Cyberinfrastructure is a digital research environment. Imagine the Matrix, only instead of fighting Smith you are completing a site report with an 11th century ceramics specialist in the United Kingdom and an epigrapher from an Australian Museum, while using primary data from a medieval cemetery in Poland. Cyberinfrastructure includes all of the platforms, standards, hard and soft technology, as well as the human resources that facilitate digital research. When thinking about these digital research environments there is a tendency to focus on the virtual tools and technologies which allow for sharing, using, preserving, and combining of data from disparate collections. However the human component is just as vital since the cyberinfrastructure requires both technical expertise to create these interoperable workspaces, but also content expertise about the materials and data that are being used.
Archaeologists greatly benefit from the construction of cyberinfrastructures. The nature of our work requires specialist knowledge, large quantities of data that is often in different formats, storage of this data, long term preservation, tools and technology for analysis of primary data, and dissemination of the interpretations and results. Given that our research can span continents and involve the expertise of scholars from around the world, having digital workspaces is a perfect solution. One of the major problems currently is the uneven use of archaeological collections online. There are certain osteological collections like those at the University of Bradford and Museum of London, which comprise the majority of bioarchaeological reports. By having more information online we can even out the use-load of collections. Further, by putting our information into online networks and sharing the data, broader syntheses and more informed theories can be created.
However, there are a number of challenges faced by archaeologists in the construction of a unified cyberinfrastructure. Archaeological data is unique in that it is extremely diverse, complex and its standards are usually custom made to fit the theory, region or time period. The diversity of data for a single site can include, but is not limited to, soil samples, stone tools, ceramics, human and faunal remains, paleobotanical remains, radiocarbon dates, dendrochonological dates, historical texts, epigraphy, and even interviews with extant populations. For each type of data, there are thousands of potential attributes and variables that need to be recorded. Single bones in the human body can dozens of measurements, as well as dozens of macroscopic and microscopic variables recorded.
To make this even more complex, the standards of recording these attributes of data vary from person to person based on experience, tradition or education of the persons involved. The guiding theories, regions, type of site and time periods also determine what evidence is pertinent and the variables that will be necessary. The standards for recording and types of data collected at an Iron Age bog burial site in Northern Scotland are vastly different from those at a predynastic domestic house site in Nubia. Data is structured in a way that makes sense for the specific needs of each dig.
The question then is how to bring together these disparate collections of data into a unified network that will make them usable, accessible and meaningful for a wider body of scholars? There are currently two dichotomous answers, though obviously we are not limited to these alone. The first is to create a unified system under which all collections and datasets will be placed into a centralized digital storage location. Materials will be standardized to fit the pre-existing schemes in order to link it to the other datasets. Examples like this include tDAR and ADS. The second is to create interoperable collections which are distributed among numerous storage sites. Each can have their own unique schemes and standards, as long as they are interoperable with the others. This allows for more customization, but requires a stronger system for linking the data. Examples like this include Open Context.
Regardless of how we ultimately decide to construct a cyberinfrastructure for archaeology, we first need to recognize the benefits. A cyberinfrastructure will allow for greater collaboration, greater reuse of primary data, increased scholarly communication, increased research efficiency, and preservation of materials. However, it will require an increased technical knowledge as well as a method for linking disparate sets of data. Luckily for us, technical education is increasingly available and the semantic web is currently a hot topic that made provide a possible solution.
CLIR Report 2011. Rome wasn’t digitized in a day. http://www.clir.org/pubs/reports/pub150/pub150.pdf
Kintigh 2006. The Promise and Challenge of Archaeological Data Integration. American Antiquity 71(3) pp. 567-578
Kansa 2011. Introduction: New Directions for the Digital Past. Archaeology 2.0 http://escholarship.org/uc/item/1r6137tb%20%20
My name is Rachael, but online I go by @zenparty. The name that I use in digital spaces is as important to me as the one that’s on my driver’s license. Check out my blog post at rachaelhodder.com for more information about my online identity.
Here’s a quick and dirty introduction:
In my MA studies as a rhetoric student thus far, I’ve focused on building technical skills in web development and a theoretical foundation for how to do ethical, user-centered work. I place a high value on the ability to produce work that is accessible and useful to its intended users and stakeholders. At the core of my philosophy for composition and design is user advocacy, open access, and beauty in simplicity. Previously, I earned my BA from MSU in American Studies where I focused on postcolonial histories and cultural studies. Although I am now a rhetoric student, I have a very keen interest in ethical histories and representations of cultural entities. That said, I believe my deadly combination of training in rhetorical analysis and processes, an orientation toward cultural studies, and an ever-expanding technical skillset create incredible possibilities for me to do some awesome work in the field of cultural heritage informatics.
