INSECTS ARE THE BEST BUILDERS
THEY BUILD THE COOLEST HOUSES
Here’s a happy video for you. <3 we filmed it toward the end of last year but wanted to wait and publish as we get back into the swing of things – our regularly scheduled content is coming back!
Didn’t even know this was being worked on. Emily and Sheheryar are pretty sneaky. I’m glad to know that my photos are being productive members of society. They grow up so fast :,)
Thanks @thebrainscoop for including me on this one!
Here have some more photos just cuz
Goddammit I love insects so much
Inflating the lungs in a euthanized bearded dragon.
Notice how they don’t have a diaphragm. In mammals, there is a big sheet of muscle that pulls down on the lungs that inflates them.
Lizards breathe by contracting body muscles, particularly the muscles between the ribs to help move air in and out.
Some lizards will also inflate their throat pouch and use their throat muscles to help force air into the lungs.Since the body muscles that lizards use to breathe are also used to move around, lizards cannot breathe while running and must hold their breath.
This is why most lizards will run with a darting pattern…..they dash for a bit, stop, and then dash again…. they’re actually stopping to breathe.
It’s called Carrier’s Constraint.
A lizards idea of fun,
Is to lie all day in the sun.
A physiological barrier,
Discovered by Carrier,
Says they can’t breathe when they run.
We talked about this in our (NSF-FUNDED [brag brag brag]) video last year: The Origin of Mammal Movement
It’s Wednesday, so another round of conference presentations we have filmed. This batch is from the TAG conference:
Prehistoric archaeology is at its best when scientific, technological and theoretical approaches can be integrated, creating dynamic approaches to myriad research questions, and providing a greater understanding of the archaeological past. It is increasingly important for the theorist to engage with scientific and technological approaches, and for the scientist to engage with theoretical approaches, not least to facilitate effective research collaborations.
The 21st century has seen the expansion of archaeological science, with the increasing use of aDNA, isotopic, proteomic, and ZooMS analyses providing new information on bone identification, diet, health and the movement of humans and animals. In tandem with this, the emergence of non-destructive and digital technologies, such as raman spectroscopy, pXRF, pXRD, 3D modelling and photogrammetry, has allowed for the analysis of diverse highly delicate and rare finds to be studied in unprecedented levels of detail and to be disseminated to a broader audience. New and refined techniques for dating, such as ultrafiltration and pre-treatment in radiocarbon, and advances in uranium series dating, have also allowed for increasing accuracy in the dating of material culture and sites. Alongside these scientific advances, the 21st century has also given rise to increasingly rich theoretical frameworks to explore cognition, the continued elaboration of non-western ontologies as an alternative to western assumptions, and a resurgence of interest in material culture, expressed through materiality as well as how things interact, such as new work on entanglement theory (Hodder 2012; 2016) and assemblage theory (Bennett 2010).
At present however, there still remains somewhat of a gap to be bridged between science and theory in prehistoric archaeology – a degree of epistemological division between ‘two cultures’ running in parallel (Snow 1959). As such, this session aims to create a forum for the discussion of how diverse scientific techniques and theoretical approaches can be combined to explore future research questions in prehistoric archaeology. To facilitate this aim, the session casts a wide net over the full span of the prehistory, with an interest in innovative blends of scientific and technological approaches and applications of theory, with emphasis on how science and theory can be integrated. We therefore invite speakers of all theoretical persuasions and technical or methodological specialisms from any prehistoric period or region. Contributions that focus on the nature of science and theory and how they might be integrated at a more abstract scale are also encouraged, as well as contributions that consider future directions for an integrated prehistoric archaeology.
Sophy Charlton, Natural History Museum, London, and Andy Needham, University of York
Bennett, R. J. (2010) Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things. Durham: Duke University Press.
Hodder, I. (2012) Entangled: An Archaeology of the Relationships between Humans and Things. Oxford:
Hodder, I. (2016) Studies in Human-Thing Entanglement.
Snow, C. P. (1959) The two cultures and the scientific revolution. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Flint Provenancing: Combining Archaeometric and Archaeological Perspectives to Tackle Stony Issues
https://youtu.be/IDDJbagOSmg Josie Mills, University College London, Josephine.
Determining the geological provenance of prehistoric flint artefacts is a subject that appears to prompt both interest and scepticism in equal parts. Recent innovation in scientific methodology has spurred a flurry of studies employing geochemical profiling techniques, such as portable EDXRF and (LA) ICP-MS, to link artefacts to their geological source areas (for example Pettit et al. 2012). These projects use geochemical data to infer characteristics of prehistoric subsistence behaviour aiming to enhance knowledge of raw material acquisition. However this popularisation of flint ‘sourcing’ has incurred criticism from the archaeometric community who suggest that, at times, science is being employed without a proper methodological background (see Shackley 1998).
This is particularly pertinent to studies using portable ED-XRF, as the precision and accuracy of data generated is negatively affected by the miniaturised nature of the device. Similarly from an archaeological perspective geochemical sourcing can be seen as an expensive extra that is not guaranteed to provide reliable results and cannot substitute for good geological knowledge and
macroscopic study. Further to this the process is inherently hampered by complexities within flint itself and the propensity for prehistoric populations to use highly chemically variable secondary flint deposits (e.g. glacial till). This presentation discusses combining archaeological and archaeometric perspectives in order to surmount these challenges, highlighting the need for
geochemical data to be considered from both a scientific and archaeological standpoint.
Pettit, P., Rockman, M., Chennery, S. 2012. The British Final Magdalenian: society, settlement and
raw material movements revealed through LA ICP-MS trace element analysis of diagnostic
artefacts. Quaternary International 272, 275-287.
Shackley, M. S. Archaeological petrology and the archaeometry of lithic materials. 2008.
Archaeometry 50, 194-215.
Prime movers: Considering the “driving forces” in the exploration of Creswell Crags through sound
https://youtu.be/dEzK1UV_Zt4 Ben Elliott, University of York, , Jon Hughes, University of York
This paper reflects critically on the authors gradual development of an approach used in the exploration of sound within archaeological landscapes. This has played out in both the Vale of Pickering, North Yorkshire (under the Sonic Horizons of the Mesolithic Project) and at Creswell Crags, Derbyshire/Nottinghamshire (under the SoundTracks Project), and has produced a series of novel research questions and outputs to date. Drawing on existing bodies of knowledge including archaeology, palaeoecology, geology, history, acoustic ecology, sound studies, acoustic engineering, compositional practice and experimental writing, this approach has begged, borrowed and stolen technological, theoretical and scientific approaches in pursuit of its core question: what did this place sound like?
In tracing this development, we articulate the varied and conflated influences on our approach, and argue that, within this context, a search for a “prime mover” or “origin point” for our work is somewhat moot. In doing so, we wish to ultimately question the character of truly interdisciplinary research, and the potential this offered for the generation and communication of different kinds
of knowledge and understanding.
The New Migrationists? Resolving studies of ancient DNA and archaeological theory
https://youtu.be/tLrHdxtiuiE Tom Booth, Natural History Museum
That we are living through a ‘Golden Age’ of Ancient DNA research is now a truism. Recent studies of European ancient human genomes have provided unprecedented insight into population movement and cultural change in prehistoric Europe. For instance, we can now say confidently that the spread of Neolithic things and practices across Europe was accompanied by a large-scale movement of people ultimately originating from the Near East. Palaeogenetic studies have identified several large-scale prehistoric movements of people into Europe that were usually accompanied by significant cultural change. Most of these studies have been conducted with little input from archaeologists and without much detailed discussion of the complexities of the archaeological evidence. In extreme terms, the results may be viewed alternatively as atheoretical objective inferences, unladen by ideological baggage or naive and reductive generalisations, reminiscent of the ‘bad old days’ of culture history. This talk will discuss recent studies of European ancient human DNA and how the tensions between archaeological and genetic perspectives may be resolved. Better communication and engagement between geneticists and archaeologists will ultimately produce richer and more incisive interpretations of the European prehistoric archaeological record. The power of Ancient DNA in refining our understanding of the past is undeniable, but archaeological evidence is essential for making sense of genetic data on anything other than a general scale. In addition the high volume of data produced by studies of ancient DNA, somewhat unintentionally, can be used to address specific questions about prehistoric social structures, which will always require robust interpretive frameworks.
‘Fellow archaeologists, I have a question for you: why is the archaeological profession not more unionized? It seems to me that this would be a promising strategy in helping to end the profession’s underpaid status.’
