More on Adjusted Margin

Readers of this blog can probably tell that I’m enamored with Kate Eichhorn’s Adjusted Margin (MIT 2016). The book traces the history and use of xerography and argues that it offered a medium for folks at the margins to find a voice. I’ve blogged a bit on her argument that copy shops and photocopying in general serving as a third space, for today, I’d like to think a bit about how xerography served as an archaeological predecessor for digital practices.

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Eichhorn looks at the role the xerography played in the ACT UP movement to raise the awareness of the ravages of the AIDS epidemic especially, but not exclusively among gays in the 1980s. She examines how photocopies allowed this group to produce and distribute posters, to create graphically interesting media  designed to generate awareness (like the printed money that they rained down on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange when they occupied that building in 1989), and to distribute information to people suffering from AIDS, their supporters, and the medical community. Eichhorn described the weekly newsletters prepared by ACT UP organizers that summarized the media stories, promoted events, and generated a sense of community. She also discussed the stacks of photocopied articles, fliers, and other media arranged on tables at ACT UP meetings and quickly circulated among the attending activists. Many activists credited the rapid and expansive distribution of ACT UP media to their access to photocopiers either in the ACT UP office or in their places of work (often in the publishing world). In other words, production of photocopied media was at least partly decentralized. 

Zines provided an opportunity to explore how xerography promoted the rise of decentralized distribution networks. While most Zines had a place of origin – usually on the East or West Coast – they circulated widely and often co-promoted other Zines by including the mailing address of other Zines in their pages. This allowed for the formation of dendritic networks where Zines led to Zines. Anyone who was interested in music in era before the internet understood the importance of these kinds of informal associations for discovering new bands and understanding the culture associated with, say, punk rock music.

I got thinking of these decentralized networks of distribution because, on the one hand, they anticipated the the hyperlinked networks of associations that came to dominate the distribution of digital media through the internet. In fact, xerography allowed for the development in paper form of such common internet structures as links, blogs, and memes. As someone with a growing interest in publishing, I’ve thought about how Zine culture – with all its imperfections and irregular distribution – provided a model for publishing on the web and in digital media. As Eichhorn states throughout her book, with xerography, there is no need for an original and, as such, no need for a definitive point of origin. This likewise seems to anticipate open-access, digital publishing which depends upon a community and an ecosystem for media to circulate, but does not depend as heavily on the originating point of the publisher. Without a center there are no margins or, more properly, the influence of the center diminishes rapidly as it becomes less vital to the circulation of a work.

New Book from The Digital Press: Mobilizing the Past for a Digital Future

The best days are book release days. I am super excited to announce the publication of Erin Walcek Averett, Jody Michael Gordon, and Derek B. Counts, Mobilizing the Past for a Digital Future: The Potential of Digital Archaeology. Grand Forks, ND: The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota. 

This is the culmination of months of hard work by the editors, contributors, and various other people committed to making Mobilizing the Past and The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota successful. I cannot begin to express my gratitude to them and my excitement for this publication.


Here’s an excerpt from the press release:

The study of the ancient world requires the most modern tools. In the 21st century, archaeology is no longer the domain of picks, pith helmets, and sharpened trowels, but a high tech enterprise. Archaeologists now take high-powered laptop computers, tablets, drones, and sophisticated software and workflows in the field with them. In Mobilizing the Past for a Digital Future: The Potential of Digital Archaeology, Erin Walcek Averett (Creighton University), Jody Michael Gordon (Wentworth Institute of Technology), and Derek B. Counts (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee) brings together 17 papers authored by the most creative thinkers on technology and archaeological field practice. Introduced by a sweeping survey of the intellectual and practical issues surrounding digital practices in archaeology and anchored by two critical reflections, the volume is more than merely a survey of new technology, but stands as an enduring monument for a discipline undergoing rapid and dramatic changes. 

