Open access

WINTER IS COMING: COMMUNICATING ARCHAEOLOGY IN A POST TRUTH WORLD

One-Show-31-May-2016-Web-Ve

The author [seated right] discussing the theft of metal from Jutland wrecks with Joe Crowley of BBC1’s the One Show for a package broadcast on 30 May 2016

It is one of the wonders of the Day of Archaeology that as the day progresses we get to see in near real time what friends and colleagues are doing in one day in July, from the timeless task of troweling at the trench face, through the deployment of the latest technology to open up a new avenue of knowledge helping us to interpret the past, to the colleague who is writing about what she did yesterday because to today is a childcare day for a working mother.

Hopefully too, people from outside the profession will look in through the various windows this annual exercise in open communication provides, and in the time honoured spirit of the BBC it is to be hoped that they will be in some way or other, informed, educated and even entertained.  After all, and I know we are not supposed to admit it because we are an academic study, a humanity and a science, validated in the ivory halls of academe, archaeology done right is fun, as well as fascinating, and in its way our science, and our storytelling, can even help to make the world a better place, offering perspective by placing our today in the context of what went before, and helping to build a positive sense of place and identity for communities swept by the wind and weather of globalised existence.

That then is the informative, fascinating and fun Day of Archaeology which is just fading outside my office window.  My day of archaeology however has been thinking about the future and it is hard to avoid the sense that, to quote a certain television epic made by HBO, which contains somewhat more violence, sex nudity and dragons than your average excavation, “Winter is coming.”

In particular, as an archaeologist editing a news blog specialising in reporting and discussing archaeology and the archaeological media as news and current affairs, there are two contexts above all which could be seen as bell weathers indicating the potentially chilly environment in which future Days of Archaeology, and I hope there will be many, will be reported.

The first is “Brexit,” the narrow vote in a referendum advising the UK Government that the portion of the population which expressed an opinion by voting wished to leave the European Union.

The second is the nomination of Donald Trump as Republican Candidate in the United States Presidential Election which takes place in November.

I am not going to discuss the potential impact of Brexit on the way archaeologists are able to move around, live and work in the geographical space and political construct we call Europe; Kevin Wooldridge has already done that superbly in his article “Thoughts from a Corner of Sweden;…”  Instead I am going to look at the wider implications for archaeology and the archaeological media, of the intellectual environment within which many political and academic analysts argue that the EU Referendum, and the US Presidential Primaries, were fought.

Both the success of the Brexit campaign and the nomination of “the Donald” have been seen as an expression of what has been called “Post Truth Politics,” a phrase probably coined by the American writer David Roberts in an article for the on-line environmental magazine Grist in 2010.  Roberts analysed how post truth politics works in this way;

 

“Voters use crude heuristics to assess legislative proposals. This runs somewhat counter to the idealized Enlightenment view, which goes something like this: Voters

  1. gather facts,
  2. draw conclusions from the facts,
  3. form issue positions based on the conclusions, and
  4. choose a political party that shares those issue positions.

The best evidence from political science shows that the process is almost exactly the reverse. Voters:

  1. choose a tribe or party based on value affiliations,
  2. adopt the issue positions of the tribe,
  3. develop arguments that support those issue positions, and
  4. choose facts to bolster those arguments.”

 

Why is this political analysis important to archaeology?  There are two reasons which I would identify.

The first is the apparent view of many cotemporary politicians, put most notoriously by British Conservative politician, and leading Brexiteer, Michael Gove in an interview with Faisel Islam of Sky News on 21 June 2016.  Challenged over the number of expert bodies questioning the wisdom of Brexit, Mr Gove responded that we;

“…have had enough of experts”

This populist claim was backed up by data from polling organisation You Gov which suggested that 54% of “Leave” voters in the UK Referendum did not “Trust Academics.”  On the “Remain” side just 19% expressed the same lack of trust.

Journalist and author Jonathan Freedland suggested a reason for this shift in an article for the Guardian newspaper.  According to Freedland’s analysis it is down to a basic function of human nature;

“…fact checking is laborious, tedious and time-consuming, especially compared with the brio that can be generated by a sweeping (but false) assertion… You can almost hear the nation’s inner teenager chant in unison: bor-ing.”

However, perhaps worse for archaeology, even than the general lack of trust in experts and academics, is the sense that, outside of the efforts of a select few archaeologists and historians who get regular media work because they are able to convey enthusiasm, while at the same time translating effortlessly from academic into human, the world of popular communications and TV Factual has already abandoned mainstream archaeology for a post truth construct of its own.

The effect of this unwillingness to challenge an audience on the broadcast documentary media was seen most clearly and crudely early in 2016 in the debacle which was the reality documentary series”Battlefield Recovery” [aka “Nazi War Diggers”], which set out to excavate artifacts from Second World War battlefields in Latvia and Poland.   The production company, London based ClearStory Productions, first approached a cross section of academic specialists in the archaeology of modern conflict [myself included] for advice, only to proceed to ignore all of us, instead choosing to employ a trio of ammateur metal detectorists and a dealer in Nazi militaria to front the programme.  The result was an intellectually and chronologically shapeless jaunt around Latvia and Poland, digging up stuff, where the historical context was reduced to a few newsreel clips and a shallowly scripted voiceover.  So far just so much of a missed chance and at one level, the reason behind this casting is probably, as the advert says, “simples”.  A certain breed of militaria collecting metal detectorists are quite happy to hoik stuff out of the ground without recording it, get moist with excitement when they find guns and explosives without getting too concerned about elf’n’safety, and dealers are quite happy to put a price on the finds.  In short the chosen cast enabled ClearStory to deliver a character driven, reality show, for blokes about other blokes, finding war stuff which some people sell for cash; and they did it in a way which was cheap, with no expensive and untelegenic post excavation and reporting.

However, it is at the deeper policy level, that the decisions made by the producers of Battlefield Recovery become really disturbing.  Having consulted expert professionals, including several with extensive media experience,  ClearStory and the National Geographic Network which originally commissioned the series, still deliberately chose to adopt a format which pandered to their perception of their target audience’s expectation for goodies, guys , guns, and stiffs rather than challenging it.  The result was a “look at that, wow!”  freak show, where tipping a human skull out of a soldiers helmet on camera, replaced a genuine exploration of the experience of that soldier in that war and deliberately short cut any attempt to establish his identity and return his remains to his family through forensic archaeology.  Like the export of post truth Trump style political campaigning to the UK during the referendum campaign, this was the export of American post truth documentary to UK television, where all that matters is the bottom line, the political or ratings win, not how you get there.