As a veteran participant of the Cultural Heritage Informatics Fieldschool at MSU, I have some experience with CHI, but I look forward to digging in more as a fellow this year. I hope to use the CHI fellowship as an opportunity to practice cultural heritage informatics through not only engaged research and dialogue, but also by building something that’s really flippin’ cool (!).
Got more time? Here’s a little more depth:
I’m a Master’s student in Digital Rhetoric and Professional Writing at Michigan State University. This means that I apply a rhetorical analytic framework to studies of language, writing, and culture; I examine systems, structures, genres, and utilities that constrain and facilitate meaning-making practices, especially those taking place in digital spaces. In particular, I’m interested with usability and user experience studies, discursive performance in digital spaces, digital literacies, and the implementation of mobile devices as teaching and learning tools. In plain English, this means that I research how people interact with digital interfaces; use of typographic symbols, memes, and in online communication; what it means to “use” the Internet and how to teach it; and how tablets and smartphones can be used in edifying settings such as museums or university writing centers. By trade, I am a user experience researcher, information architect, and web developer.
On a broad level, I’m concerned with the logistical challenges that we, as a society, face as processes of representation, storage, and knowledge-making become increasingly digital. Cultural heritage organizations – museums in particular – are on the front-lines of this challenge. On one hand, they recognize the possibilities that digital spaces and tools have to share, preserve, and access knowledge. On the other hand, because the technology is always new and constantly evolving, there seems to be some ambiguity over how to pursue large-scale digitization. The Smithsonian has taken steps to strategize for all of their affiliated organizations in their 2010 Digitization Strategic Plan, but the path to digitization, even in our digitally oriented society, remains mired with questions of who, what, when, where, and how that don’t have easy answers.
- Who will digitize artifacts and data?
- What will be digitized?
- When, or under what timeline, will digitization take place?
- Where should responsibility for digitization lie within the organization?
- How can organizations maintain digital archives and collection?
In effect, cultural heritage organizations are faced with questions related to content management and system design that are extremely compelling to me as a rhetorician engaged in the field of web development and professional writing. I look forward to engaging these areas of inquiry as a CHI fellow.
Another area of inquiry that interests me is how cultural heritage institutions can leverage mobile platforms to better reach audiences in and outside the confines of the brick-and-mortar museum. Not only is there a possibility to reach more people, but museums can use mobile platforms to create more meaning and context around heritage objects with locative technology and applications. This is a topic that I explored with great depth in the Cultural Heritage Informatics Fieldschool at MSU last summer. For my reflections on mobile and locative technologies in the context of cultural heritage, see the CHI fieldschool blog.
When I’m not nerding out over rhetoric, usability, and cultural heritage, I am a writing consultant at the MSU Writing Center and an advocate for interdisciplinary collaboration at the Creativity Exploratory at CAL. In my spare time, I like to overanalyze everything pop culture, shop for office supplies, and enjoy a weekly dose of hops and hyperbole at #beerrhetorics East Lansing.
In the not-so-far-away future, I plan to blog about digitization and the implications that such a project has for cultural heritage organizations; the value of coding websites and other digital literacies for humanists; and ideas for my fellowship project. I look forward to the dialogue that I will carry out with the other CHI fellows and YOU through this blog over the course of the year.
To get inside my head on a daily basis, follow me on Twitter @zenparty. I’d love to meet people from all over who are doing digital work in cultural heritage or digital humanities, so please introduce yourself!
Labeled the inquisitive one out of the bunch, I have always been attracted to the art of communication and storytelling. Whether this came in the form of a good book or eavesdropping in on my grandmother’s conversations, it didn’t matter. My name is Fayana Richards and I am a second year PhD/MPH graduate student in the Department of Anthropology and Program in Public Health at Michigan State University. My research interests include U.S. health care systems, chronic illness, intersections of gender, race and class, and immigration.
