I have always been a Classical archaeologist. I was chosen to become a Punk Archaeologist. I became a media archaeologist by accident. On today, the 2014 Day of Archaeology, I am embodying this Trinity, these three archaeologies in one person. How did this all happen? And why today?
In my capacity as Director of Publications for the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA), I have blogged three times previously (here, here, and here) on what I’m doing with archaeological publication. I still publish the journal Hesperia in print four times a year as well as a digital edition. I still publish print monographs and guidebooks. Today, as the print edition of The Athenian Agora: Museum Guide comes back from the bindery in Athens, I am building an interactive guidebook for it in HTML5 for use on Android and iOS devices to enable guests to browse the collections in whatever order they choose. I’m also entering content into Google’s free Field Trip app for the site of Ancient Corinth (which launched last week for the Athenian Agora), to allow for non-linear, wander-where-you-will exploration of these vast archaeological spaces. Today I am also writing a draft grant proposal to help fund the creation of a new kind of archaeological publication, something without any print component, that will include synthetic text, 2- and 3-D images, 3-D printer specs, query-by-image, -by-map, and -by-time, interactive data tables, and a “more like this” feature for exploring pottery fabrics by what they look like. All of this stems from my love of Classics and especially of the archaeology of the Greek world, and this deep and abiding love drives me to create new, better tools and publications to give this archaeology (and ultimately others) the publications venue it deserves while critiquing its current state and forecasting a better future (something I published here this week). Part of communicating archaeology is making it widely available and accessible to a global readership. The ASCSA’s efforts to make publications available as Open Access continue with 57 titles now available for free to read, download, and share. Punk Archaeology
I didn’t invent Punk Archaeology. That was the love-child of Bill Caraher and Kostis Kourelis and can be thoroughly explored via their eponymous Punk Archaeology blog. I came to Punk Archaeology like St. Peter came to Jesus, and was baptized in Fargo at the first Punk Archaeology unconference on Feb. 2, 2013, where I played my first public rock show and published my first album, a collection of Punk Archaeology songs about cultural heritage, teaching, and excavation. In 2014 the book inspired by that unconference, Punk Archaeology, will be published with the appearance of a printed ‘zine. And today I am completing my abstract on Punk Public Archaeology as part of a panel for the 2015 Society of Historical Archaeology (SHA) annual meeting.
Building off of the definition of Punk Archaeology (#punkarch) established by Caraher and Kourelis, I define the movement and method as the following:
- Apply a do-it-yourself (DIY) aesthetic to archaeology projects, especially when funding, personnel, and other kinds of support are lacking.
- Study marginalized archaeologies, and conduct the archaeology of cultures and places eschewed by the Academy.
- Study the history and archaeology of Punk and Punk places.
- Engage in actively communicating to and involving the public in all aspects/phases of archaeology.
- Promote a spirit of cooperation and sharing of tools, data, and other resources with all other archaeologists, Punk or not.
“Indeed, what media archaeology investigates are also the practical rewirings of time, as is done in media artistic and creative practice work, through archives digital and spatial, as well as DIY and circuit bending which recycle, and remix obsolete technology as much as they investigate how technology is the framework for temporality for us.”
-Jussi Parikka, Cartographies of Media Archaeology
I became a media archaeologist first through Punk Archaeology, namely in my born-again interest in Punk rock, and an addict’s desire to acquire all the gear to the neglect of all else. I was (and still am) deeply invested in record-bin excavations, and I continue to quest for mix- and demo-tapes, not for their resale value, but on the chance of discovering an unknown band or, better, yet, being able to trace the history of those cassettes throughout a community of listeners 25-40 years ago.
In April 2014, this obsession got a name: Media Archaeology. It came about with my involvement as one of the archaeologists invited to excavate the fabled “Atari Burial Ground” in Alamogordo, New Mexico. Our team, in cooperation with city workers, state environmental agencies, the landfill owner and his family, and a documentary film crew, excavated and documented 1,300+ Atari video games buried there in 1983, in the first-of-its-kind excavation of this kind of media. We were literally digging our own cultural heritage. With the salvage excavation over, we began writing for a general (and general archaeological) readership in Archaeology magazine, and in a forthcoming article for the Atlantic. Another piece written by Joshua Wheeler will appear at the end of the month in Harper’s, and the documentary film, Atari: Game Over, will premier at the San Diego Comic Con on July 25th.
Today I continue to work on my part of the technical article about the excavation that will be submitted to a peer-reviewed academic journal, and I am also continuing to review the photos and videos the team shot before, during, and after the Atari dig in anticipation of making everything Open Access possibly through OpenContext.org in 2014 or 2015 once our article is published. I have also just submitted an abstract for a panel on archaeological methods in media archaeology for a conference in Bradford, UK, in September, where I hope to talk more about how we decided to dig and document the way we did, and what we might have done differently.
It gives me great pleasure to be able to do these archaeologies today, and every day, and I encourage everyone to broaden their horizons when it comes to this discipline and how we can communicate what we do.