Understandably the wider archaeological community responded to “Battlefield Recovery” with fury.  Both the UK broadcaster Channel 5 and the regulator Ofcom received scores of complaints, including reasoned arguments from leading sector organisations such as the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists, the Council for British Archaeology and the Society of Antiquaries.  Many of the complaints focussed on the ethics of amateurs digging up human remains and and the egregious safety breaches shown on screen, both in excavations and in handling unexploded munitions and still the programmes were broadcast and still Ofcom refused to even investigate the complaints.

I would identify a number of reasons for this.  First of all there is a freedom of speech argument.  Under the US First Amendment and the European Convention on Human Rights you have to put up a pretty strong case to prevent someone having their say, however unethical or deluded you think it is.  Indeed, much as I despise “Battlefield Recovery” as a programme, I would go to the barricades to defend ClearStory’s right to make it.  The true problem lies in the fact that ClearStory felt able to use the format they did in the first place, and then in the complete lack of accountability to its subject and audience once the programme was made.  Here I would suggest that the biggest reason for the failure to have “Battlefield Recovery” held to account was that in the eyes of Ofcom and the broadcaster, the opinion of archaeologists just does not matter in the way that, for example, the opinions of the medical Royal Colleges were heard in the heated debate over the coverage of the controversy surrounding claims that the MMR vaccine caused Autism in some children.  This can only be thanks to the failure of successive generations of archaeologists to engage and embed with the broadcasters in helping to deliver the mass audiences which our media serve and which their networks and accountants crave.  We have been so comfortable in our own space, welcoming in those few who are enlightened enough to come to us, that we have made too little attempt to seek to venture outside to seek and nurture new audiences.  Now we do need to venture outside to combat ethical abominations such as “Battlefield Recovery” we find that a large part of the pass has already been sold.

Across much of the digital broadcasting spectrum, what the commissioners call history factual now consists largely of treasure hunting reality TV of the kind shown in “Treasure Quest” and of which “Battlefield Recovery” was a cheap and cheerful example;  of deluded conspiracy theory TV claiming to prove that the history we were taught at school was wrong and archaeology is one big cover up, of the kind peddled by Forensic Geologist Scott Wolter in “America Unearthed” and “Pirate Treasure of the Knight’s Templar”;  or outright fictions such as “Hunting Hitler”, “The Curse of Oak Island,” and most notoriously  of all “Ancient Aliens.”  It is the consistent failure of all but a few archaeologists to challenge and be seen to challenge these cynical, formulaic, conspiracy products which is almost certainly one of the principle factors which has enabled the media, Ofcom, and even Government to largely discount archaeology in policy making, in programme commissioning and in calibrating regulatory frameworks.

In the current post truth political climate that is a dangerous situation for archaeology to be in.  All the more so as we now live in a media world where any kind of serious questioning is increasingly difficult.    This is in large part thanks to the effect which digital activist Eli Pariser has called “the filter bubble”.  That is the sense that as the media each of us as individuals consumes becomes increasingly fragmented across multiple digital formats, which can be chosen and time shifted at will, while being at the same time personalised by the algorithms offering us the information on our Facebook pages and Google searches which the companies behind them think we want to read, confirming our existing attitudes and bias, it becomes ever more difficult for us to recognise and challenge those biases, even if we want to.

Outside the filter bubble, our world of academic archaeology where debate, discussion, and challenge are the norm and even deliberately sought out, looks increasingly isolated and odd, perhaps even in that most deadly of modern political insults, “elitist”.  Any such dismissal of the core essence of what we do could have a dangerous practical effect on the future of archaeology as we know and practice it.  To channel the spirit of the famous quote about the threat of Nazism written by Pastor Martin Niemöller.  When they come for the archaeologists, to make the cuts, to close the university departments and to liberalise the planning laws, thus destroying the economic basis of commercial archaeology and the jobs which go with it, who is going to be there to stand alongside the lecturers, the surveyors, the finds specialists and the diggers, when all those who, like the “Time Team,” reached out to a wider audience have passed on or have been dismissed as academically lazy populists.  No one will be there, because those who might have been our audience and who might have chosen to stand beside us if we had only reached out to be inclusive and bothered to put up a fight on the wider political and media stage, are instead at home, sitting in their underpants under a tinfoil pyramid watching “Ancient Aliens” on the History Channel.

And it is not as if we did not have the chance.   For twenty years the seminal archaeological procedural “Time Team” on Channel 4 delivered audiences in the millions, in the process becoming, and remaining, an instantly recognisable national institution.  The trouble was no one else stepped up to the plate to challenge “Time Team’s” hegemony, or to develop other formats grounded on evidence based process, until like the mega fauna caught out by the deadly double whammy of climate change and predatory humans, even “Time Team” became an evolutionary dead end, succumbing to changing priorities at Channel 4 and the inevitable aging of its cast and core audience.  Time Team’s co-creator, the late Professor Mick Aston of Bristol University summed this up in his last major interview, given to Current Archaeology in June 2013;

“But even though Time Team built up an incredible audience, the archaeological world never really ran with it. All the public interest generated in that first 15 year period was wasted. Our colleagues were too busy saying ‘you can’t do it in three days’, or ‘I don’t like the way you’ve done that.’ Nit picking really, but it could get nasty. If you went to a pub and mentioned Time Team to a bunch of archaeologists you’d instantly have a fight on your hands. People who got what the programme was doing thought it was great, but others just said ‘you can’t do archaeology like that’. I feel as though I’ve suffered from that for 20 years.”

Aston added later;

“The sad thing, I think, is despite the public interest in archaeology we don’t seem to be able to harness it. I don’t know why, because so much work does need doing. If every parish had a project like Winscombe going on not only would we learn a lot, but the spin-offs in terms of social cohesion and the involvement of people would be absolutely phenomenal.”

It is difficult to communicate when you no longer even have the means.

