

Dr. Burin’s introduction also includes over 350 hyperlinks that stand in for footnotes or other citation systems. This is appropriate for the topic, Colin Kaepernick’s protests during NFL games and the subsequent events, that is being reported in the online, mass media and is still pretty lightly covered in traditional printed academic sources.  

Unfortunately, as I have discussed elsewhere, hyperlinks are a less than ideal mode of citation for academic work. First, they only work in online, digital contexts where the reader can click on the link and go to a resource. Second, they tend to be fragile even in a digital context and break down as media-makers disappear or social media accounts are deleted. Third, if the account is deleted or the webpage removed from the live internet, it becomes difficult to identify the author, context, or even topic of the reference from the hyperlink alone. Unlike a traditional citation that is both humanly and machine readable (ideally), hyperlinks send readers to a web address and may or may not offer much information on the nature of the destination. In this context, then, the publisher (and the author) becomes responsible for preserving both the link and the destination as much as is practical. 

For Dr. Burin’s book, we used Harvard’s perma.cc to archive the online sources that he referenced in his article, and converted the 350+ hyperlinks to rather tidy perma.cc links. To make these links available to reader both online and offline we added endnotes throughout his chapter and these endnotes included both the original hyperlink and the perma.cc link (unless we felt pretty good about the nature of the original hyperlink (e.g. wikipedia pages or very well established publishers whose sites tend to be resistant to this kind of archiving (like the failing New York Times)). For the casual reader, the mass of endnotes at the end of the chapter are a dense and probably incomprehensible block of web addresses.

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But for anyone looking to dig deeper into Dr. Burin’s arguments or who finds a dead hyperlink in his text, this material is vital to keeping the academic infrastructure of the work alive.

The use of hyperlinks to web resources embraces the dynamism of the ephemeral web and allowed Dr. Burin to build an argument from sources that appear and change as quickly as the situation. The use of endnotes and perma.cc allowed us to create the kind of stability that would give such a 21st-century work persistent value as an interpretation of a situation as it unfolded. 

Publishing as a kind of hybrid process involves a tremendous amount of stress and work over rather short periods of time and echoes the kind of ebb-and-flow of the premodern work week documented by E.P. Thompson in his famous “Time, Work-Discipline, and Industrial Capitalism” (Past and Present 38 (1967)). Dr. Burin and I are already discussing a celebration (complete with craft beer, of course) at the conclusion of this hybrid project which will offer just the catharsis necessary for The Digital Press to gear up for the next book on the docket.  

Now, I have to get back to work!

 

Publishing Archaeology

Over the weekend, I read Amara Thorton’s Archaeologists in Print: Publishing for the People (UCL 2018). The book documents the efforts by late 19th and 20th century archaeologists to publish popular and accessible works on archaeology. She brings together these books with deep dives in the publishers’ and archaeologists’ archives and offers intriguing perspectives on how and why archaeologists worked with publishers to produce accessible, popular books that introduced the public to their sites, outlined the value of scientific practices, and allowed for more thoughtful tourism to the Eastern Mediterranean. 

More than that, it provided important insights into the professionalization of the discipline. Many of the characters of Thorton’s book were full-time, Mediterranean archaeologists who looked to popular publishing to fund their work both directly through the proceeds and by attracting subscribers to support their excavations. At the same time publishers recognized the potential audience for popular works on archaeology. An interest in archaeology paralleled the growing interest in travel and tourism among an expanding and literate middle class. The turn of the 20th century was also the start of a golden age of publishing in the UK where it was possible to produce, distribute, and sell low cost books. In short there existed the infrastructure, the audience and the motivation for popular works in archaeology. 

The book got me thinking about a few things as an archaeologist and a publisher. These are not meant to be critiques of the book, but rather reflections on whether the situation that Thorton documented in the early 20th century might have significance for 21st century academics. 

1. Popularizing Archaeology. Over the last decade, there has been more and more of a call for academics to produce popular works for the general public. While I’m not opposed to this idea, I’ve often thought that the recent pressure on academics – particularly in the humanities – to share their research in popular ways was out of step with the realities of academic work. For example, most academics do not have the time to pursue vigorously both research and popular writing. Both require more than just a casual commitment to the task to be successful. Secondly, producing high quality popular history or archaeology requires the commitment of publishers and editors to work with faculty to produce accessible works that will sell to audiences. Third, there has to be an audience for this work at a scale that is sustainable for the investment from publishers. Finally, such work needs to be institutionally incentivized because writing for the public will detract from our other responsibilities whether those are research or teaching or service.

Finally, and most importantly, calls for humanities scholars to be more engaged with the general public tend to overlook that full-time scholars in the humanities teach (or are in public facing positions at, say, museums or historical sites). In other words, we already make our work accessible on a daily basis to our students.

2. Funding the Future. It was particularly striking that relatively few of the authors in Thorton’s book had regular teaching positions. Some had research positions a museums or universities or other administrative posts to support their travels and work, but few had access to the resources that we have today. The motivation to publish for a popular audience was not, then, the recognition that the public deserved to understand the work of archaeologists, but rather often driven by financial necessity. With the rise of grant and institutionally funded research in the mid-20th century, the need to write for the public declined. 

In the 21st century, funding for research in archaeology and history looks to be an increasing challenge for academics. Not only are the number of tenure-track positions in decline (with their access both to institutional stability and the sustained investment in research), but research dollars from federal coffers (via the NEH and NSF, for example) increasingly scarce and competitive to acquire. On the one hand, this would appear to be the perfect opportunity for a new wave of popular archaeology to support research and scholarly writing. In fact, this kind of market-driven view of academic work seems to inform attitudes at the NEH and among university administrators. At its best, this would seem to suggest a more democratic approach to research.

On the other hand, this approach to funding research – or at least the view that accessibility should be a criteria for funding research – creates an arena where the market drives research as much as research questions and problems. Of course, this already occurs in the sciences, where applied research receives more funding than basic science, and that has shifted the character of university research. It would be intriguing (and to my mind, not entirely positive) to imagine how shifting attention to popular research in the humanities would shape the future discipline.

3. Possibilities of Publishing. Pushing academics to publish popular works may also require a shift in how publishing itself works. There are no lack of publishers looking to monetize the production of scholars and some of the more intriguing passages of Thorton’s work demonstrate that this was the case in the early 20th century as well. In fact, Thorton’s work shows a balance between books commissioned by publishers and works proposed by authors.

In the 21st century, it’s never been easier to publish popular works, but the audience for these works (and the competition to get them recognized) has never been more fierce. Getting a book recognized is harder than just producing good content, but also requires savvy advertising, careful attention to production, and getting access to institutional markets as well individual subscribers. As archaeology looks to the new ways of disseminating knowledge, publishing also goes beyond the traditional print media platforms to codex style books. As Thorton notes, the mid-20th century saw a number of cross media ventures which crossed from print-book popularity to radio and then television. The complexities of these markets in the 21st century – especially in the age of YouTube, streaming audio, podcasts, and social media – puts added pressure on publishers and popularizers to figure out how to get their work into the hands of an appreciative audience. An iconic book cover – like Penguin Books’ famous Pelican covers – isn’t enough (although it doesn’t hurt). 

All this other stuff – from design to marketing and promotion – represents investments of money, time, and expertise. Popular publishing requires more than academic will, but also investment from consumers and publishers needed to develop the infrastructure to accommodate and promote significant works across a range of media platforms. 

If Archaeologists in Print was written to describe popular archaeological publishing in the 21st century, it would be a very different book, even if some of the main contours of the discipline remained the same.