That is the question asked by Elie in the BAJR Facebook group. The question has elicited a range of responses, mainly anecdotes and guesses. It is a question I have heard before and that latter assumption- Unions means higher wages – is something I hear quite often from archaeologists however it is not exactly true. But, first let’s answer the question- why is Archaeology not more unionised?
Specifics- Location, Employer, etc.
This question was in relation to British Archaeology but could easily apply to other countries, like the USA. While not explicit the question is mainly referring to the private sector. Most archaeologists working for Governments (local/national) are members of Unions or at least have the option of joining a Union. The same goes for Universities, though in most cases Universities where archaeologists work tend to be public/government owned/operated so really all just government employees. This really only applies to the private sector in the UK, USA, and other countries where Unions are non-existent, or almost.
Where Unions Flourish
At first glance it would appear Archaeology would be a prime profession for Unionising. Unions flourish in professions that cannot be outsourced, like governments. A good portion of archaeological work can only be completed in-person at the archaeological site. Excavating in central London is not something that can be outsourced to China* so Commercial Archaeology/CRM should be ripe for Unionising.
However, it is other prerequisites that Archaeology falls short on. Unions work best in professions with a few big employers. That makes it easier to unionise across the whole sector and so no one company can get a competitive advantage by not being unionised i.e. offering cheaper products because they don’t have to pay their workers as much. Or countries that require sector wide negotiations with all employers instead of individual companies. Unions also work in professions where there is a high barrier to entry. This ensures that new companies that are not unionised can’t start up and steal the work.
It is in these areas that Archaeology fails miserably at.
Unions Not Legally Required in UK
To answer for the specific case of the UK- companies need to have at least 21 employees before they are required by law to recognise a Union. An employer can do so before they are that size voluntarily but why would they? In the UK most archaeology employers do not meet this requirement. Here is the distribution of the number of archaeologists employed by organisation, that responded to the survey, from the 2012-14 Profiling the Profession survey:
Notice that the number of employers with over 21 employees is less than half of the total number of employers in the UK. There is a hard limit to penetration of Unions into the private sector, unless there is a significant change to how Archaeology is run.
The United States does not have this minimum company size to form a Union, you just need at least two employees wanting to start a Union, so why are there no Archaeology Unions in the US? Because there the market is even more fragmented. By one estimation the largest private archaeology company in the US has 100 employees which means the market is full of even more smaller firms (Herr and Dore 2009). Of course this will differ between countries but in the UK and the US Unions tend to negotiate wages uncoordinated. That means that they undertake collective bargaining with one company, or even only one part of the company e.g. a particular manufacturing plant. Sector-wide collective bargaining rarely happens.
This has a massive impact on the effectiveness of Unions. With most bids won on a lowest price model in Archaeology the raising of pay rates will increase costs at a specific firm and cause them to lose bids. Possibly, the money for wages will have to come from somewhere and there might be some leeway with profit margins, efficiency gains, etc., but at a certain point higher wages will mean higher costs and in a lowest bid wins environment that will translate into less work/fewer jobs or the end of the company. So there will be a limit to what a Union can do at a specific employer unless they can negotiation with the whole sector i.e. everyone has the same labor costs and thus put in similarly priced bids. Because they can’t raise wages people will then not believe that Unions are worth the time. This creates a massive ‘chicken or the egg problem’. Why join a Union if it won’t increase wages right away? Unions can’t increase wages unless they can negotiate with all employers which requires everyone to join.
In practice, unionising that many companies is difficult but not impossible, except…
Undercutting and start up costs
Let’s assume that in the future there are a lot of mergers and we end up with only a couple of large archaeology employers and they are all unionised. That should fix that problem right?
Archaeology has a start-up cost problem… and a general barrier to entry problem… and quality control issue. What really hurts the chances of Unions is that even if they do get all the employers onboard then the companies can still be undercut for the majority of their work because of higher labor costs. Archaeology, as it is currently practised in most of the world and in most cases, especially in commercial settings, is very low tech.
Take the watching brief. You go out and watch a bulldozer strip away the top soil and you record anything that is found. What tools do you need?
- Personal protection equipment e.g. high vis jacket, boots, etc.
- A computer to write up a report, etc.
- Tap measure
Most people have a personal computer of some sort and a smart phone with a camera on it already. What is the cost of the other equipment? A Trowel – 15 $/£/euro Paper- 2 £/$/euro High vis vest- 10 £/$/euro so on and so forth. Really, for less than $100, £100, 100 euro, whatever your currency is and what you already having lying around your house you can be a professional archaeologist. That is the cost of entry into the profession.
What about a car/truck/van? That is expensive. Yes and no. Any company would include the cost of buying or renting a vehicle in overhead costs. I know companies that only rent vehicles so this is not a start up cost it is a normal cost of work cost i.e. overhead. This lack of start-up costs means that pretty much anyone can become an archaeologist for almost nothing and they do. Each year there is a large cohort of start-ups or people becoming self-employed in Archaeology all the time.
I personally have seen a company lose a bid because there was a lower bid, by £20. Any company that can cut their costs by even a small percentage greatly increases their chances of getting bids. A new company with non-unionised workers will quickly get more bids than a company that has higher costs because they have higher wages negotiated by a Union. It becomes a giant game of wack-a-mole trying to unionise these new companies before they drive the unionised companies out of business.
Barrier to Entry Problem
Now, start-up costs are really a barrier to entry issue. That is, how easy it is for someone to enter into the profession, in this case, how easy it is to start an archaeology organisation/self-employed. Costs are one barrier but there are others. For example, there could be a barrier such as needing a permit to be an archaeologist, like what is sometimes required in the Western United States. However, for the most part there are very few barriers to entry in Archaeology.
This could be solved in several ways:
- A strong permitting system that makes it very hard to people to start a company;
- The quality of archaeology conducted goes up. What if every survey required a drone? That would mean several hundred for a drone and in the UK several thousand in requiring classes and fees to be a licensed pilot. Or that everything be lazer scanned- that’s 30k+ in costs to buy the scanner. If Archaeology got better and more high tech we would see fewer start-ups.
Self-employed and gaming the system and Quality Control
Let’s assume we have got to the point were there are only a few archaeology employers and there are barriers to entry, we would be set right?
Probably not, a recent trend in the UK has been for companies to “hire” technicians not as employees but as self-employed contractors. This has resulted in people with zero experience asking about how they can get a CSCS card. If you do not know to to get that card you do not have the experience to be self-employed but yet they are getting the “jobs”. These self-employed archaeologist are not employees and thus can not form a Union. What a wonderful loophole- cheap labor that can’t be unionised.
There is a solution to this- quality control. Experienced archaeologists would charge higher rates and inexperienced archaeologists would result in sub-par work that would result in fines or the work being rejected causing even more money and thus employers would not risk hiring inexperienced contractors for cheaper wages.
The problem with this is that in many countries there is no such mechanism for quality control. Yes, in theory in the UK there are local authority archaeologists that receive the reports and check them for quality. In the US, this is handled by different levels of government organisations National Park Service, SHPOs, etc. but in most countries they are overworked and have limited legal ability to punish poor quality work. Moreover, they rarely have the time to check work in person and when they do it is only for a short visit. When a report says nothing was found you have to trust the “archaeologist” that nothing was found. You would need much stronger quality control mechanisms, both monitoring and enforcement, to make this work.
The Mountains We Must Climb
All of this is not to say the task is not impossible but it will be very hard. We need to:
- consolidate the profession
- increase barriers to entry
- create a strong enforcement system
Which brings me to probably the real reason Archaeology is not more unionised — some archaeologists are lazy blowhards. They love to bitch and complain but when push comes to shove they buckle in 0.01 seconds. Unions have a long and bloody history of failing. One of the few national holidays in the US, Labor Day, was created because of the massacre of workers. Throughout history most efforts to Unionise have been violently suppressed and many labor leaders killed. Yet, with those threats no longer hanging over our heads many an archaeologist still think its too much work. They would rather it was just there and they got higher wages, not actually have to do any work…. Unions don’t work that way.
Unions and Higher Pay?
‘It seems to me that this would be a promising strategy in helping to end the profession’s underpaid status.’
Unfortunately, the answer is no, having a Union does not guarantee higher wages- even if we fixed all three of those problems listed above. There are plenty of organisations that are unionised that have pay problems because the workers won’t strike or contribute to the Union. Having a Union will not result in higher wages. It is not a magic wand that can be waved to increase wages, it is only a start. For Unions to work people have to give time and they have to be willing to suffer for their fellow workers. You have to be willing to go on strike and lose pay to have any chance of increasing wages… which in my personal observations I see lacking from too many archaeologists.