 

Martin Baron, the executive Editor of the Washington Post [and hero of the recent film “Spotlight” which celebrated the role of investigative journalism in exposing the scandal of paedophile priests in the United States] put the danger we are all in, on account of this failure to communicate outside our particular silos of knowledge and opinion, most succinctly in his commencement address to the School of Media and Communication at Temple University earlier this year;

“Today we are not so much communicating as miscommunicating. Or failing to communicate. Or choosing to communicate only with those who think as we do. Or communicating in a manner that is wholly detached from reality.

Too often we look only for affirmation of our own ideas rather than opening ourselves to the ideas of others.

Too often we are inclined only to talk. Too rarely are we inclined to listen — when listening is the superior route to learning and understanding. Listening has become a lost art.”

And before anyone asks why I am quoting a journalist and not an archaeologist, especially when “journalistic” is so often inscribed on an undergraduate, or higher, essay as a term of criticism, ask yourself this.

What is the point of being an archaeologist if you cannot and do not communicate your work to anyone who wants to listen and learn?

And do we too not all too often take the easy route of only discussing our work with the people who think like us, and when we do, are we also often guilty of using a jargon ridden language only we, and sometimes not even all of us, can understand?

Ask also, when did a leading archaeologist last talk about the need to communicate with the world in those terms?

We have enough trouble even communicating with each other.

This brings me to a related issue, one with which I am particularly engaged, and which has risen up to bite again in the course of my research and writing during my day of archaeology.  That is the issue of access to the transfusing lifeblood of academic debate, academic articles communicated through publication in journals of record.

As happens to all of us, a notification sat in my inbox this morning regarding a paper which would, on the face of it, be directly relevant not just to a paper I am currently writing, but also to a heritage crime investigation I am currently involved with; so in that routine way you do I tapped on the link.

Of course, as a freelance archaeologist and writer with no current academic affiliation I do not have the magic login which serves as the free pass to the higher degrees of academic discussion [in spite of the fact that I do self identify as an academic, possessing as I do a Masters degree and some subject expertise, which should be tested, and might even be of use to colleagues], so having been treated to the abstract, which confirmed I certainly wanted to read the full article, I was asked to pay £26 for the article, or £124 for the complete issue of the journal concerned.

The verbal response to this shameless demand for a poll tax on knowledge is of course well known to scholars of Old English and consists of two words, the second of which is “off”.

You do not have access

 

As a result of this short sighted imposition of an academic exclusion zone there are no winners.  I do not get to access the information and arguments contained within the article which might well have helped to ground, focus or enrich my paper, thus impacting on anyone who reads my work when it is published [which it will be, in an open access format of course].

Meanwhile the four joint authors of the paper I would like to read suffer because they lose a citation, and the pleasure and challenge, of being quoted and maybe questioned.  The brutal marketing decision of their publisher has taken them from High Impact to No Impact at the click of my mouse.

The only bright spot in this is that the publisher also loses because their greed and willingness to facilitate a research apartheid has gained them precisely nothing.

So;   For inflicting that completely avoidable collateral damage to the ongoing, international, debate and development of archaeology and on the careers of five professional archaeologists, Routledge, of the Taylor and Francis Group, publishers of World Archaeology,  consider yourselves named and shamed.

[In fairness I should add that other publishers and Journals of Record are equally guilty of turning legitimate researchers without an academic login into the research equivalent of Cassandra, speaking truths, but condemned never to be listened to]

 

But this is the day of archaeology.  A day when we celebrate each other, our work and let the public in to see us, so I should finish on some form of up beat.  Let me suggest what we can and should be.

Later in the commencement address quoted above Martin Baron quoted one of the founding principle of the great newspaper the Washington Post;

“The first mission of a newspaper is to tell the truth as nearly as the truth may be ascertained.”

The Day of Archaeology proves every year what a diverse, brilliant, thoughtful and thought provoking profession and calling we are lucky enough to participate in, as our work attempts to ascertain what those sometimes elusive and difficult historical and archaeological truths are, as nearly as maybe.   It is also a profession and a calling which I think most of us would agree is at its strongest and most creative when we think, talk, and act together.

And it can be done.   The package about the theft of metal from the wrecks of ships sunk in the Battle of Jutland pictured above, was broadcast on BBC 1’s daily magazine programme the One Show on 30 May 2016, the eve of the one hundredth anniversary of the battle.  Working closely with academic colleagues, the programme production team, their lawyers and presenter Joe Crowley, himself a history graduate, in seven minutes, using a popular magazine format in Prime Time, we managed to cover the historical context of the story, show the archaeological evidence for the theft and identify the thieves, address the ethical issues surrounding maritime military graves and explain the Protection of Military Remains Act, all to an audience of over three million, who also saw the human aspect of the battle and the emotional cost of the theft, expressed through an interview with a relative of one of the sailors lost in the sinking of HMS Queen Mary.   It is a bonus that we also managed to embarrass and hold to account the Ministry of Defence by forcing them to answer questions about their failure to protect the wrecks.

Overall, the One Show package was a prime  example of the kind of popular public service broadcasting which can still be achieved if archaeologists seek out the right stories, the right partners and employ the right visual and spoken language.

However, allowing the continuation of ever decreasing literary circles to take place in a succession of sealed and self regarding academic halls of mirrors, is not only in my view counter productive for our profession, risking rendering it increasingly inward looking and to the wider world, irrelevant.  Worse, in the post modern, post truth environment, where we breathe the atmosphere of lies and misrepresentations generated by the likes of the Brexiteers, the Donald and the producers of “Ancient Aliens” and “Hunting Hitler”, not to communicate what we do in the widest most effective way possible is also a dereliction of our duty to take an active role as participants in the wider world which we go home to when our day of archaeology comes to an end.

 

 

 

About Andy Brockman

Andy Brockman is a specialist in the Archaeology of Modern Conflict and editor of the on-line archaeological media and current affairs blog thePipeLine 

He particularly enjoys researching, reviewing and debunking pseudo history from buried Spitfires in Burma to Hitler’s 1945 excursion to Argentina by U-boat.