Outside of my anthropological studies, I also have an undergraduate background in journalism where I initially devoted my energies towards print journalism. Other than developing sound writing skills, I was trained to believe that essentials for a journalist simply included a pen, writing pad, and a recorder. Fast forward to 2007 when the world of journalism had to rapidly respond to a changing economic climate and the increasing demand for the production of online content. With the future of journalism in question, I had to make a decision. I could remain on the traditional print journalism path or immerse myself in the world of multimedia and digital storytelling. I choose the latter. From serving as an editor for an online newspaper to creating a podcast as intern for Science Magazine, I used these opportunities to plunge into the realm of digital storytelling and multimedia journalism. Despite being challenging, these experiences afforded me to the opportunity to be exposed to the world of coding, editing audio and film, and interactive graphs and maps. Instead of isolating the journalism experience, it was amplified.
As a 2011 CHI Grad Fellow, I am interested in learning about how digital humanities can inform my background in anthropology and journalism and can be used as tool for scholarly communication as well as community engagement. Within the larger discipline of Anthropology, those of us who have focused on the U.S. remain a smaller minority. As a result, one of my goals during the next year will focus on exploring various digital platforms and their potential for community building for medical anthropologists with U.S. based research agendas.
During my free time, I like to watch Broadway musicals and live music acts, taking random dance classes and watching or reading anything fantasy or super hero related.
“A football club is the accumulated cultural capital and the historical memories of the group of people who have chosen to invest their time, their energy, and their love in it.” - David Goldblatt
I study football(soccer) clubs in Buenos Aires, Argentina. My dissertation examines political and economic change in Buenos Aires, using football clubs as a lens to view politics, associative life, and consumption. While excellent soccer scholarship has been produced for decades, there is a need for more dialogue and collaboration amongst academics who study the sport. In the spring of 2010, I co-founded the Football Scholars Forum with a historian of South Africa, Peter Alegi. The scholarly community has met over Skype to discuss recent works in soccer scholarship over the past three semesters. As a Cultural Heritage Informatics Fellow, I plan to dedicate my time towards continuing to grow the community, turn the website into a platform for collaboration, and add sources to a group Zotero library. The project will re-launch as footballscholars.org by summer of 2012.
As part of this process, I also have concrete goals that include forming a roadmap for producing a digital dissertation, continuing to use the web as a platform for collaboration with Argentine football scholars, and to pick up hard skills in CSS3 and HTML5. It is a privilege to study football, a truly global medium of cultural, political, and economic exchange. This privilege has led to a commitment to share my historical production beyond academia and to embrace the opportunity to bridge academic and popular history. The Digital Humanities is one ‘tent’ that has proven invaluable in the last two years to produce rigorous scholarship that embraces technology. My exposure to DH has not only led directly to this fellowship, but also co-founding gradhacker.org, a platform for advice on professionalism, productivity, wellness, and technology produced by graduate students for graduate students.
As a historian of fútbol, I am not without my biases. As my grandfather before me, I support Real Madrid FC, and am partial to Fulham in the EPL. I also enjoy playing ultimate, hiking, and canoeing. I look forward to sharing my experiences as a CHI fellow for the next academic year.
I am writing to you from the trenches of my second year of the graduate program in Physical Anthropology at Michigan State University (@msuforensicanth). And although this particular semester’s coursework is melting key bits of my brain, I’m in it for the long haul: I intend earn my Ph.D. in Anthropology with the goal of working as a professional forensic anthropologist. In an academic capacity, this will hopefully entail teaching, casework with local law enforcement, and bioarchaeological field research.
My advisor has already allowed me the opportunity to work on some very exciting extracurricular projects: cleaning, curating, and collecting data on 450 medieval skeletons in the MSU Nubian Bioarchaeology Laboratory; analyzing medieval human remains at the University of Salento in southern Italy; and collaborating with the military’s Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command Central Identification Laboratory (@JPACTeams) on a validation study. These are all opportunities to participate in research, although only the last project might be something on which I am an author. Throughout my recent experiences, I’ve received a couple of swift kicks to the rear and learned how little I know. For me, that instigates a *challenge accepted* mentality to learn more and become a better team member and anthropologist.
A personal exploration of social media and new technologies has accompanied this tide (flood!) of institutional learning. It became evident early on that so much information is created in the fields of human osteology and bioarchaeology that a more integrative use of informatics tools would greatly benefit the field. Although I’ve tried to find links between the two, digital connections in forensic anthropology appear to still be in their infancy. Leaders and scholars publishing in Journal of Forensic Science or the American Journal of Physical Anthropology aren’t blogging or tweeting. Graduate students are making inroads, but few, if any, of these pioneers have been around for long enough to become change-implementing faculty. There are a range of platforms, programs, and possibilities in cultural heritage informatics; one of my goals in this fellowship is to identify more ways to connect the people with the “stuff.”