Having a Union will not result in higher wages unless people put the work in.
Join a Union Now
I have laid out why they are not more Unions in Archaeology, also what we have to do to make them viable in places like the UK and US (and other countries). This may seem a bit depressing but these are not excuses but challenges that we need to rise up to.
I would like to end by encouraging people to join Unions, even if in the short term it will not increase wages. Unions are not just about higher wages. They also provide many other benefits such as various forms of insurance, training, etc. They also have the resources to sue companies for bad practices. For example, let’s say an employer was not paying you the correct wages- a civil matter. You could sue them to get back the wages they owe you but unless you have 10s of thousands of dollars, pounds, euros, etc. you are not going to win. Unions will do that for you and use their resources to pay for the lawyers. No one else will do this for you.
Unions are about workers rights and benefits which will including money covers everything. People will complain about Unions not increasing wages and fair enough, as laid out above it is unlikely they will be able to do that any time soon, but they have other benefits. Moreover, now is the time to unionise, when companies are small. Most countries have a set limit of how many employees have to say they want to unionise before it becomes legally enforceable. It is much easier to reach that number when you can talk to all the employees. When companies get bigger and have multiple offices it becomes much harder. If you believe Unions will lead to higher wages than now is the time to join, not later as it will be much harder then.
This is not to gloss over the problems with Unions e.g. political entanglements, mob ties in the US, and a whole host of other issues. But, these are membership organisations and being a member means that you can help fix these problems. If you don’t like what Unions do than join one and fix the problem you see with it. Kind of like what we need to do to fix problems in Archaeology…
Herr, Sarah and Dore, Christopher D. 2009. Measuring CRM. Presented at the 74th annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology. Atlanta, GA.
* Some tasks could be outsource like report writing and maybe tasks like making maps with GIS but not excavation/watching briefs/surveys.
Thanks to everyone who came out on Saturday- whether you were in Chicago, or around the world. Here is the talk I gave in front of this incredibly generous crowd of 40,000+ people:
Thank you. I’m Emily Graslie, Chief Curiosity Correspondent for The Field Museum, and host and creator of the educational YouTube science channel, The Brain Scoop. And today, I’m also proud to be your commencement speaker.
more below the break – photo c/o John Weinstein, The Field Museum
So to the March for Science graduating class of 2017, congratulations on your tremendous achievements. Wow. Give yourself a round of applause! Unfortunately, none of you will be receiving a physical diploma today because we had to spend $10k on all of those porta-potties. Yeah, pooping is expensive, but let’s all be grateful to the scientific progress that let us understand bacteria and parasites, and that allowed us to improve our infrastructure for excrement. After all, modern sanitation is one of the greatest medical advancements of the last century!… I could have probably started this with a better example. It’s just that my boss and like seven hundred people from The Field Museum are here, also my Mom — hi, Mom — and I’m sort of nervous.
I’ll be brief- it’s cold, and all that’s between you and a brisk walk down Columbus is my babbling, so thanks for your patience, but I’ve waited a long time to give this talk. About.. Seven years.
I never had the grades to be valedictorian of my high school, and I skipped my college graduation to go camping instead. So when the March for Science Chicago organizers asked if I’d want to be the keynote, I thought — here’s my chance to give an inspirational commencement speech, one I never knew before now I wanted to do. After all, in a way this is a graduation ceremony, the preface of a new book. In spite of what I read in the news and online every day — that the world is doomed and our planet is turning into a dumpster fire — I can’t help but be hopeful for the future if we put in the work, energy, and time needed to face the challenges ahead. I long to celebrate the incredible unlikeliness of our very existence, and to marvel at the truly extraordinary circumstances which came together over millions and billions of years, culminating in this very moment now. I mean, it’s difficult not to be hopeful when I think about how our common ancestors survived five mass extinction events on this planet already. Many of you already know that or at least can appreciate the awesomeness of that statement, which perhaps is why you are here. But I’m here because I hope you feel hopeful, too.
The March for Science is an opportunity to reflect on those who have come before us, on the developments we humans have achieved not only in the last few years, but hundreds, and thousands. But this is not merely a party to celebrate and pat ourselves on the back for our characteristics as truth-seekers and fact checkers. This March is a chance to also acknowledge our pitfalls, our historic and persistent challenges, and our shortcomings as scientists and as supporters of scientific endeavours and progress — because we are graduating onto the next phase, the next chapter of our story. This is but a new beginning. Part of what I want you to do after today is take the ideas and messages from this event and share them with the people you know who did not want to be here today. That’s, like, the first step.
Undoubtedly there are a great number of you in the audience wondering, who is this wackadoo, and why didn’t you get a real scientist up there to say something more, I don’t know, academic sounding? To which I’d say — if this talk isn’t your speed, then I look forward to reading your rebuttal. Part of the reason I was asked to talk today is because I showed up. Consistently. And I’m going to tell you a story about the importance of showing up.
My life so far can be divided up into two eras: Before Science, and After Science. I studied art as an undergraduate at the University of Montana because — and I just painfully reread a diary I wrote when I was 17 in order to corroborate this fact, so you’re welcome — because I thought it was the only thing I was good at. Grades and standardized test scores told me I was not exceptional at much else.
In art school everything is about you, your work, your individual mission statement, and I found it to feel pretty isolating at times. But then a friend took me to visit the zoological research museum on campus where she worked in the preparation lab, and I got the chance to prepare a specimen myself — a mouse that had been collected for a research project studying the distribution of rodents in Montana. I’ll save you the gooey details, but the final part of the preparation process involves writing your name on the specimen label as the preparator — mostly for accountability reasons — but that moment was one of the gratifying in my life. It was like signing a piece of art, but more than that, I had made a contribution, even if it was tiny and seemingly inconsequential, to something much larger than myself. I had helped to create a small time capsule of data which would outlive me in that museum collection, along with tens of thousands of others. I made a very tiny dent in an increasing body of knowledge. It felt electrifying.
Since I had extra course credits and some free time that following semester, I continued to show up in that museum and figure out how else I could participate to this thing that was bigger than me — and I felt a sense of ownership of the specimens in the collection I was volunteering to help manage. The more I learned about those specimens the more I felt obligated to speak for them, especially when I saw few others saying anything. I pointed a finger at the University’s administration for not allocating appropriate funds or support for specimens that were spoiling in a basement room across campus — and I pointed that finger again when that collection sustained further damage. I was picking up dehydrated fish specimens from a shattered jar with a label that told me those organisms were collected in Montana in the late 1800s, and in that moment I realized that I was holding the fragile and vulnerable parts of a now-broken time machine. And that, even if I wasn’t the researcher to study them or make new discoveries through their use, maybe my children would, or my grandchildren. And what sort of steward would I be of our planet if I didn’t do everything within my power to ensure I could help manage some small, minute aspect of our collective knowledge?
It wasn’t about just a few fish. It was about the biologist who ventured out west to make some of the first biological collections in Montana. It was about the scientist who trained them, and the wealth of knowledge passed down through generations before. My anger was for the lost potential for that wealth of knowledge to grow because of inaction, or because it seemed too big of a problem to solve, or maybe not even worth the effort. It was about the principle of the matter- that this was a blatant disregard for our collective past, present, and future.
Those specimens and that museum forever altered not only the course of my life, but how I view the world and my role within it. A dead mouse helped me understand what it means to meaningfully and collaboratively participate in community- the scientific community, museum community, and with any number of future individuals or groups that would be curious about the rodents of Montana. I thought about the uses by the agricultural community, or wildlife management groups who will need to use that data to track invasive rodent species that destroy crops. Pest control groups who need data about prey population numbers to show how their pesticides are — or are not — impacting local wildlife. Medical researchers who can make links between some rodent species and the transmission of certain illness and who need to know how far or abundantly distributed those rodents are in order to mitigate outbreaks. Climate scientists using decades of aggregated data of these animals to map and see how rodents are moving to higher elevations as seasonal temperatures rise. Conservation communities wanting to advocate for a rare and unsung mouse found only in that area, or for a threatened or endangered species which relies on those rodents as their primary food source- and those creatures that would be further harmed should the rodent populations suffer. Hardly any of this information can be known without deliberate surveys of our planet’s plants and animals, through which we are discovering new species constantly. Science — curiosity — and the desire to find solutions to the myriad of problems we face as a global society, is at the root of all of these endeavours. This type of work is carried out by scientific organizations all around the world, including The Field Museum, and now I’m lucky enough to get to talk about the work of our great Chicago institution every single day.