A day managing the Scottish Archaeological Research Framework

The day in the ScARF office begins with tea and the newest member of the team reading our old Day of Archaeology posts from 2012 and 2015 (if you haven’t read them, they can be found at http://www.dayofarchaeology.com/friday-fun-in-the-scarf-office-part-1/ and http://www.dayofarchaeology.com/friday-fun-in-the-scarf-part-2/ and finally http://www.dayofarchaeology.com/scarf-is-3-years-old/ . Since the last #dayofarch, the ScARF team has doubled in size and so now we are two people, making just over 1 full time post. This means that we can split ourselves easily between archaeology and museums work, as part of the plan for the future is to better integrate existing museum collections with trying to answer existing research recommendations, which so far have tended to be born out of pure archaeological thinking.

There won’t actually be much time for me to read #dayofarch posts today though, that will likely be a task for the bus home. Being part time means you have to use every office minute to its advantage and you often feel like reading blog posts and similar isn’t ‘real work’, even if they do have value! One I can read legitimately, though, is the post for today from Anna our Museums Officer at http://www.dayofarchaeology.com/dispatches-from-edinburgh-scarf-project-museums-part-1/.  Instead, today will mainly be about three things:

  1. Future Thinking on Scotlands Carved Stones – a major new panel report for ScARF
  2. The ScARF student network
  3. Admin tasks
Future Thinking on Scotlands' Carved Stones - a screenshot of the yet to be released resource

Future Thinking on Scotlands’ Carved Stones – a screenshot of the yet to be released resource

Firstly, getting the newest addition to the ScARF panel report family up online. Future Thinking on Scotlands Carved Stones (http://www.scottishheritagehub.com/content/future-thinking-carved-stones-scotland ) is due for release at the end of next month and will mark the culmination of work by a group of over fifty people led by Dr Sally Foster, Dr Katherine Forsyth, Stuart Jeffrey and Susan Buckham. I didn’t contribute to the writing of the report, but my job was to advise on structure and to put the text and images online and link everything together, as well as to link to other existing ScARF sections where appropriate. This means some HTML work, as simply copying and pasting leaves a horrible proprietary mess in the code, and then some design work to fit the images into the text nicely. Very similar, in fact, to what I appear to have been doing for the 2012 #dayofarch post.  I’ve blocked off most of the day to work on Carved Stones because it needs focus and concentration so I can’t let myself get distracted by other ScARF bits at the same time.

Exciting as the work on the new stones panel is, I don’t have time to spend all today on it. It’s already made up the bulk of my work over the past three weeks. So, after a no-break-desk-lunch, I plan on quietly putting the stones to one side and begin the never-ending task of project admin. Mostly replying to emails, you do know archaeological project management is pure glamour, right? Some emails will be routine and won’t need much time spent on them, some I can see from the subject line are to do with new archaeological research so they will get marked to explore properly later, and recently it seems quite a lot are related to some of our upcoming panel meetings so I will be sure to answer them straight away.

Trowelblazer Lottie had planned on helping out for the day but instead despairs at the increasing amount of post it notes

Trowelblazer Lottie had planned on helping out for the day but instead despairs at the increasing amount of post it notes

After that block of admin, it will be time for some Friday Fun and telling the world about some of the work we have supported recently. Over the past few months, ScARF has provided student bursaries to attend archaeological conferences. In return, each student had to submit a short report to us about their time there as well as a promise that ScARF can use their research, if appropriate, to help update the framework questions and recommendations. The reports received so far can all be found at http://www.socantscot.org/category/student-report/ and cover a diverse range of topics including prehistoric beekeeping, iron age object deposition, re-evaluation of insular metalwork from Pagan-Norse graves, Medieval cetacean consumption and Iron Age equestrianism, so something for everyone! I have a few new reports to put up this afternoon from the 14C and Archaeology conference (http://www.c14archaeology2016.com/) that recently took place in Edinburgh, so if science and archaeology is your thing then take a look at the reports section later today. After that, I need to write to all the bursary recipients and see if they want to take up the offer of Society Fellowship (you can find out more about that at http://www.socantscot.org/join-us/ ).

I plan on spending some time towards the end of the day working on my papers for the European Association of Archaeologists conference, which is at the end of next month. If you are interested, then ScARF and the Society have papers about digital publication and archiving in session TH3-11 , and open access in session TH3-03.   In a previous life, writing papers usually took place in the evenings and weekends. However, now I’m in my thirties and have responsibilities other than work, so paper writing has to take place during the working day. This is a good example of how, four years on from my first #dayofarch post, how I can/have to spend my day at work has changed even if some of the actual work is the same.

An aside: Writing this post has also made me realise how my views on working in archaeology have changed over the past four years since the first post. In those four years, I have had three different jobs (not all archaeological, and none until now more than a 12 month contract) and become a parent. Archaeology (and therefore work) used to be the all consuming thing in life, and I was quite happy to give all my hours/life to it (Hello Silchester!) but life happens and things change. Some of the best posts from previous years are those that truly reflect on what a job/career archaeology is about and how it is rarely a smooth ride (I particularly like http://www.dayofarchaeology.com/once-an-archaeologist-plan-b-careers-in-archaeology/, http://www.dayofarchaeology.com/a-career-in-ruins/, http://www.dayofarchaeology.com/working-hard-or-hardly-working/ and recently http://www.dayofarchaeology.com/a-transition-period-in-life/). I think #dayofarch is a great way for people to reflect on archaeology as a career (whether they are already working in archaeology or not) and provides an invaluable and real insight to a world that, despite what some would have you believe, isn’t all Lego, Minecraft, or easy digging in the sunshine. </endrant>

The very last hour or so of the day of archaeology will be about planning the next few months. We are working in our plans for Orkney and Aberdeenshire museums visits as well as updating panel reports and working with commercial units to keep on top of the current archaeological picture in Scotland. This is the first time writing for #dayofarch that I’ve known I’ll still be working on ScARF for the next one, so I love the opportunity to really get stuck into the work and planning is a big part of that. It’ll be out with the diary, fix some dates and then head home – to read lots more #dayofarch posts en route!

The list maker cometh…

Sticky notes on a wall

Sticky notes on the wall of the Wikimedia Foundation office (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Day of Archaeology always falls on the day I don’t work so my post is never really about the day itself, but I happened to be updating my job description this week (alongside managing 4 student volunteers and releasing 2 new articles). It had not been updated since Internet Archaeology switched to open access towards the end of last year, so having worked on that just this week, I thought I’d share it.