Mobilizing the Past for a Digital Future emerged from a workshop (funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities) held in 2015 at Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston that convened many of the leading practitioners of digital archaeology in the U.S. for a weekend of dialogue. The papers and conversations from this workshop formed the basis for the case studies presented in this volume and demonstrate the tremendous diversity in the digital tools used in archaeological field practice. From drones in the Andes to iPads at Pompeii, digital workflows in the American Southwest, and examples of bespoke, DIY, and commercial software, technology now provides solutions and crafts novel challenges for field archaeologists. 

Our method of releasing this book is also the most sophisticated yet attempted by my little press. The book itself appears in three places:

1. The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota’s website.
2. Digital Commons at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
3. Amazon (in paper).

Each site provides access to supplemental material hosted by and this multi-site approach makes it possible to download or link to a specific article or the entire book. We hope this multi-site approach offers the widest possible platform for the book’s distribution.

It is also exciting that this is Open Access Week (#OpenAccessWeek) which I hope will give our work at this book and The Digital Press a little more national visibility. On campus, there are open access events and the like, and while I’m not involved in any of them, I hope this book is part of the conversation.

So, please check out the book! Tweet out this announcement or the pages linked above and use the hashtags: #MobilizingthePast #DigitalArchaeology #Archaeology or #OpenAccessWeek. Please help us spread the word!

Feel free to grab these cover photos to enliven tweets or whatever:

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Oh, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my article on “Slow Archaeology” in the book… check it out!!

Friday Varia and Quick Hits

It’s a fall Friday with family in town. So, my quick hits and varia are going to be a bit quicker and maybe less varia than usual. 


If you feel like you need more links to follow, then listen to first Caraheard Podcast of season 3.

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Adventures in Podcasting Season 3!

I know that some people expressed doubts over whether the Caraheard Podcasting Experiment ™ was over, but today should demonstrate that it was just a little delayed.

We were lucky enough to have Kostis Kourelis join us to talk about his summer, and Richard and I provided the usual tomfoolery and background noise.  

So, here is Caraheard, Season 3, Episode 1:

Richard and I talked a good bit about his work in the Corinthia including the area around Siderona. We also mentioned my work around Vayia which was published here. We also mentioned David Pettegrew’s important new book on the region, The Isthmus of Corinth: Crossroads of the Mediterranean World. (Michigan 2016). 

Kostis talked about his remarkable summer program in which students studied immigration both in the US and in Greece. You can read more about it here: “From Greek Village to the American City: Archaeology of Immigration,Franklin & Marshall College Alumni Magazine (Summer, 2016)

We then strayed almost immediately from the Mediterranean and talked a bit about defending housing from extreme commodification. We mentioned  David Madden and Peter Marcuse, In Defense of Housing: The Politics of Crisis (New York: Verso, 2016).

We discussed Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown, “Learning from Levittown” Studio, 1970, and its classic drawing of the semiotics of a suburban American house.

Richard talks about his traumatic experiences at the parade of homes and various forms of McMansion Hell including the expansion of junk space

This, more or less, led us to the classic essay on the biography of things

Igor Kopytoff, “The Cultural Biography of Things: Commoditization as Process,” in The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective, ed. Arjun Appadurai, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), pp. 64-94.

We might also add a similar note about semiotics, although not mentioned in the podcast: Jean Baudrilard, The System of Objects (1968).

From the edge of thingness, we return to sanity by discussing Philadelphia at Halloween.

At some point, we mention that archaeology of care.

Bill talked a bit about the North Dakota University System Arts and Humanities Summit on Outrage which he live-blogged here

He also never misses an opportunity to promote The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota and its newest book Mobilizing the Past for a Digital Future which will be released next week. 


Copying and Copy Shops as Third Place

A couple weeks ago my colleague Sheila Liming gave a paper at our NDUS Arts and Humanities Outrage Summit in which she advocated for the development of third places (or third spaces) in downtown Grand Forks, ND. Following Ray Oldenburg’s concept of the third place, she argued that communities need places that are neither work nor home and provide an affordable, accessible place for conversation and socialization. 