But I’ll tell you — man, it was hard to get people to listen to me at first, especially when I’m running around campus screaming my head off about how we need to save a bunch of dead fish and mice. I get how that sounds, well, crazy. I had friends tell me it wasn’t worth the stress and effort. I had others question the appropriateness of my actions, saying it wasn’t my place to care for or worry about those objects, that it was someone else’s responsibility. But I learned that if I am aware of a problem that I can help fix, it is my responsibility, whether I take ownership of the issue or not.
So I kept showing up. I showed up with paints and brushes, I showed up with my art school buddies, I showed up with a digital camera, with a blog, I showed up with every tool in my box. And then one day, someone else showed up with a videographer and a microphone and an audience of a few hundred thousand people on YouTube. And as they say on Broadway — I did not throw away my shot.
And that’s why I’m here today, and part of the reason The Field Museum is here today, too. I’ve been showing up to talk about the importance of science in our daily lives for seven years, and The Field Museum’s got a good track record of showing up, too- for about 125 years, now. But for some of you out there, this might be your first time showing up and speaking out. I hope it is not the last. My greatest hope for the March for Science is we see this as a new beginning, and a commitment to keep showing up in the future.
Marchers — whether you are a professional trained and practicing scientist, or a student, advocate, and supporter of these endeavours — familiarize yourself with the scientific institutions and organizations this great city has to offer. Participate in our local and regional programs — and if those programs don’t exist, commit to creating them. Engage in citizen science projects, curate an art show or a poetry slam about the impact science has had in your life, talk to your children’s classroom about the nature in your neighborhood. Attend the next March for Science. Speak up for science.
We are all members of the scientific community in one way or another. We are educators, artists, communicators and writers, and passionate lifelong learners who have an obligation and a mission to help others understand and empathize with our beautiful and fragile world.
And on that note — beauty — for all of you out there: commit yourself to curiosity. Curiosity is a light that illuminates the beauty of our world, our cherished existence. I’m a firm believer that curiosity is the first step towards empathy. Ask questions of things you don’t understand, and seek answers. Commit yourself to the beauty and diversity of your neighborhood- and commit yourself to learning the name of whom you share your street and city with. Learn your neighbor’s name, whether they are a person, a bird, a beetle or a tree. Value them all. The freedom to pursue that knowledge is no longer an idle luxury — it’s of the utmost import.
To conclude, I’m going to quote a line from a great commencement speech that was delivered by Kermit the Frog — “On behalf of frogs, fish, pigs, bears and all of the other species who are lower than you on the food chain, thank you for dedicating your lives to saving our world and our home.”
Now, we March!
Here is a session we filmed at the TAG conference:
Archaeological approaches to visual images have tended to present images as flat, static and lacking in dynamism; as evidence of this, semiotic or symbolic approaches still remain the prevailing approach to imagery in archaeology. This is a shame as research in a host of other fields including anthropology, history, art history and art practice approach images very differently (e.g. Anderson et. al. 2014; Barrett and Bolt 201; Bynum 2015; Ingold 2013). What happens to our understanding of art and imagery if we begin to approach images as things that are made, rather than things that simply signify?
Archaeologists have recently realized that a consideration of process is critical to our understanding of past human-material interactions (Jones 2012; Lucas 2012, Alberti et. al. 2013, Gosden and Malafouris 2015). These authors argue for the critical importance of thinking in terms of ‘modes of becoming rather than modes of being’ (Gosden and Malafouris 2015), exploring the open-endedness of human interactions with the material world. The aim of this session is to explore the implication of process thinking for our understanding of art and imagery. Once we think of images-in-the-making we begin to realize that images might be involved in complex and extended processes. How might this alter our accounts of art and imagery?
Andrew Meirion Jones, University of Southampton and Ing-Marie Back Danielsson, Uppsala University
Alberti, B., Jones, A.M. and Pollard, J. 2013 Archaeology after Interpretation. Returning materials to archaeological theory. Left Coast Press: Walnut Creek, CA.
Anderson, C., Dunlop, A. and Smith, P.H. 2014 The matter of art. Materials, practices, cultural logics c. 1250-1750. Manchester University Press: Manchester.
Barrett, E. and Bolt, B. 2013 Carnal Knowledge. Towards a ‘New materialism’ through the arts. I.B. Tauris: London.
Bynum, C. 2011 Christian Materiality. Zone Books: New York.
Gosden, C. and Malafouris, L. 2015 Process Archaeology (P-Arch). World Archaeology 47(5): 701-717
Ingold, T. 2013 Making. Anthropology, Archaeology, Art and Architecture. Routledge: London.
Jones, A. M. 2012 Prehistoric Materialities. Becoming material in prehistoric Britain and Ireland. Oxford University Press: Oxford.
Lucas, G. 2012 Understanding the archaeological record. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge.
An Archaeology of Anthropomorphism: upping the ontological ante of Alfred Gell’s anthropological theory of art
https://youtu.be/jnwNeqKRxz0 Ben Alberti, Framingham State University
The question that drives this paper is how to understand anthropomorphism in archaeological material, particularly in three-dimensional artefactual forms. Typically, anthropomorphism – in artworks, ceramics, architecture, and so on – is understood as a form of scheme transfer in which meanings associated with the human body are transferred to other materials. Alternately, it is understood as a representational practice in which cultural narratives are played out in material form. More recently, cognitive approaches have stressed the connection between body metaphor and practice.
The underlying premise I begin with is that of ontological pluralism, by which I mean that peoples’ truths and experiences of reality are varied. What anthropomorphism means in a given context depends upon the nature of underlying ontological commitments. Drawing from Amazonian ethnographies that show making and image to be ontologically of the same order, I develop an alternative theory of anthropomorphism in relation to a series of anthropomorphic pots from first millennium AD northwest Argentina. In doing so, I turn to Alfred Gell’s writings on style as an interpretive guide.
https://youtu.be/lZG-hg_SahM Ian Dawson, Winchester School of Art
‘Humankind lingers unregenerately in Plato’s cave, still reveling, its age-old habit, in mere images of the truth.’ Sontag (1977) On Photography
In RTI (Reflectance Transformation Imaging) a shadow thrown a multitude of times is used to generate complex narratives of sequencing and duration, tracing ghosts unseen by the human eye. The RTI image is an algorithmic synthetic construction, creating a portal to the past. RTI of the Folkton drums (Jones 2015), for example, revealed reworking; a surface arrived at through both carving and erasure, hinting at an open process of drawing.
With fellow artist Louisa Minkin (University of the Arts) and in further collaborations with Jones and Diaz-Guardamino (University of Southampton) RTI was used a part of an experimental art process. Spaces and surfaces within a derelict modernist tower block awaiting gentrification were recorded to discuss a politic of software and space. Objects were built specifically for the RTI process and the spatial and temporal environment of a workshop have been captured.
‘Technology is where we in the west preserve our ancestor’s’ writes Sean Cubitt in the Practice of Light (2015), and this paper will consider earlier vision technologies – such as lenticular, integral and metric photography alongside these experimental ‘dirty’ RTI’s.
“Our eyes are armed, but we are strangers to the stars” writes Emerson in his poem Blight (1847) in which he perceives of a debilitating gap caused by a growing instrumentalization towards the natural world and this paper will consider the complex and changing position between techne (knowing how to make things) and poiesis (the production and poetry of things)
Beyond form: Iberian Late Bronze Age stelae in-the-making
https://youtu.be/wGfWDdiMJTs Marta Diaz-Guardamino, Southampton University/Cardiff University
Late Bronze Age stelae (c. 1400/1250-750 BC), found mainly across western and southwestern Iberia, are formally diverse. Most of these carefully carved stones were found in the landscape, as un-stratified remains, and mainstream archaeology has consistently focused on the formal analysis of the images engraved on them. As a result, these large stones and the carvings they bear have been categorised into groups, types, and subtypes which are then read as expressions of a variety of symbolic frameworks (e.g. ethnic identities, ideologies). There are problems with this kind of approach, being one of them the lack of critical reflection on the very concept of similarity and, more fundamentally, on how form came about.