I am an inveterate ‘to do‘ list maker (I’m currently using Google Keep to organise myself) and one of the few editorial blogs I follow is that of the Scholarly Kitchen. A particular post from 2014 continues to chime with me, and it’s their list of 82 things that publishers do. So combine these lists at will dear reader, and you get a flavour of what can and does arise in a typical day for me at Internet Archaeology!

The Editor is responsible for editing, managing, maintaining, producing and promoting Internet Archaeology, an international, open access, peer-reviewed digital journal for archaeology, hosted by the University of York.

OBJECTIVES

  • Produce, edit, develop and publish the Internet Archaeology journal to a high academic standard
  • Promote the journal and its content
  • Develop and sustain the journal in its open access form
  • Ensure the journal is accessible to all users, optimising its technical performance and archival permanence as well as developing new functionality
  • Ensure all content is accurate, timely, and supports the journal’s core values and objectives

MAIN DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES

  • Responsible for day to day running of journal, resolving any issues that arise to maintain quality, content, and production schedule
  • Responsible for editing and planning of each journal issue, including the soliciting of new content
  • Steer the editorial, technical and open access development of the journal
  • Investigate opportunities for development and growth and ensure that the established goals are met
  • Describe, implement, and regularly review author guidelines and journal policies
  • Provide editorial and technical advice to authors on the preparation and submission of content
  • Responsible for progressing submissions from proposal stage through to publication, including peer review
  • Responsible for design, creation and maintenance of journal web pages
  • Represent and promote the journal online, via the web, social media and in person at conferences and seminars, both within and beyond the University
  • Collaborate with the Archaeology Data Service (ADS) on integrated initiatives and publications
  • Oversee and support the journal’s digital archiving process with the ADS
  • Seek to maintain awareness of new developments in open access, digital scholarly publishing, related digital initiatives and technologies and implement best practice
  • Build successful and productive relationships with Advisory Editors and other key external stakeholders

Editorial

  • Progress articles from proposal stage through submission to publication
  • Manage the refereeing process
  • Liaise, feedback and collaborate with journal Advisory Editors, authors, referees and copy editors over development of drafts
  • Edit, proofread and check all text, bibliographic and other associated material for articles, ensuring content complies with editorial policy, housestyle and other guidelines
  • Maintain journal guidelines and advise authors on best practice for all components of articles, including copyright requirements and licencing
  • Assign DOIs to all published content and deposit bibliographic data for citation linking
  • Promote content on social media, email lists, newsletters and via press releases as required
  • Solicit new content and liaise with potential new contributors

Design / Technical

  • Design and develop content for online usage
  • Mark-up content to current HTML specifications and ensure the website functions effectively
  • Develop journal design and housestyle, updating when required
  • Ensure journal architecture is robust and that it facilitates discovery of content (via internal and external search)
  • Ensure layout is clear, effective, and accessible
  • Prepare images for online presentation and create graphics where required
  • Perform technical updates to webpages as required
  • Liaise with ADS staff on technical and archival requirements where needed
  • Develop special interfaces for articles when required
  • Develop and maintain journal RSS feed
  • Monitor and review site usage, including traffic statistics, Altmetric data, forum comments, e-mail traffic and comments, visitor survey data, etc. and make improvements where indicated
  • Be conversant with and make use of in-house computer hardware and software

 Open Access

  • Devise the journal’s open access policy, its implementation and development
  • Advise authors on costs of open access publication, and assist authors in the preparation of funding applications where required
  • Seek to maintain awareness of new developments in open access publishing and implement best practice
  • Manage and maintain metadata for journal’s listing in DOAJ
  • Manage and promote the open access institutional membership offer, liaising with external agents where needed
  • Seek out additional ways to support the journal in its open access form

External relationships

  • Establish and maintain beneficial links with other archaeology organisations and seek out potential joint publication and other initiatives
  • Represent and promote the journal on the web, via social media and in person at conferences and seminars, both within and beyond the University
  • Cultivate new contacts as Advisory editors and other journal supporters

 Other

  • Respond to queries relating to the journal and its content
  • Attend Executive and Management meetings
  • Support the directors and administrator in budget/resource management
  • Make efficient use of shared ADS infrastructure and resources
  • Support the journal’s administrator to develop, co-ordinate and promote advertising and marketing opportunities in and on behalf of the journal
  • Supervise temporary staff, volunteers and student placements
  • Present at archaeological and digital/publishing conferences as well as workshops/other external training courses as required
  • Lead seminars on digital publication within the Department
  • Other such reasonable duties as may from time to time be required by the journal Directors

And no, I don’t have an assistant or a clone…but I’d find either most helpful!

Adventures in Digital Archaeology & Open Access Antiquarianism

Ashley M. Richter in front of one of the UCSD Calit2 visualization walls and my layered realities conceptual graphic for digital archaeological technology development and use.

Ashley M. Richter in front of one of the UCSD Calit2 visualization walls and my layered realities conceptual graphic for digital archaeological technology development and use.

It’s funny how quickly time passes while studying time.

Two years ago, this weekend was spent with a laser scanner at the beach.

I’d finagled a mini-grant from the National Science Foundation for a project I like to call Sandcastles for Science, but whose full un-pronouncable name identified it as a project to test out laser scanning capabilities for handling the imaging resolutions of stratigraphic sediment on archaeological sites (see– even that was a mouthful).

As a graduate student at the University of California, San Diego, the beach was the nearest easy access place to play in the dirt and provided a perfect venue to open up the experiment to local kids and un-suspecting beach-goers who accidentally volunteered themselves for mini-science bootcamp. Willing audiences who would build me data castles, while my research assistant and I exposed them to archaeology, beach physics, the history of castles, laser scanning, sea-shell collecting, and all the other educational topics we could cram into our construction schpeals and posterboards. I like archaeological education outreach, so sue me. It gets written into almost every one of my projects somehow.

Sandcastles for Science was ultimately prep-work for a two month field season in Jordan, laser scanning sites in Faynan (and yes, even scanning Petra for one glorious day), as well as for a lovely bit of software development on visualizing temporal sequences in point clouds with one of my fabulous computer science colleagues.

The Leica Scanstation looming over its sandcastle victim at the beach.

The Leica Scanstation looming over its sandcastle victim at the beach.