I have no formal training in programming, but as a member of my generation (are we millenials?), computer technologies have been integrated into my education. Rather than being afraid of the new, I am willing to learn and explore, troubleshooting through problems as they arise. When I installed an upgraded graphics card in my new desktop in 2009, I ran around announcing what a wizard I was to everyone I could find – it was a big deal for me. Working through trial and error is integral to the learning process in any new endeavor, and this experience will teach me a lot.
I’m the kind of person who does better with a few things on my schedule. Clear it up for more than a few days, and chores and errands fall by the wayside. But keep me at it for 60 hours a week, and my house is clean as a whistle, and I’m bringing pot roast over to a friend’s for dinner. My dog keeps me on my toes, and when I can find time I knit while watching tv or riding the bus.
Email: niespod1 [at] msu [dot] edu
Community archaeology, Mid-East anthropology, Alaska, Adventure, Cycling, and Logophilia
Archaeology is the search for culture through material: intangible ideas about the world are made tangible through the ways we arrange and rearrange our physical worlds to reflect those ideas. These physical remains are what we archaeologists study: and usually, we study these remains by their destruction. We learn by taking things apart – and in such a way that we can’t put them back together again (imagine rebuilding a ziggurat!). This poses a major problem: as our knowledge grows, what we have, physically, to show for it decreases. The challenge in archaeology is trying to make what we’ve learned as easy to see, to touch, and to understand as the earth from which it comes.
I was born and raised in Alaska, where it takes 12 hours to drive to the center of the state. Visiting the “Lower 48″ usually involved a full-day plane trip; it was therefore a small step from Alaska, to the Mid-West, to the Middle East, and back and forth ad nauseum. I have several Frequent Flyer plans.
And so, from data collection, to information creation, to knowledge dissemination, to Digital Archaeology…
I am a doctoral student in the Department of Anthropology at MSU with a specialization in international development. Specifically, I am an anthropological archaeologist interested in understanding the complexities of past cultures through excavation and survey, and focused on mortuary analysis and landscape studies.
I have worked across the Middle East, but for the past six years have found a home in the Sultanate of Oman, a gracious and graceful country on the Arabian Peninsula. I am the Assistant Project Director and a Field (Excavation) Director for the Bat Archaeological Project. In addition, my dissertation is a survey of third millennium BC monuments (tombs and towers) that encompass the World Heritage Site. I’m interested in making my dissertation available first to other academics, then more broadly to the local community of Bat, other Omanis, the Arab-speaking world, and finally for World Heritage relevance.
Because I study the past but in the present moment, I am also dedicated to the process of community archaeology: facilitating effective community involvement in the study of archaeological resources (Moser et al. 2002:220). I work with local Omanis – archaeologists, teachers, and community members – to encourage understanding of their prehistoric past, to link that past to their present lives, and to help develop a program for future CH management at the local and national level.
There is a lot of room for innovation and growth in Omani archaeology. With the technical expertise of the CHI community, I hope to build a database that will accommodate my own dissertation data, as well as that of other archaeologists working on the Peninsula. Future work – aimed toward a broader Arabic- and English-speaking public – will include a virtual museum and educational classroom materials focusing on the archaeology of 3rd millennium BC Oman.
I am also a lover of bicycling and word-play. As a cyclist I commute, road ride, and mountain bike (when I can). As a word-lover I … talk a lot. And I love to hear words “in play” — so as I blog, I encourage you to talk back!
Email: cablecha [at] msu [dot] edu
Within the last ten years there has been a myriad of ‘digital’ disciplines cropping up. What sets each apart from the analog version is their use of digital technology in their respective field of study. As noted by Cohen and Rosenzweig (2005) “new media and new technologies have challenged historians [and other academics] to rethink the ways that they research, write, present and tech about the past. These digital scholars engage with their research through technology at any level, from data collection, interpretation and dissemination. The most active of these is the Digital Humanities, which has been actively attempting to define and delineate the discipline, while at the same time is engaging in a wide range of computing technologies in their research. While this interdisciplinary group attempts to determine who belongs in their “big tent” of the Digital Humanities, archaeologists have yet to engage not only with the Digital Humanities, but even the role of digital in their own discipline. As Watrall (In press) argues, “most archaeologists are so far from the tent that they can’t even see it”.