This paper focuses on the process of stelae-making. It aims to draw attention to the limitations of formal approaches to the analysis of prehistoric imagery and highlight the potential of adopting a bottom-up approach, that is, of looking at the interaction between people and the stones when the latter were shaped, carved, re-carved, and so on. I will draw on the recent analysis of the surface texture of a sample of stelae by means of digital imaging methods (i.e. RTI) and the results of a replication experiment to reflect on the many factors (e.g. properties of stones, knowledge, skills) and interventions that have been involved in the making of Late Bronze Age stelae as we know them today.
Connectivity and the making of Atlantic rock art
https://youtu.be/yGltD_DdA5o Joana Valdez-Tullett, University of Southampton/FCT/CEAACP
Atlantic rock art is a specific type of prehistoric tradition. Characterised by carved, or pecked, motifs, the tradition is found across a variety of countries along the Atlantic façade. Its widespread geographical distribution means that it is also known by a number of regional designations that, in some cases, reflect the scales of analysis that have been carried out until now (i.e. British rock art, Galician group of rock art).
The main characteristic of Atlantic Art, is the homogeneity of the motifs, whose morphology is very similar in all the countries where it can be found. Cup-marks, single and concentric circles, penannular rings, spirals are some of the geometric designs typically included in this group, carved on the wider landscape of the British Isles and Iberia. To a certain extent, similar shapes can also be found in the great monuments of western France and Ireland, stressing a global use of the iconography that has been considered a unified phenomenon. We should, however, question whether a simple non-figurative image, such as a circle or a cup-mark, can be used to verify the universal character of Atlantic Art, particularly during prehistory.
The present study set out to investigate the differences and similarities of Atlantic Art in the aforementioned regions, assessing the unity of the practice through a 4 scale methodology. The detailed scrutiny of the motifs, their shapes, morphological characteristics, techniques used in their execution and making were some of the aspects investigated which yielded interesting results and a deep knowledge of their structure and conception. These enabled inferences about the expansion of a style that encompasses more than morphological resemblances, and the inter-regional connections.
The act of creation – tangible engagements in the making and ‘re-making’ of prehistoric rock art
https://youtu.be/KhyUgTKKaas Lara Bacelar Alves, University of Coimbra, Portugal
The long-term tradition of rock art investigation in Iberia relied, to a large extent, on the use of recording techniques that imply a close interaction between subject and object. However, until the last decade of the 20th century, studies concentrated on classifying what was inscribed on rocks – the motifs – and were particularly interested on their shapes, sizes, types and execution techniques. Yet, as the paradigm shifted into a major focus on the placement of rock art in the wider landscape, a new generation of students kept using traditional recording techniques in research grounded on entirely new perspectives, in which rock art was perceived as a dialogue involving the imagery, the natural backdrop and particular features in the landscape. Recording rock art by direct tracing, for instance, implies spending time on site, replicating the original gestures of who created the imagery in the past. Hence, it enable us to unveil subtle details of his or her skills and behaviour as well as the techniques and implements employed in the process of painting or carving signs on rocks.
This paper discusses how rock art research, as praxis, may allow us to capture a glimpse of how mind, body and matter come together in the primordial act of creation, drawing on recent investigation at two Portuguese sites belonging to different prehistoric art traditions: the Schematic Art painted rock shelter of Lapas Cabreiras, in Côa Valley, and the Atlantic Art carvings at Monte Faro. It goes further to examine how the processes involved in the making of rock art ultimately assists us to thinking about how matter was collected, manipulated and used to create the settings in which visual images played a major role in the life of prehistoric communities in the Neolithic.
A fresh slate: image, practice and multiplicity in the Manx Late Neolithic
https://youtu.be/Zgz6rlZLDZA Andrew Meirion Jones, Southampton University
Situated in the middle of the Irish Sea the Late Neolithic of the Isle of Man differs markedly from neighbouring regions of mainland Britain and Ireland. One of the features that marks out the Manx Late Neolithic is the production of miniature plaques of slate decorated with finely incised designs upon their surfaces. A recent programme of digital imaging has revealed extensive evidence of reworking and revision of designs on these slate plaques. How are we to understand these practices of revision and reworking?
In this paper I argue that the practices of making, working and revising designs on these small plaques must be understood relationally, evincing a series of connections to landscape, other artefacts, monuments and places. The making of both plaques and designs therefore raise questions regarding their ontology, as the practices of making and decorating draw together and bring into being a series of connections. This act of connecting by making, decorating and revising designs enacts a distinctively Manx Late Neolithic ontology of simultaneous difference/distinctiveness and connectedness. The Manx plaques are therefore best understood as ontologically multiple, or as ‘multiple objects’.
Neolithic stamps in the Balkans: the enigma of vibrant tools and their missing imprints
https://youtu.be/sX8uDc2Yayw Agni Prijatelj, Durham University
Stamps, stamp-seals or pintaderas are some of the most visually striking yet enigmatic tools found at Neolithic settlements across the Balkans: while many of these objects have been preserved across different sites in SE Europe, their imprints remain absent from archaeological records. Previous studies have focused on the typological classification and stylistic comparison of the stamps’ geometric motifs, while at the same time speculating on their functional significance, origins and chronologies. As a critical response to these studies, and in the light of new research on “thing-power” and “image making” (Bennett 2010; Conneller 2011; Ingold 2013; Jones 2012; Jones & Alberti 2013), this paper shifts the focus onto the vibrancy and animacy that stem from these objects’ material properties, and from human entanglements with them. In doing so, it demonstrates a symmetrical relationship between tools and humans, and shows that the meaning of stamps and their imprints may be found in the constant flux of becoming, changing and negotiating, through distinct performative processes in which people and tools are engaged as equals.
The Nile in the hippopotamus: Being and becoming in faience figurines of Middle Kingdom ancient Egypt
https://youtu.be/RpLjnIHsAP0 Rune Nyord, Cambridge University
Ancient Egyptian grave goods are traditionally understood as relatively straightforward evidence of the material needs of a human being in the afterlife, either literally (e.g. food and drink) or in various symbolic ways. A good example where such symbolic readings have dominated modern understandings is the well-known category of faience figurines of hippopotamuses from Middle Kingdom (Middle Bronze Age, early 2nd millennium BCE) Egypt. Drawing on the materiality of the object and the transformations it undergoes during fabrication, it is argued that the production technique based on chemical efflorescence offers a powerful conceptual model for the ontology 63 TAG 2 0 1 6
of the image. The mode of fabrication where an internal potential emerges from the material by drying and heating on the one hand, and the surface decoration representing the lush aquatic environment of the river Nile on the other, both serve to add elements of flow and continuous becoming to the otherwise fixed and stable form of the glazed figurine, a tension which can be further influenced by the deliberate breaking of the finished figurine before deposition. This tension is mirrored in the ancient Egyptian ontological concept at, ‘moment, impulse’ which is written in the period under discussion precisely using a sign depicting the head of a hippopotamus, indicating a connection between the ‘conceptual affordances’ offered by the object and broader Egyptian ontological frameworks.
It’s Wednesday, so another batch of conference videos. These videos are from a session at the recent TAG conference:
‘At its most basic, environmental humanities work has always challenged the idea that nature or the environment simply “is”. Environmental humanities suggest rather…that human ideas, meanings and values are connected in some important way to the shape that the “environment out there” assumes’ (Neimanis et al 2015)
The emerging field of environmental humanities seeks to bridge disciplinary divides between the arts, humanities, and social and natural sciences. It questions the separation between humanity and nature, and draws from Western, Eastern and indigenous ways of knowing and experiencing the environment to address environmental issues such as climate change, sustainability and conservation.
Many of these concerns have been (and are being) explored by archaeologists across the world and speak to ongoing theoretical and methodological debates within the discipline. Despite this seemingly apparent crossover, archaeology within the UK has remained largely independent from the environmental humanities. Indeed outside of Scandinavia, it could be argued that there has been little formal engagement between archaeologists and research in the environmental humanities.
This session seeks to explore some of the points of intersection between archaeology and the environmental humanities agenda, and to foster collaborations beyond the field of archaeology.
We welcome papers that address the following themes and questions:
• How can archaeology contribute to the field of environmental humanities?
• As archaeologists can we get at ‘human ideas, meanings and values’ concerning the environment in the past?
• How do our own ‘ideas, meanings and values’ in the present day, in turn shape what we do as archaeologists and our subsequent narratives of human-environment relations in the past?
• Related to the above, given that critical theoretical reflection is a central tenet of EH, is a consideration of archaeological praxis an essential first step in this process?