Last year, this weekend was spent in a frenzy of data digging and labwork

My team needed to pull together presentations for Italian officials to approve the Center of Interdisciplinary Science for Art, Architecture, and Archaeology’s upcoming field season at Palazzo Vecchio and the Baptistery of St. John in Florence, and a bevy of lovely sites in southern Italy with a team from the University of Calabria.

So it was a weekend slogging through back-data of point clouds from the Hall of the 500 in Palazzo Vecchio, emphasizing the layered multi-spectral imaging into the model, and how it definitely showed the cracks conservators needed to track to create preservation solutions, and how it maybe had a hidden Da Vinci lurking behind one of its walls. It was a weekend of lists for the upcoming season, of site logistics, and Italian language lessons (team lessons with an instructor +  DuoLingo = a surprising amount of success once we hit Italy for the two month madcap field season that was my fall of 2013).

And if you’d like to check out more pics and details of my wonderful and ridiculous work for a once-promising academic something, scope out my scrapbook blog Adventures in Digital Archaeology.

The CISA3 diagnostics team at Palazzo Vecchio after successful conservation imaging.

The CISA3 diagnostics team at Palazzo Vecchio after successful conservation imaging.

The Faro Focus and I about to image the exterior of the Baptistery. Note that I literally only seem capable of this one jaunty pose with a laser scanner. I desperately need to start doing something different in field propaganda photos.

The Faro Focus and I about to image the exterior of the Baptistery. Note that I literally only seem capable of this one jaunty pose with a laser scanner. I desperately need to start doing something different in field propaganda photos.

But this year, this year was spent online- in a flurry of creative archaeological energy

This summer, I find myself graduated and out on my own, free to pursue my own projects, safely away from the boundary lines of academia and the rather unhealthy environment I had found myself in for a big chunk of this year.

Pulling ourselves back together, my favorite research colleague Vid and I cooked up a delightful dish that brings together all the digital archaeology flavors we’d been prepping before, but as part of a much grander and more colorful feast.

And so this weekend was spent running down the final lists of photographs, video media, and writing that needed to coalesce together into the FIRST archaeological technology driven Kickstarter.

Mushing together the laser scanning, point clouds, 3D models, and 3D printing,our project, Open Access Antiquarianism, proposes the construction of art exhibit built from re-purposed cultural heritage data using the digital visualization pipelines my colleague and I have been building to handle archaeological data.

A blend of 3D printed archaeological artifacts, furniture upholstered in fabric printed with archaeological LiDAR (literal armchair archaeology), interactive point cloud visualizations and other such extravagant re-workings of scientific data from open archives, the Cabinet of Curiosities Open Access Antiquarianism proposes offers an excellent opportunity to continue streamlining the point cloud and 3D modelling methodologies we’d been playing with for so long, while reaching a much much larger audience.

Because the larger global community needs to be engaged in the increasingly complicated discussions regarding ethical implementations of digitization and open access of tangible and intangible cultural heritage. The public (and archaeologists themselves) need to understand the desperate desperate need for interdisciplinary and collaborative work and move away from the academic politics and needless power-plays that constantly bog such wonderful creative enterprises down. Archaeologists need to work more closely with technologists and engineers to develop useful and adaptable systems that preserve the past for the future (and often simultaneously end up building the surveying systems needed for the space-age future we all envision).

And the public needs to be aware of the wealth of data that is available to them in the increasingly larger and more wonderful online archives of museums and government institutions all over the world. The past has the potential to become increasingly and excitingly ubiquitous and something that plays a much stronger role in one’s everyday conception of time and space. It’s getting all wibbly wobbly timey wimey and the doctors of archaeology ought to be actively on the hunt for more and more Companions. Studying the past is no longer something that need be done by experts alone. In fact, we are drowning under such an avalanche of data, that it is imperative that more crowd-sourced archaeological ventures be launched to bear the brunt of analyzing everything that is already stacked up in the university basements of the world, let alone the incoming finds. Archaeologists can stay experts, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be able to talk to the public and engage them more actively in what we’re up to. Enthusiasm should count more than correct use of erudite jargon. Even to those hipster archaeologists out there.

In some small artistic way, the Open Access Antiquarianism project would like to address all of these things, while expanding the research and technological collaborative possibilities to continue refining the much needed digital pipeline that takes things from the field through processing, archiving, studying, and out to engagement.

My collaborative and interdisciplinary digital archaeology and outreach isn’t the traditional archaeology. But its my archaeology. And more than that, its an archaeological practice of hope. Hope that archaeology will fully embrace the increasingly digitized and interdisciplinary future. Hope that archaeology will not fall prey to over-specialization and tenure. Hope that archaeologists will continue to try to document and in some small way understand the past, so that we can help make vital statistically based decisions for the future. Archaeology has such potential to aid technology development and global ecological policy, if only us archaeologists would reach out and grasp it instead of assuming it will fall into our laps.

If you’re intrigued/dismayed/excited/furious/amused or any one of the wonderful and ridiculous emotions human beings are capable of, please check out Open Access Antiquarianism on kickstarter and on Facebook.  We’d love your support, and if you love our concepts about tech development, archaeology, and art as a research and outreach driver, perhaps your collaboration as well. Get in touch!

To the erudite young men and women a-sitting on a-tell: may your trowels be ever muddy and your point clouds free of shadows.

Acres and acres of happy wishes to all the archaeologists of the world,

Ashley M. Richter

One of the Open Access Antiquarianism Medaillions we've designed as part of the Kickstarter reward campaign.

One of the Open Access Antiquarianism Medaillions we’ve designed as part of the Kickstarter reward campaign.


Coding for Victory

Code for Victory

As much as I would like to say that I spent my day undertaking traditional archaeology, you know fighting Nazi’s and digging up dinosaurs, it actually involved me coding most of the day. On a side note, yesterday I learned that paleontologists actually do up to 10,000 years ago so there is some overlap between them and us. For all us archaeologists that hate to be asked that question about dinosaurs people are actually closer than you think and paleontologists hate that question as much as we do as not all of them work with dinosaurs. Anyways I digress,  I spent my Day of Archaeology coding for Landward.org. I had spent the last week doing a complete re-write of the website (now down to 9k download per page, roughly), it was built from scratch. After complete a re-write of the old code I decide to add some new aspects to the website. Why? well because we are looking into creating a journal hosting system for Open Access Archaeology to host Open Access archaeology journals and that needs to have some specific features like an editor, publishing, rss, etc.