While archaeologists may not be engaging with questions of how technology is changing the ways we study, or critically assessing the way that we are using it to inform our work, digital technology has been widely used by archaeologists and successfully integrated into the discipline. These digital tools, such as Geographic Information Systems (GIS), statistical programs, databases, and Computer Assisted Design (CAD), are now viewed as simply part of an archaeologist’s toolkit. Despite this, there is resistance against a move to “digital”, and there is little movement towards creating a “digital archaeology” that could stand as a disciplinary equivalent to the “digital humanities”. As argued by Kansa (2011), with specific reference to the World Wide Web, archaeologists need to “better understand how the Web is transforming the professional practice of archaeology”. The introduction of new digital technologies into archaeology is inevitable. Instead of holding steadfastly to tradition, archaeologists need to engage with the changes in order to understand how they will affect the way we practice archaeology.
The first step in this process, just as was done at the beginning of the Culture-History movement (Lyman, O’Brien and Dunnell 1997) or the introduction of Processualism (Clarke 1968), is to define the scope of Digital Archaeology and what this means to the larger discipline. Digital archaeology has come to have two contrasting meanings. The first is the archaeology of digital materials, including excavation of code, analysis of early informatics and interpretation of early web-based materials. The second is the focus of this argument; digital archaeology as the use of digital technologies in the study of past human societies through their material remains. Digital in archaeology has come to be synonymous with method, rather than a specific approach towards our research. However, a digital approach is more than just a tool- it can inform all levels of our research from excavation to interpretation to presentation.
Two questions arise then, what makes Digital Archaeology separate from the Digital Humanities, and what makes it separate from the rest of the discipline as a whole? There are a number of reasons for the division between Digital Humanities and Digital Archaeology, the primary ones being those that divide the non-digital disicplines in general. Archaeology is a theory constructing discipline, where the humanities is traditionally not. Further, there is a major difference in the types of data being used, with archaeological data being more complex and at a much larger scale than the humanities. Finally, the standards that can be used across the humanities like Dublin Core for metadata organization, cannot be used in archaeology because of the range of questions being asked due to time, space and theoretical approach. The two disciplines definitely overlap, especially in the realm of history and classics, but the focus on theory and the difference in data changes the approach of archaeologists towards using digital.
The second question is how Digital Archaeology is different than archaeology. This is much harder to deal with since technology has been a major part of archaeology throughout its history. I would argue that rather than being a separate discipline and separate approach, digital may just be a different specialization like having a focus on ceramics or lithics. While digital tools and approaches do permeate the discipline as a whole and should be integrated into all aspects of our work, certain aspects of digital do require specialized knowledge. Like the introduction of statistics or GIS, taking a digital approach will require a different skill set. Using digital databases, sharing work through open access, linking data, and visualizing through new technology can all aid in creating more nuanced interpretations of the past. Do all archaeologists need to engage with digital technology? To some extent, yes- just like we are given a basic knowledge of statistics or lithic analysis or systems theory regardless of our actual usage we at least need to know what is available and when it is appropriate to integrate. As Eiteljorg II (2004) argues “Although it is now a given that any archaeology project will involve the use of computers, it is not a given that the project directors will know how to use them well or have the requisite skills to find helpers who do”. The goal at this point, is to get archaeologists to realize the potential of digital and incorporate into their research in new and innovative ways.
Clarke, David. 1968 Analytical Archaeology. London: Methuen.
Cohen, Daniel and Roy Rosenzweig. 2005 Digital History: A Guide to Gathering, Preserving, and Presenting the Past on the Web. Electronic Document. http://chnm.gmu.edu/digitalhistory.
Eiteljorg II, Harrison. “Computing for Archaeologists.” A Companion to Digital Humanities. Ed. Susan Schreibman, Ray Siemens, John Unsworth. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2004.
Kansa, Eric. Introduction. In Archaeology 2.0. Electronic Document. http://escholarship.org/uc/item/1r6137tb
Lyman, Lee, Michael O’Brien, and Robert Dunnell. 1997 The Rise and Fall of Culture History. New York: Plenum Press.
Watrall, Ethan. In Press. Archaeology and the Big tent of the Digital Humanities.