Ben Gearey, University College Cork; Matt Law, Bath Spa University and L-P: Archaeology; and Suzi Richer, University of York
Palaeoparasitology and histories of environmental justice
https://youtu.be/bDzAFOI5VbE Matt Law, Bath Spa University and L – P : Archaeology
The potential of palaeoecological studies to inform conservation biology has been well explored (e.g. Rick and Lockwood 2013; papers in Lauwerier and Plug 2003). The environmental humanities question the model of conservation that places nature outside of the human, however, and recognises the environment as a social phenomenon, with human-natural relations occurring on a spectrum. Environmental justice argues that, in separating humans from nature, other forms of conservation have been blind to human issues of class, race and gender, and have overlooked nuances of human-natural relations.
This paper seeks to establish palaeoparasitology as a science that has the potential to provide time depth to arguments of environmental justice. Parasites demonstrate that the barrier between human bodies and nature are permeable or perhaps even illusive. Infections may be acquired through diet and/or particular environmental conditions, and their evidence (especially the ova of parasitic worms) have a long history of study from archaeological contexts. Evidence from these studies is reviewed to identify and explore historical inequalities and to consider what this might mean for the environmental humanities’ approach to environmental justice.
Towards an ecocritical palaeoecology
https://youtu.be/9egfkRkTFfA Ben Gearey, University College Cork, and Suzi Richer, University of York
“Ecocriticism explores the ways in which we imagine and portray the relationship between humans and the environment in all areas of cultural production, from Wordsworth …to Google Earth.” (Garrard 2012, frontispiece)
The session seeks to explore how archaeology can contribute to the field of the environmental humanities. Taking archaeology in its broadest definition to include palaeoecology, we aim to sketch the outlines of an ‘ecocritical palaeoecology’. Ecocritical studies focus on the relationship between the cultural origins of and responses to, current global ecological and environmental problems and crises. In its reading of texts, ecocriticism takes an earth-centred approach to literary studies. In this paper we consider the potential role of palaeoecology within ecocritical thought, in particular how an ecocritical approach to the practice of palaeoecology itself. Specifically, how are specific ideas and representations of ‘past ecosystems’ and their relationship to human and non-human actors, created and sustained through palaeoecological work and study? What is the relationship of palaeoecology with the politics of debates such as ecosystem degradation and ‘past human impact on the environment’ Heise (2006) has drawn attention to the lack of a comprehensive model for linking contemporary perspectives and developments in ecology to ecocritical work and thought. Thus, one of our aims may be regarded as part of a broader project to form active disciplinary connections between (palaeo) ecology, ecocriticism and the Environmental Humanities.
Heise, U.K. 2006. The Hitchhikers Guide to Ecocriticism. Proceedings of the Modern Language Association 121, 2, 503-516.
Garrard, G. 2004. Ecocriticism: An Introduction. London: Routledge.
Going beyond the safari: the potential role of the Environmental Humanities in sub-Saharan Africa
https://youtu.be/6nycfhiu_m4 Suzi Richer, University of York, email@example.com; Rob Marchant, University of York; Daryl Stump, University of York; Carol Lang, University of York; Cruz Ferro Vazquez, University of York; Michael Wilson, Loughborough University; and Jo Dacombe, Freelance Artist, Leicester
“We no longer live in a natural world – there is virtually no part of the environment that we left unchanged” – NERC, ‘Our Vision’
In contrast to NERC’s vision, a disconnect exists between the perception of people outside of sub-Saharan Africa – of open peopleless savannahs populated with the ‘Big Five Game Animals’ – and the diverse reality. To perceive the environment as separate from the people who live there perpetuates a lack of effective engagement with broader environmental issues and future grand challenges facing the world. The potential ripple effects of environmental change and population growth in Africa will increasingly be felt locally on livelihoods and globally in terms of food security and economic instability. The globally ratified Paris Agreement (COP21) and the UN Sustainable Development Goals demand engagement by an informed civil society if the goals are to be fulfilled: therefore resolving this disconnect is paramount.
The environmental humanities seeks to bridge disciplinary divides and the separation between humanity and nature, it can potentially provide a pivotal role in bringing together disparate data and insights to inform a common counternarrative to what currently exists around a notion of ‘Africa’. This paper explores how we can present and use insights from archaeological and palaeoecological projects in eastern Africa, in a public arena, to begin to challenge these current perceptions. This directly addresses Hutching’s (2014, 214) call ‘to move beyond ecocriticism to ecoaction…actively spreading counternarratives’.
Hutchings, R. 2014. ‘Understanding of and Vision for the Environmental Humanities’, Environmental Humanities 4:213-220
Conceptualizing Human-Mountain Relations in the Ancient Andes
https://youtu.be/KhKvEUgOuRM Darryl Wilkinson, McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge
In the Andes, indigenous terms for mountains (wamani, apu etc.) typically translate to something like “lord”, “king” or “judge”. And colonial narratives about mountains often describe them as sentient beings; in other words as entities who could speak, make prophecies, pay taxes and even be executed for treason. Basically then, they represented a kind of social elite – beings who were no less a part of Andean communities as anyone else. Traditional archaeological approaches to human-environment relations have, as yet, demonstrated a limited capacity to deal with such radically different worlds. At best, Andean mountains are relegated to the realm of religion (often called “mountain worship”) as a way of keeping them separate from “real” aspects of human-environment relations – like water management, mining and agriculture. In this paper, I argue that not only do such approaches fail to understand indigenous accounts of their world, but actually impede our ability to interpret archaeological data correctly. I present archaeological landscape survey data from the Andean cloud forests, relating to Inka efforts to mass-produce coca leaf, as a case-study in this respect. Rather than see such activities as an effort at agricultural intensification, to extract more resources from an asocial environment, I instead suggest that Inka landscape manipulations can only be understood as part of a project for turning mountains into a disciplined and loyal workforce.
Last week I posted about some reasons why people should not have their conference presentations filmed. I left off one reason I have heard, ‘people might steal my ideas’. An absence that has been noted by several people. The reason I left it off is because it is actually a reason to have your presentation filmed. No, that is not a typo. If you are afraid of having your ideas stolen then you really, really, absolutely, 100%, no ifs, ands or buts about it, want to have your conference presentation filmed.
‘But, wouldn’t that make it easier for people to steal the idea because they can play it back?’
‘When it is up on the internet more people can see it and the internet is full of bad people, like intellectual property thieves.’
Are questions that might be going through your head at the moment, though without my cadence so probably phrased quite differently. The answer is yes, you want lots of people to see it, including would be thieves; let me explain.
Intellectual Property Theft… not a crime
To have something stolen from you, you have to own it. Most people who are afraid of having their ideas stolen refer to it as intellectual property, in my field that tends to be more abstract ideas. Intellectual property – what a strange concept. It is the idea that you can own ideas and it is a relatively recent human construct and throughout the vast majority of human existence it did not exist. That means that there is actually very little legal protection for “intellectual property” and it is very recent. The first copyright law was the Statue of Anne in 1709. Yes, when Hammurabi was writing up his code of laws no one even thought that you could own ideas, and you still cannot with copyright. Copyright grew out of need for government’s need for censorship, can’t have people learning about ideas like freedom of religion, press, life, etc. and then for printers to maintain monopolies, because money.
Here is the kicker, copyright does not protect ideas, any of them. It protects the presentation of ideas. There is a huge distinction there.
‘Jane went to the market to buy some fruit.’
The concept is that there is a person Jane and she went to the market to get fruit and it happened today. Copyright will protect how you represent that concept but not the concept itself. So I could write something like,’Today, Jane went to the market to buy some fruit.’ and it would not be copyright violation. I have not copied word for word what was said, the expression, even though I have repeated the same idea. Copyright only covers the expression of an idea, not the idea itself. Copyright will not protect your ideas.
The only legal protection you can get for ideas is for the narrowly defined idea of an invention through a patent. Again, this is a recent concept with the first patent law being the Venetian Patent Statute in 1474. What can be covered by a patent will vary slightly between countries but it is very limited. In the US, to get a patent an invention must meet two criteria.
- it must fall within one of the four statutory categories of acceptable subject matter: process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter.
- it must be novel and not obvious and not something like the laws of nature, physical phenomena, or abstract ideas.
That last bit means that almost all of the intellectually property dealt with in the humanities and social sciences have no legal protection, at all… and those are the people who always are concerned with their ideas getting stolen. Talk to an engineer and they are not concerned with their ideas getting stolen because if it was important enough they would get a patent.