That meant for my day of archaeology I was looking into adding a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor to the website. There are several well know systems out there, wordpress which everyone is writing their Day of Archaeology posts in uses one, but I found that they are very heavy and not very well documented, at least for what I needed. Needless to say, I spent the whole morning figuring that out. By lunch time I decided that I was going to make my own editor from scratch. With a little help from stackoverflow and some trial and error by the end of the day I had an editor up and working on the website. It does not look pretty but it works and it was all done by hand. Not very exciting or traditional but it is how I spent most of my Day of Archaeology.

What I did do that was very archaeology related was work on a resume and cover letter for a job. My current employment runs out at the end of this month so I am back looking for new jobs. That is how I spent the rest of my day, working on my resume. I believe most of you archaeologists can relate to this.

Doug Rocks-Macqueen

 

The Curious Loneliness of the Director of Archaeology

Have you ever seen, on TV or on the Web, videos about archaeology, leaving aside documentaries?
Probably not if you live in Italy.

Have you ever seen an archaeologist recording with a camera?
Probably not if you live in Italy.

I’m an Italian archaeologist and when I don’t dig I edit videos recorded during the excavation (when I’m too tired for studying…).
I’m also a video-narration/storytelling enthusiast, and these two interests mixed together led me to produce footage like this, a docudrama that performs the 2011 excavation season in the Roman site of Vignale (Italy).

My archaeological life so far has been a mix of university studies, excavations and recording videos. But communicating fieldwork is my favorite activity and I like to do it via video, especially referring to the point of view of the archaeologists, translated in a story using the genre of docudrama. Putting together images and sounds/voices, in my opinion video is the best medium for telling histories of archaeology, from the most famous to the worst preserved site. I think video can become a fundamental way of communication and involvement, raising public awareness of archaeological fieldwork.
This summer seems to be not so different from the others, even if more satisfactory until now. In June, Giuliano De Felice and I won the first Italian video contest about archaeology, organized by Mappa Project, with this short video about Open Access in archaeology (not subtitled yet). It has been absolutely terrific winning this contest with a dialogue instead of the usual 3D models or documentary.

Later on, I’ve started a new column about video-narration in archaeology on “Archeologia tardoantica e medievale a Siena” Facebook page. Every week I review one or two videos from all over the world that are characterized by a special care about narration; from this derives the name of the column “Making archaeology as a movie“.

Today archaeology covers a wide variety of works and specialisms. Video-communication is not among the most popular at all and sometimes I feel I’m doing it for myself and a few other people (and always gratis!). But this doesn’t mean that is less important and less necessary. It’s part of the archaeological process and I’m going on doing it, trying to achieve a better and more involving communication of the fieldwork.

recording in vignale

I will spend my Day of Archaeology 2013 at home, editing videos but most of all studying boring books. Therefore I’m impatiently waiting for the new excavation season in Vignale, next September, when I can experience something new about video during fieldwork and resume the dig. This is definitely my favorite way for celebrating a great Day of Archaeology.

Thinking About Open Access Archaeological Publishing

I spent much of the Day of Archaeology in closed windowless rooms discussing more or less weighty matters with other librarians.  Mercifully we manage to make some progress on some pressing issues.

In between such things I have been thinking about the effect that open access publishing has on disciplines like archaeology and ancient near Eastern Studies and Classics and Mediterranean Archaeology. The master List of Open Access Journals in Ancient Studies I’ve been compiling since 2009  on The Ancient World Online now includes includes 1188 titles, and has increased by 238 titles in the past year.  That’s a big corpus.  All three of the institutions I’ve been affiliated with over the past three decades have made major commitments to open access publishing:  the Oriental Institute, the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World.

Are scholars reading and citing open access journals?  Are scholars seeking out open access publication venues?  Are scholars taking advantage of  the emerging idea of data journals?  Is it significant that more than 4500 souls have subscribed to the Ancient World Online daily email update?  Is it significant that most open access publications never makes it into library discovery tools?  What will be the effect of this summer’s  enormously successful Linked Ancient World Data Institute be by the time the second one rolls around in a year?  Are people using the Ancient World Linked Data JavaScript Library?

It’s now two hot days later and these and other questions are still knocking around my mind.

 

The Humming From Behind the Webpage

The racing tune of Largo al factotum by Rossini was on the radio as I came into work and has stayed in my head all day. It’s great uplifting piece of music to be rounding off the week and an apt backdrop to a busy Day of Archaeology 2012 (as well as one of my favourite Tom and Jerry cartoons!). Have a listen while you read the next few posts!

 

Largo al factorum (YouTube video)

I am only in work today for the morning so this post is shorter (and ultimately later as I am now posting this from home) than if Day of Archaeology 2012 fell on one of my full working days like last year. My post has always been at 80% full time which helps to fit in with family life (husband, 2 year old and a 7 year old) and all the other things I try to fit into my evenings and weekends in my ‘free’ time.

My half days are ‘bitty’ days. Too short to get my teeth into something big but great for clearing up all those little ones that arise during the course of the week. So far this morning I’ve dealt with email correspondence on matters such as arranging a review copy of a book to be sent to the journal (we rarely review books but this one has a particular digital slant to it and so makes the grade), sorting out dates for the next CBA Publications committee meeting, dealing with the queries raised by Val Kinsler, the journal’s long-standing copy-editor, on an article for the next issue, as well as setting up the access file for the forthcoming volume and making small changes to the search and subscription database to reflect the new content. I also received a phonecall from a referee regarding a recently submitted text.

Summary page of 'Visualising the Guild Chapel', Internet Archaeology 32 (forthcoming)

Summary page of ‘Visualising the Guild Chapel’, Internet Archaeology 32 (forthcoming)

 

I have a quick meeting with Stuart from ADS downstairs over our IfA Workplace Learning Bursary application in between spending what’s left of the morning polishing a pretty much completed article (above) ready for release, and make a start on the copy-edited draft from Val, specifically collating queries to send back to the authors.  Both articles are in fact designated for Open Access as the authors either successfully applied to their departmental research fund, or wisely built in publication funding in their original project bid. All too frequently it is still the case that the outputs of research (and their associated costs) are not given much thought at the start of a project/bid. But if things like publication costs are not factored in at the start, it is almost impossible to recover them later. This to me seems to be the biggest hurdle in the move to Open Access in archaeology whatever additional waivers there must always be for those without access to such funds. But Open Access is something Internet Archaeology is committed to achieving. I attended a really useful and interesting day in London at the start of June on Open Access organised by the Repositories Support Project and have been buoyed by the recent announcements and activities (e.g. the Minister of State for Universities and Science David Willetts’ recent speech, and the newly released Finch report), all which point to the inevitability of Open Access. What else can I say – watch this space!

