- Object Matters: Archaeology and heritage in the 21st century
Things are back. After a century of neglect, and after decades of linguistic and textual turns, there has for a while been much buzz about a material twist in the humanities and social sciences: a (re)turn to things.Building on archaeology’s long and intimate engagement with things, and anchored in field studies of modern ruin landscapes and abandoned sites in Arctic Norway and NW Russia, our research will focus on three main themes: the materiality of memory, the affective aspects of material encounters, and the ethics of things. By bringing a concern with ruins and things themselves to the forefront, this project aims to develop a new platform for debating archaeology and heritage in the 21st century.
- Crisis and Creativity, an interdisciplinary symposium
A Monfort Symposium to be hosted at Colorado State University. A bridging effort between academics and artists, writers and designers, the team is comprised of sociologists, anthropologists, poets, creative writers as well as commercial and graphic artists and technology developers; all united in an effort to understand the potential of crises broadly understood for creative expression and culture.
The first dedicated, international, peer-reviewed journal to explore archaeology’s specific contribution to understanding the present and recent past. It is concerned both with archaeologies of the contemporary world, defined temporally as belonging to the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, as well as with reflections on the socio-political implications of doing archaeology in the contemporary world. In addition to its focus on archaeology, JCA encourages articles from a range of adjacent disciplines which consider recent and contemporary material-cultural entanglements, including anthropology, cultural studies, design studies, history, human geography, media studies, museum studies, psychology, science and technology studies and sociology. Acknowledging the key place which photography and digital media have come to occupy within this emerging subfield, JCA includes a regular photo essay feature and provides space for the publication of interactive, web-only content on its website. I serve on the editorial board.
Past and Ongoing Projects
The Metamedia lab, through the Stanford Humanities Lab and the Interdisciplinary Archaeology Center, is comprised of an interdisciplinary, specialized group of scholars and Silicon Valley professionals who collectively are interested in developing new media for rendering ideas. Specifically, the laboratory’s mission emphasizes: Collaboration – we try to be as inclusive as possible and work as multi-talented groups. This is an old academic ideal of collegiality, but it also connects with more recent ideas about the power of collective work; and Theory – not as an abstracted distance from the real world, but a way of connecting what is normally kept separate and so getting a sharper hold on our substantive real world. Under this ambit, interests and topics range from the professional design and beta-testing of innovative software programs to exhibiting the creation of manuscript composition to the collaboration on photoblogs with archaeological sites to adding commentary and sound to ‘staid’ professional publications. I am a senior founding member of the Metamedia Lab.
- Ruin Memories: Materiality, aesthetics and archaeology of the recent past
A consortium of Europe-based scholars applying an archaeological sensibility to the proliferation of our modern ruins. The ruin-landscape is the topic of the current research project. Based on selected case studies of industrial ruins, abandoned fishing villages, war remains and derelict mines in Norway, Russia, Iceland, Spain, Sweden and North America we want to explore how the ruins of modernity are conceived and assigned cultural value in contemporary academic and public discourses. Our research will cover three main themes: the aesthetics of waste and heritage, the materiality of memory, and the significance of things. I’m a project member and manager (all things IT).
A book in press for the Science, Technology and Society series for Routledge. I am co-editing with Annamaria Carusi, Aud Sissel-Hoel, and Steve Woolgar. The book will consist of thirteen newly commissioned chapters. Most contributions weave theoretical insights together with empirical detail and attention to practice. These are supplemented by a couple of theoretical“states of the field” pieces by well-known scholars. The majority of these chapters derive from papers presented at the eponymous conference held in March 2011 at the Saïd Business School, University of Oxford. The editors will contribute a detailed introductory chapter with prospects for future directions of research and inquiry. Disciplines discussed include: archaeology; geology; web-mapping; mathematics, nanotechnology; neurology; social media research. The volume will mix emerging scholars and established experts, including Lisa Cartwright, Peter Galison, Michael Lynch, and Steve Woolgar.
A project designed to study digital collaborations. The OeSS is a multi-phase, longterm project funded by the UK ESRC. The project is a cross-disciplinary collaboration between the Oxford Internet Institute (OII), the Oxford eResearch Centre (OeRC) and the Institute for Science, Innovation and Society (InSIS), Said Business School, drawing on connections with the humanities, social and computer sciences and engineering across the University of Oxford. Scientific collaboration is increasingly coming to be seen as critically dependent upon effective access to shared digital research data and the advanced information tools that enable data storage, search, retrieval, visualization, and higher level analysis. The increasing role that advanced ICTs play in the practice of scientific research promises the potential to transform the way facts about the physical and social world are acquired, shared, analyzed, and translated into useful knowledge. As a principal researcher my case studies involve the ethical implications of data-mining with social media platforms and the practices of programming code in creating web-based visualisations. These both explore the larger issue of changing ontologies of visualized evidence.