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I’ve been reading – savoring really – Kate Eichhorn’s Adjusted Margin: Xerography, Art, and Activism in the Late Twentieth Century (MIT 2016). She describes copy shops as third places around which communities developed and which became centers of certain kinds of activism especially among groups who were traditionally marginalized for their politics, forms of cultural expression, or social class. Perhaps the book resonated with me because like many graduate students of my generation (Ph.D. 2003), I spent lots of time in copy shops desperately duplicating books and articles acquired from interlibrary loan and invariably due back sooner than was convenient. When I relocated the Wilmington, Delaware for a year after completing my Ph.D., I once again found copy shops a convenient home for making copies of vital research material and preparing handouts for the classes that I taught as an adjunct in the area.

Eichhorn also unpacked photocopying itself as a technology and considered its role in democratizing some forms of publishing. While, on the one hand, Eichhorn was clear that photocopying did not come to replace traditional publishing, but, on the other hand, it did offer a readily available tool to chip away at the edge of copyright and publishers seeming monopoly on the distribution of printed words. The appearance of ‘zines and other informal, photocopied publications revealed that a creative impulse and a market (however ephemeral) existed to produce and consume these kinds of works. 

In fact, this early photocopy culture – and its intersection with the punk rock movement – inspired my own venture into publishing that has leveraged a new set of technologies built on a similar digital infrastructure. For example, print-on-demand technologies allow books to be printed cheaply, to create economies of scale, and to eliminate inventory costs. Technology used to layout attractive pages and book length manuscripts is now (relatively) affordable, easy to use, and can run on an inexpensive laptop computer. In other words, the democratic potential of photocopying has become increasingly realized in the 21st century as new publishing models have emerged.

I hope that these new moves in publishing will created the kind textual third space/place where the margins and the center intersect in new ways. Our book on Punk rock and archaeology is a manifestation of this kind of third spacing that I envision. Not only did the idea bring together the margins and the center, but it also embraced a DIY style of publishing, the integration of blog posts, and a casual, but academic style. 

Almost Done: Mobilizing the Past and the Stack Test

I have something like 12 changes to make to the Digital Press at the University of North Dakota’s next book, Mobilizing the Past, before it can go live in both digital and paper formats.

Most of these changes involve little cosmetic fixes within the book and the addition of the book’s freshly minted LCCN (2016917316 for those of you keeping track at home!).

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The most important test though for a book, is the shelf or stack test. This involves how does the book look when set on a shelf or put into a stack. The logic here is that even the most battered copy of James Joyce’s Ulysses spends of its life in a stack or on a shelf. So a good book can’t just be good, it has to look good, shelf good, and stack good too.  

Mobilizing the Past’s stack mates this week are Kate Eichborn’s brilliant Adjusted Margin: Xerography, Art, and Activism in the Late Twentieth Century (2016) from the MIT Press and my newly arrived copy of the Journal of Roman Archaeology.  


Books from MIT press always look great, use well-considered fonts, and have just enough edge to make you feel like your reading something published by a press associated with a university on the cutting edge. They have a house style, but it never feels forced or overwhelming. And their books are affordable. (Read this 5 minute interview with Kate Eichhorn here).

Journal of roman archaeology

 The Journal of Roman Archaeology can only be described as aggressively anti-design. The cover only the smallest glimpses of what the reader should expect when he or she opens one of the two annual volumes. The text runs virtually from margin to margin on glossy paper and crowds inline images. The line spacing is dense and the font is some undistinguished member of Times family. This kind of design is not conservative or traditional, but assertively dull. 

The content, on the other hand, is so good, well-edited, and relevant that even a lapsed Roman archaeologist like myself looks forward the annual arrival of the JRA as the start of fall thinking season. So for all it’s design infelicities, the Journal of Roman Archaeology is indispensable.

My hope with volumes from the Digital Press is to make them both valuable and attractive, but I know that attractive books have more fun.

Ubik and Archaeology

As part of my ill-considered project to work through Philip K Dick’s novels in search for some kind of archaeological inspiration, I read Ubik this week. Largely regarded as among his most ambitious books, Ubik describes a future where the living and the dead can interact, individuals with special mental powers could read minds, predict the future, and even change the past, and it was a viable business to coordinate the labor of individuals who could block humanity’s expanded mental powers.