Digging on the Web

On this “Day of Archaeology”, I’m busy preparing to head off to the field (in sunny Tuscany (!!)), square away some data, and finish work on some tech consulting.  That last bit is a clue that I’m not really a “normal archaeologist”. Actually, I’ve never met an archaeologist that I’d consider normal –  which is what attracted me to this field in first place. But even among archaeologists, I’m something of an odd-ball.

I have a background in Near Eastern archaeology, and did my dissertation research looking at interactions between Egypt and the Levant (modern Israel, Palestine, Lebanon) in the Early Bronze Age. But for various reasons, both personal and professional, I shifted gears toward the digital side of archaeology, co-founded a nonprofit with my wife (and boss!), and for the past 10 years, I’ve loved almost every minute of my work day. Except writing grant proposals (but there are some necessary evils in all work).

My research and professional interests focus on archaeological data, and much less on digging and field work for myself. This focus means I have a very different professional network, set of collaborators, and work life. Though I work closely with other archaeological professionals, I’m also heavily engaged with folks well outside the discipline, including Web and information scientists, digital librarians and archivists, technology companies, “digital humanists”, and researchers in scholarly communications.

I keep such odd company because I’m really interested in improving the way archaeologists communicate and share their research. Archaeology is intensely multidisciplinary and collaborative. It involves inputs from all sorts of different sciences, and many archaeologists work together in large teams. Sharing the results of all this research needs to reflect the collaborative nature of the field, and it needs to speak with people in other disciplines and walks of life. That’s why I’m so interested in making it archaeological data more open, easier to share, and easier to reuse.

My primary project is Open Context. It’s a system for publishing archaeological data, openly, on the Web, for all to browse and reuse. On this “Day of Archaeology”, I’m busy indexing tens of thousands of detailed records of archaeological contexts, objects, bones, and other material from Kenan Tepe, a major excavation in Turkey led by Bradley Parker. This collection represents the monumental effort of almost 10 years of field work. You can browse around its photo archives and see many thousands of pictures, mainly of dirt. Though it is free to access and use, the data are priceless. Excavation is a destructive process, and the documentation describing such excavations will be the only record available to revisit and re-analyze excavation results. That’s why comprehensive publishing with platforms like Open Context, as well as archiving with digital repositories like tDAR, the ADS, or the CDL is so important.

As this blog post should make clear, I love working with the Web. And what I like most about it is that I work with a growing and vibrant community of like minded people who want to see more from archaeology than costly journal articles read by a narrow few. The developers of ARK, Portable Antiquities, all the collaborators of Pelagios, and the bottom-up group linking archaeological data, are all hugely talented and make my work life rewarding and fun. All this makes archaeology (for me) as much about community and the future as it is about the past.

Archaeological Publication and Linked Data

Earlier this month I had the distinct pleasure of participating in the first Linked Ancient World Data Institute (LAWDI or #lawdi on Twitter) at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World (ISAW) in New York City, the brainchild of Sebastian Heath, Tom Elliott, and John Muccigrosso. I presented on the current state of archaeological publishing of my organization, the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA). The best part about the conference, though, was listening to new friends and colleagues speak about the many aspects of linked data, open source, and open access the archaeology of the Ancient World. As the ASCSA’s Director of Publications, I am beginning to put into practice what was discussed at LAWDI, and look forward to continuing to contribute.

Here’s what’s been done so far:

1. Open Access Hesperia. Our journal, Hesperia, is currently housed on JSTOR. We have a Content Sharing Agreement with JSTOR, however, which allows us to share our content from beyond the 3-year moving wall. This means that in July 2012 individual readers who need to search for and download any/all Hesperia articles published from 1932-2009 will be able to do so from the ASCSA’s website for free. The PDF articles can be read on any device that can open PDFs, and they can be used without Internet access post-download. There is no DRM. I alpha-tested the behind-the-scenes upload utility yesterday with reasonable success. I need to do a batch name-change on the PDFs and then load those onto our webserver (the test links currently point to JSTOR, but this will change in July). It is my hope that I can find just over $1M with which I can endow the journal at which point I can make open access to it complete and eternal.

2. Open Bibliography on Zotero. After the LAWDI meetings, I returned to Princeton to map out what I could begin to do with the concept of linking content for the ancient world. I had briefly used Zotero to read articles posted by Tom Elliott on Twitter, but I’d never gotten into the platform as a contributor of content. Since then, I have created a Zotero group for the American School of Classical Studies at Athens in which I have now shared publicly the enter bibliography of 1,500+ Hesperia articles and about 150 (or 230+) monographs. I need to go through (and encourage others to help with this) and edit the book entries and add abstracts to earlier Hesperia articles. This will take time, but it’s a good start.

3. Linking in eBooks. June saw the publication of our latest printed monograph, Isthmia: The Roman and Byzantine Graves and Human Remains (Isthmia IX), by Joseph L. Rife. I spent yesterday and will spend today creating links in the PDF eBook. My previous attempts at linking were restricted to links between text, note, table, and image. I have done this in Isthmia IX, tedium made bearable through listening to hardcore punk, gangsta rap, and the Euro 2012 match between Germany and Italy. This is only the first step. The next is to attempt to create dynamic, outward-looking links from every bibliographic citation and every footnote to actual articles and books on the Internet. This could be insane and/or impossible, but I’m going to try. I am also going to attempt to link each inventoried object as presented on the ASCSA’s open access website for archaeological data, ascsa.net. Lastly, I’m going to try to link from places mentioned in Rife’s book to records in Pleiades. Wish me luck.

The above is what I’m doing now and in July, and I’m looking forward to sharing/linking with other archaeologists worldwide on these and future projects.

Andrew Reinhard, Director of Publications, ASCSA