- Visualisation in the Age of Computerisation conference
A two-day international conference held at the University of Oxford with support from support from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), the Oxford e-Social Science (OeSS) project, the Institute for Science, Innovation and Society (InSIS) at the University of Oxford, the UK Digital Social Research and eResearch South nodes and the Centre for Design (C4D). The theme of the conference was the permeation of science and research with computational seeing. How does computer mediated vision as a mode of engagement with information as well as with one another effect what we see (or think we see), and what we take ourselves to know? There were over 130 participants attending 50 paper presentations, along with installation pieces and three keynotes by Peter Galison, Michael Lynch and Steve Woolgar. Along with Annamaria Carusi and Aud Sissel Hoel, I was the organizer of the event. The success of the conference is leading to a series of publications – including a special issue and an edited volume.
An international internet blog for open-posting of all concerns archaeological – from public media releases to fieldwork updates to events and quicker-than-press reviews/critiques. Since 2004, the intention has been to foster a community-driven source of archaeological information. Hosting and maintaining open scholarship sources is the application of the digital democracy ethos and net roots. Aware of the issues around ‘trust’ and ‘noise’ in terms of the inundation of ‘information’ available across the internet, the blog features original work that is edited by a group of ‘archaeologers’. The Metamedia Lab has championed such free, universal access to archaeological information. The result is an acceleration of archaeological thinking, debate and amplified collaboration. First and foremost of its kind in the discipline. I serve as a co-founder, contributor and co-project manager.
Archaeography is an international collective photo-blog where all things archaeological are considered from a visual-photographic perspective. While hesitantly adopted at the beginning of the discipline, photography has since been accorded an integral recordation status in archaeological practice and publication. It is central to the question: how do you adequately document an event? It serves an important, but ambivalent, role in the ‘forensic sensibility’ that lies at the heart of archaeology. While self-evident, photographs are nonetheless relegated to ‘supplemental’ or secondary status as evidence. Archaeography explores imagery of past traces considered as their own desiderata. The collective explores the relationships between photography, materiality, archaeological practice and mediums of evidence. I serve as a contributor and co-project manager.
The Visualizing Knowledge Workshop is funded by a Mellon Sawyer grant and organized by Prof.s John Bender and Michael Marrinan. The workshop is interdepartamental, involving various scholars from across the colleges and schools at Stanford, as well as eminent scholars abroad specializing in the field of visualization and information. The participants range from art historians and archaeologists, to mathematicians, engineers, computer scientists and historians of science. Focusing on capture, storage, retrieval, transmission/display, and distribution, the workshop traces the historical concepts and technologies relating to visualizing the products of information, as well as showcasing new thinking and technologies. I ran the IT side of things, served as graduate coordinator and presented at the year-long symposium.
What enacts heritage? Working in conjunction with both Mexico’s National Institute of History and Anthropology and the Centro de Estudios Teotihuacanos, I undertook a ‘symmetrical approach’ to documenting the people, processes and things bound together at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Teotihuacan, Mexico. Contrary to common sense, archaeological heritage is not some abiding essence waiting underground to be discovered. Neither, importantly, is it immaterial meaning assigned to ruins and so socially constructed in the present. In this STS informed study I unpacked how cultural heritage is actively sustained, composed and sedimented for the future through a bewilderingly complex set of relations amongst humans and materials. The completed research involved the collection of quantitative and qualitative data to understand why such archaeological sites are better conceived as vibrant ‘heritage ecologies’. I served as the principal investigator for this project, and was a collaborator with the project leaders (Sergio Gomez Chavez and Julie Gazzola of INAH) of the restoration of the feathered serpent temple project.
The Symmetrical Archaeology Group has developed out of a concern amongst the members that archaeology, the discipline of things, has become myopically mired in the ‘linguistic turn’ of the human sciences, and so has adopted a restricted conceptual framework for constituting knowledge based upon text/semiology/structuralism. This creates the circularity of discourse-based explanation with an over-emphasis on subjective understanding, with very little measure given to materiality, to the things themselves, and how they confound in their engagement with us any simple binarism of subjectivity-objectivity. The collaboratory is facilitated by myself and Christopher Witmore, with participants drawn from an international group of archaeologists. Events, presentations and articles and forthcoming books from the group may be accessed from the wiki. With Christopher Witmore, I am a director of the collaboratory think-tank.
The Mellon/Stanford Critical Studies in New Media works at “the fusion of critical theoretical work from the humanities with the computational sciences. The transdisciplinary endeavor in ‘computational humanities’ we envisage would draw upon expertise in the philosophy of media, film studies, communications, literature studies, cognitive science and computer science. In addition to theoretical and critical studies our initiative incorporates a significant hands-on component in which the technical aspects of new media are discussed and workshop members share aspects of their technical approaches, design philosophies as well as specific tool sets employed in their work.” I was a founding member, participant and presenter of the multi-year symposium.