A Farewell to Archaeology

I lied. Archaeology will continue.

But I’m sad to see Day of Archaeology wind down. I intended (perhaps I still will) to do another distant read of DoA, to see the large scale patterns in these 2200+ posts and 800+ comments here (see Ben’s piece from a few years ago) but I found that my scraping-fu was not up to the task. Maybe next week.

Last year, I wrote ‘Sabbatical Games‘ at the outset of my year away from teaching. Today, I’m writing course materials, administrivia, and teaching. The vagaries of scheduling meant I could have my sabbatical but only if I jumped straight into teaching the day it was done. I don’t get to teach much archaeology any more, so digital history will have to do, but I did nail a grant from eCampusOntario to create the ‘Open Digital Archaeology Textbook Environment’ with Neha Gupta, Michael Carter, and Beth Compton. It’s an online textbook for doing digital archaeology with its own integrated Ubuntu computer! You can see a demo of it in action here:

So that’s exciting. My hope is that ODATE will provide the foundation for archaeology students (and the wider public) to develop the necessary digital skills that modern archaeology demands. A big part of that is the idea of reproducibility for which Ben Marwick has been one of our leaders.

(Aside: Inspired by and learning from Ben, I’m happy to report that Damien and I published our paper on The Insta-Dead: The rhetoric of the human remains trade on Instagram  complete with code, data, and figures. That project continues – every day we see new horrors across social media. Just to give you a sense of that – we came across a video once of a person degreasing a recently exhumed skull on his stovetop. THAT video was turned over to the authorities.)

So I’ll wind up this post with an exercise. How do you measure the impact of something like Day of Archaeology across social media? Follow this exercise. Then, feed your results into some of the network visualization exercises.

Who or which tweets/posts have had the most ‘influence’? What does ‘influence’ or ‘centrality’ mean in this context? I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the answers will surprise you, and lead you to appreciate more fully what a wonderful project Day of Archaeology has been.

Oh – I almost forgot. Inspired by things like the HeritageJam and the Day of Archaeology, I created ‘Epoiesen: A Journal for Creative Engagement in History and Archaeology‘. I’m hoping to throw back the curtain on that sometime in the next month or so. We’ve got some really wonderful pieces of work to share with you. I will leave you with some text mining of the submissions (measuring the sentiment values of the words, always a dicey proposition, which I then transformed into algorithmic art (via the ‘Kandinsky‘ package for R). I could have give you a table of numbers… but that sucks the soul and life out of archaeology. In the same way Day of Archaeology shows us alternate facets of archaeology, I believe that publishing should do that too. I want to engage the full sensorium to engage the past…