Legally speaking, what most people consider their intellectual property in my field, archaeology/anthropology, is not actually property. There are no laws giving you rights to own the very thing that people build their careers on.
While there are no laws protecting ‘abstract ideas’ there are moral norms and some employer protection. Many Universities have regulations about “stealing ideas” that could result in the punishment of staff or students and some organisations might have morality codes that if violated would get one kicked out of the organisation. There also might be some social pressures. But all of this varies hugely between organisations and even countries because morality is subjective. I was talking to a German student who was telling me that were he went to school the PhD students would write the papers but then the Professors would put their names on it and take credit. I personally see this as unethical, the people who do the work should get the credit, but others may not. In fact, most of my profession, Archaeology, is built around this concept. How many technicians get their names on field reports even though they will do 80-90% of the work? But, I am digressing.
So in terms of protecting your ideas, unless you can file a patent for it, all you can do is put social pressure on people to credit you or hope that the person who “stole” from you is at a university with a regulation against it.
That’s the System
Now I take this into an interesting discussion about people’s misconceptions about “intellectual property”. That actually, they can’t own abstract ideas because we as a culture do not believe they can be owned… except that is not the reality. For academic jobs we require people to gain recognition for the work they do e.g. publish or perish. People’s careers are built on the need to be recognised as the “owner”, at the very least the inventor, of ideas. But, we provide them with no legal protection and very little moral/work protection.
It gets worse, we require people to make their ideas easy to steal. You have to put your ideas into grant applications that will be anonymously reviewed by others. You have to put them into the peer review process, again where they are anonymously reviewed by others. Both of these systems are ripe for abuse. You don’t know who the reviewers are so they can take the ideas and sabotage your work i.e. kill the grant application, not return a peer review for years, while they race to get the idea into print first so they get the credit. Because it is anonymous you will never know it is happening or will have a very hard time proving it.
That is a pretty messed up system we have got, right?
Conferences are Feeding the Beast
Conferences are just another cog in the abuse machine. Except for small regional history and archaeology conferences, where most of the of participants are just there to listen, at almost all conferences almost everyone there is presenting a talk or a poster. Take any large conference and look at the number of attendees and the number of papers/posters presented. Usually those numbers are very close. This is because no one can get money to go to conferences unless they are presenting.
My dream is to one day go to a conference where I am not presenting or filming. I ran into Don Hensen the other day at a conference. Guess what? He was just there to be there, he was not presenting. He used words like ‘existential’ and ‘fantastic’ to describe it. Ah, one can dream.
You have to present your ideas at conferences to be able to go to them. However, this is usually before you publish and have yet to get credit for your work. Again, the system forces you to put out ideas with almost no protection.
So Why Filming?
In the messed up system we work in there are only really three options you have to protect yourself against someone “stealing” your ideas, because the law won’t unless it is an invention or they copy you word for word.
- Hope every person is good, honest, and moral.
- Hide away your ideas and let no one see them until you get them published. This is not perfect as you could still be sniped during the peer review process. Also, the downsides are that you can’t apply for grants or give conference presentations, basically foregoing other career boosting activities. Moreover, this would not protect PhD students from having their advisors, who they are required to share their work with, from stealing it.
- Make sure everyone knows it is your idea.
Essentially, the only protection you have is social pressure and some moral codes but, social pressure only works if enough people in the social circle are aware of the issue. Moral codes only work if you have a paper trail showing that it was your idea first and that they did not properly acknowledge it. This last part is much harder to do than you think because multiple people will be working on the same idea at once. There is such a thing as independent invention. As archaeologists, we are very familiar with the idea of different people inventing different ideas, at different times, independent of each other i.e. agriculture. It is much harder to prove that someone stole your idea than you think, they can claim independent invention. If they are dishonest enough to not credit you then it is a pretty good chance they are also willing to lie about it too.
So you need both a paper trail and lots of people to know about your idea and that it was you who had the idea. Blog, publish, tweet, Facebook, and most importantly video record your presentations and then tweet/Facebook/Instagram/whatever it is the kids are doing these days. You need to build up such a critical mass that when someone goes to submit your ideas to peer review the person reviewing it will say, ‘hey, you did not cite so and so, cite them mothe*()^&(“%’s. Or that when they are taken before their Universities committee on ethics it will be very hard for them to prove they could not have known about it. You want the committee to be saying things like,
‘Prof so&so, this committee finds it hard to believe you were not aware of this when there is a YouTube video with 100,000 views talking about it. You apparently are the only person in (insert field) to have not seen it’
A video is also a particularly great paper trail. Can you remember word for word every presentation you have ever given. Even if you do can you prove it? Imagine you are called into one of these review committees to testify and you say you gave a conference presentation that was copied. They ask for proof. What are you going to give them? Maybe you wrote it out but if you didn’t what are you going to do? A vague abstract? With a video you have all the evidence you need to show you presented the material. Yes, with a video it is easier for people to copy you but it is 100x easier to show that it was your idea in the first place.
Writing out your paper is good but they could claim you faked it… not something that is as easy to claim with a video- especially if it was filmed by the conference organisers who would be independent.
It may seem counter intuitive but if you are concerned about your work not being credited then get it filmed and blog about it, a lot. Your work may only count if it is getting into a peer reviewed journal but blogging and conference presentations will not stop that. Obviously, the content presentation will be different enough that publishers will not think you are double dipping. A peer-reviewed article will sound very different from a blog post. Also, a blog post or video be cited so even if you have not published in a peer reviewed journal yet you will still be getting credit for the work e.g. so & so discussed this on their blog, discussed this at X conference.
Not Risk Free
I don’t want to mislead people and say there are no potential downsides to this approach. You could have you work rejected from journals because you have ‘already’ published. However, I have personally talked with Publishers at Ubiquity, Springer, Maney (before becoming part of T&F) and many others, not one has said a videoed conference presentation would ever disqualify a paper. They treat it like a conference presentation – something that is part of the system and a realisation it has not been peer reviewed, the “value” publishers provide. Ask before you do this but as of yet I have not been told no by a publisher.
Make a Decision
Ultimately, the choice is yours. You will have to weight up the risk of being scooped or presenting at a conference. However, if you do decide to present at a conference, practice safe conferencing, use protection.
Enjoy some of the papers we filmed at the TAG conference this weekend:
‘In the end I want material culture to retain its sense of mystery, or even the uncanny, because this is the quality which is stimulating to the imagination’ (P. Graves-Brown 2011)
The otherness of things, the uncanny, the unfamiliar. Infused by the ‘turn to things’ these are phrases often heard in discourses of contemporary archaeology, and even something we associate with its very analytical mode; i.e. making the familiar unfamiliar (cf. Buchli and Lucas 2001). Taken literally, this understanding can be seen as breeding a distance between past and present, between researchers and objects studied, and thus undermine aspirations for a past (or present) more common, accessible and knowable (cf. Harrison 2011). In this session, however, we wish to challenge these notions, which also may be seen as upholding traditional hierarchies of ontological distinctions between the known and unknown, the ordinary and strange. Rather than seeing the otherness of the contemporary past as a produce of archaeological/scientific estrangement, i.e. as something created through our archaeologization, we want to explore ways in which an archaeological imagination may deal with and capture a material world that is already, to a considerable extent, unfamiliar and strange. Following this we ask, to what extent does a conventional scientific aspiration for clarity – for bringing things closer and making them knowable – comply with a new, object-oriented ontology grounded in things’ autonomy and withdrawal? Or, put differently, what does knowing things (or making them accessible) really imply? Does it necessarily involve making sense of them, in the conventional interpretive manner, or does an ontological turn challenge the parameters of archaeological knowledge production and mediation? Ensuing P. Graves-Brown’s vision quoted above, we ask, by what means can archaeology grasp and mediate the uncanny and mysterious? Why is it important? And how can this result in a different archaeological knowledge, imagination or vision?
Drawing on perspectives on materiality and the ‘ontological turn’ we are interested in exploring these questions, and welcome papers addressing different aspects of the uncanny in archaeology, theoretically and/or through case studies. Themes of inquiry may concern e.g.:
• The relations/tensions between the familiar and unfamiliar in archaeological reasoning.
• The uncanny/unknown as the drive and goal of archaeological enquiry/mediation.
• Means and methods of grasping and mediating the archaeological uncanny.
• The tension between aspirations for clarity and the ‘messy’ nature of archaeological material/research.
• The role of the familiar/unfamiliar in the intersection between art and archaeology.