More prescient still is Dick’s world of autonomous things that constantly demanded payment for even the most routine functions like opening the door, turning on the television, or cooking food. While the “internet of things” promises world where every device from our refrigerators to our light fixtures and cars are seamlessly connected, Dick’s world is the dystopian vision of that reality. His integrated world allows for devices to conspire against their human owners and to negotiate and even deny their services. As technology creeps into everyday life from tractors to coffee makers, we are at the mercy of devices which are largely outside our control and mici-payments that nibble around the edges of diminishing income.

The story is convoluted. It involves a firm that employs individuals who can block psychic abilities. A specially assemblage group of the firms top agents was tricked into traveling to the moon to fulfill a lucrative contract. There, the group experienced a massive explosion which seemingly killed the firm’s president Glen Runctier. Joe Chip, Runciter’s right-hand man, tried in vain to discover Runciter’s murderer, but over the course of his grief-wracked investigate, reality began to change. First, Runciter’s image and name began to appear on objects including currency. Then, time began to slip in strange ways as the modern world (of 1992) begins to give way to earlier periods. First the the present started to give way to the relatively recent past, but then, the 1940s and 1930s. Like Dick’s alternate world in Time Out of Joint, the flickering past of Ubik created a world in which authenticity is always in doubt. Objects present the most obvious manifestation of this time slippage, although it also effected humans. The only remedy was the mysterious Ubik and only in the form of an aerosol spray. The novel concludes with Joe Chip pursuing Runciter’s murderer through 1930s Des Moines as his own life is subjected to the same chronological entropy as the world around him. Protected only by Ubik, Chip finally realizes that this slippage of time around him is evidence that he is, in fact, dead and Runciter is alive. The only complication to this is that, at the end of the novel, Runciter begins to find coins in his pocket with Joe Chip’s face on it.

Despite the convoluted plot, the continuous juxtaposition of the past and the present reflects Dick’s fascination with authenticity as a archaeological problem. For Dick, objects ground us in the world and anchor us in time, and distorted reality is not simply arbitrary hallucinations, but the displacement of objects in time. There is something archaeological here, of course. The relationships between objects and time structures reality and our ability to locate objects chronologically allows us to discern the authentic from the illusory.  

Friday Quick Hits and Varia

The leaves are falling from the trees, we had an apple pie, the heart of the college footballing season is upon us, and grant applications and letters of recommendation are piling up.

It’s really fall now.

As you enjoy some hot cider while listening to your favorite Bob Dylan album, please enjoy these quick hits and varia:


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As I spent the week working on grant applications and putting the final touches on a book, I’ve been thinking a good bit about words. 

This led me to ask Shawn Graham for a word cloud for The Digital Press’s soon to be released book, Mobilizing the Past:

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Dimitri Nakassis has produced a word cloud from the preliminary program of the Archaeological Institute of America’s annual meeting in January.


Nothing to See Here

It’s mid-October, I have deadlines for internal grants, for external grants, and for a stack of reviews. I have papers to grade, books to read, and students to advise. I have a lot going on right now.

Since I can’t offer you any brilliant blog content, I’m going to point you in the direction of folks who can!

First, check out Kostis Kourelis’s blog. He’s on sabbatical right now, and his blog has come alive with some amazing content lately.

Then check out Shawn Graham’s stuff over at Electric Archaeologists, particularly his most recent distant reading of the soon-to-be-released Mobilizing the Past volume from The Digital Press.

Look at what we’ve been doing over at the North Dakota Quarterly webpage. We’re running a little series on the 50th anniversary of Elwyn B. Robinson’s monumental History of North Dakota with contributions from me, Jim Mochoruk, Michael Lansing, and Kim Porter

This week, the University of North Dakota inaugurated its 12th president, Mark Kennedy. This is what I wrote 8 years ago having watched the inauguration of Robert O. Kelley. I think much of what I said still stands.

Thanks for understanding that I needed a day off from the old blog! And thanks to my colleagues for keeping the interwebs interesting. More tomorrow! I promise!