• Heritage and the uncanny; the place of the strange in experiencing the past.
• The confines of archaeological knowledge production.
Stein Farstadvoll, UiT The Arctic University of Norway; and Þóra Pétursdóttir, UiT The Arctic University of Norway
Buchli, V. and Lucas, G. 2001. The absent present: archaeologies of the contemporary past. In V. Buchli and Lucas, G. (eds.) Archaeologies of the Contemporary Past. Routledge: London, pp. 3-18.
Graves-Brown, P. 2011. Touching from a Distance: Alienation, Abjection, Estrangement and Archaeology. Norwegian Archaeological Review, 44(2): 131-44.
Harrison, R. 2011. Surface assemblages. Towards an archaeology in and of the present. Archaeological Dialogues, 18(2): 141-61.
“Strange and estranged: on bringing things close”
https://youtu.be/mTjoJX5UKiA Þóra Pétursdóttir, UiT The Arctic University of Norway
The otherness of things, the uncanny, the unfamiliar – these are phrases often heard in discourses of contemporary archaeology, and even something we associate with its very analytical mode; i.e. making the familiar unfamiliar (cf. Buchli and Lucas 2001). This paper will introduce the topic of this session,
asking how a conventional scientific aspiration for clarity – for bringing things closer and making them knowable – may comply with a new, object-oriented ontology grounded in things’ withdrawal? With reference to a study of drift matter on North Atlantic shores, the paper will inquire what knowing things may imply, and how these borderland assemblages – things literally
‘thrown together’ (Stewart 2008) – may infuse other means of knowing and nearing.
Buchli, V. and Lucas, G. 2001. The absent present: archaeologies of the contemporary past. In V. Buchli and Lucas, G. (eds.) Archaeologies of the Contemporary Past. Routledge: London, pp. 3-18.
Stewart, K. 2008. Weak theory in an unfinished world. Journal of Folklore Research, 45(1): 71-82.
“Question your tea spoons:” The politics of familiarity.
https://youtu.be/URhleAU8Yvw Paul Graves-Brown
When Georges Perec (1997) suggests that we question what he calls the infra-ordinary, I assume that, like Adorno, he sees objects as fundamentally political. By taking them for granted, we allow capital to get away with the “second order signification” (Barthes 1993 ) that naturalises the status quo. According to Adorno (2001); ‘[t]he object can only be thought through the subject, but always preserves itself in contrast to this as an other…” and the otherness of objects persists as a guarantee of a negative dialectic – a challenge to ordinariness that is always present.
But perhaps this challenge has other dimensions; that in its attempts to sell us things, capital actually betrays its motives in the way it shapes matter. That in the shape of tea spoons, cars or phones, capital tells us what it thinks we think, or what it wants us to think. It is simply that these manipulations are so banal as to be beneath our notice.
In this paper I want to start to explore how the influence of the desire to sell stuff shapes the design of things, and what this tells us about the motives of capital in an era of “atemporality” (Gibson 2012).
Adorno, T. 2001. Negative Dialectics, trans. Dennis, Redmond. Suhrkamp, Berlin and Frankfurt.
Barthes, R. 1993 . Mythologies. Vintage,London.
Gibson, William 2012. Talk for Book Expo, New York. In Distrust that Particular Flavor. London: Penguin Viking. pp41-48
Perec, G. 1997. Species of Spaces and other Pieces. Penguin, London.
Among the Tentative Haunters: Nautical Archaeology and Other Non-Senses
https://youtu.be/s-el5hhZN0Y Sara Rich, Appalachian State University
As works of art and architecture, traditional sailing ships hold a special place within the human imagination. Their designs were responses to aesthetics, techne, and telos, while their capacity to metaphorize liminality is incomparable. And like architects of ruins, nautical archaeologists are both historians and makers as they rebuild ships from shipwrecks. In processes of quasi-resurrection, ships are often reconstructed hypothetically based on information negotiated from the wreckage underwater: where it came from, where it was going, which materials constructed it, when it sailed, who and what it carried, why it wrecked, and how it has been interacting with its underwater environment all along. Yet, to accrue the information needed to perform this miraculous resurrection, nautical archaeologists cannot rely on the primacy of vision as do those who work on land. Indeed, submersion dulls or nullifies each of the five senses classically used in scientific and artistic inquiry. Underwater, sight is untrustworthy, smell and taste non-existent, touch numbed, and hearing dominated by the sound of one’s own breath. Other ‘non-senses’ betray us too. Water undermines the sense of passing time, and even common sense declines with increasing depth. Borrowing its title from the Adrienne Rich poem, “Diving into the Wreck,” this paper will explain how shipwreck and archaeologist confront each other in an uncanny space, and how the distinct roles of haunter and haunted are undermined through processes of nautical inquiry.
The uncanny archaeology of buried books
https://youtu.be/hhi4SV7xoBY Gabriel Moshenska UCL Institute of Archaeology
This paper traces the limits of an archaeology of the uncanny. By focusing on two of its conceptual pillars: the act of excavation and the revelation of the buried object – in this case the book – I aim to illuminate a set of processes and practices at the intersection of art, archaeology, violence, religion, and magic (Moshenska 2006). At the heart of the Freudian unheimlich are the concepts of defamiliarization and the encounter with the concealed or lost. Architect Anthony Vidler is one of several to have made the connection between archaeology and the uncanny, noting that ‘archaeology and the archaeological act is by definition an “uncanny” act which reveals that which should have remained invisible’ (quoted in Buchli and Lucas 2001: 11).
To illustrate and exemplify the potential of the archaeological uncanny as an explanatory framework, this paper will present case studies of the burial and excavation of books. Books are tangly, slippery things that sit uncomfortably within material culture categories and their burials illustrate this: books have been buried to hide or control their evil or magical powers, to conceal their political or social force, or to protect them from equivalent forces and powers. To encounter a book in a context of burial (as I have) is a profoundly uncanny experience that illuminates the power of archaeological objects to damage and defy normative explanatory frameworks.
Buchli, V. and Lucas, G. 2001. The absent present: archaeologies of the contemporary past. In: Buchli, V. and Lucas, G. (eds) Archaeologies of the Contemporary Past. London: Routledge, 3-18.
Moshenska, G. 2006. The archaeological uncanny. Public Archaeology 5(2): 91-9.
Where the past meets the present. Modern families living in the Iron Age
https://youtu.be/V-aobxTsGJg Anna S. Beck, Museum Sydøstdanmark/Aarhus University
Since the 1970ies, modern families have been invited to live in the reconstructed Iron Age longhouses at Lejre as a part of the reenactment of the Iron Age environment at the centre. Before and during the stay, the families are instructed in how to live an Iron Age life, but in many ways the concept is also open to the families to interpret. Anthropological investigations of the phenomenon show that the families often chose to use their vacation in ‘the Iron Age’ in the search for a more ‘authentic life’ as an anti-thesis to their modern everyday life. In this paper, an archaeological excavation of parts of a reconstructed, now demolished Iron Age longhouse that have been used for more than 20 years housing ‘Iron Age families’ will be presented. In combination with the anthropological investigations, the project gave a valuable insight into how modern families cope with the unfamiliar (imagined) ’prehistoric life’ and which strategies they use to ’survive’ in this uncanny situation.
Archaeology and hyperart: wrecked and weird
https://youtu.be/L4ryRFblvgY Stein Farstadvoll, UiT The Arctic University of Norway
This paper will explore the connection between the archaeological record and hyperart, with examples of weird things drawn from a derelict 19th century landscape garden. Hyperart, or Thomassons, are weird things and structures with no apparent purpose and meaning. They are works of “art” which is not made by an artist, but is rather shaped through unconscious actions and unwitting assistants. The Japanese artist and novelist Genpei Akasegawa is the person behind the concept of hyperart, which is defined as useless but beautifully preserved objects rooted in some form of architecture (Akasegawa 2009). The first piece of hyperart Genpei noticed was a staircase, which he could not make any sense of – it lead nowhere and for some inexplicable reason the banister had recently been repaired; the staircase was neither entertaining, useful, nor ornamental, but purely non-functional. What happens when an archaeologist searching for truth and deeper meanings in things encounter a seemingly purposeless and intentionless object? Mysteries are a part of the archaeological discipline, where some drive our research forward, but others might seem too weird or meaningless to pursue. How do we handle such weird objects?
Akasegawa, G. 2009: Hyperart: Thomasson. Kaya Press, New York.