Archive for the ‘Muse(ing)’ Category

One laptop per archaeologist

January 29, 2007

Transparency is empowering

Imagine if these things were on sale to the general public; archaeological fieldwork could be changed forever. Recording, interpreting, communicating; all those traditional elements of an archaeological excavation could be combined into a single act of doing archaeology.

The child proof, environment surviving hardware is already there, as is the mesh networking. All it needs is some more suitable tools installed and a database server in a site hut.

Imagine taking a photograph of a section, putting it on your laptop, annotating it the stylus, dynamically linking it to context sheet you just typed out, georeferencing it, then saving it directly to the site archive. A paper free excavation.

But why am I sat here typing it for who-knows-who on the internet? I should be selling my ideas to some commercial archaeology unit! Well yes, I should be, but it wouldn’t get me very far as I can’t buy a OLPC, even if it was to subsidise others getting sent abroad. Besides, keeping the idea for myself wouldn’t be particularly Open Access of me. Anyway, if there is a big-paying Unit reading this, don’t worry, I’ve still got plenty of ideas you can splash out on!

Even though I can’t buy one, the price of these laptops do lend themselves to contract archaeology. They cost governments $100 each and after that nothing more.¬† All the software on these machines is linux based, including the BIOS. The OLPC group turned down Steve Jobs’ offer of free OSX licenses because they wanted something Open Source, whilst Microsoft are rumoured to be worried about the device and are working hard to get a copy of XP running on them. I won’t provide any links, but it’s all on Slashdot, and when was the last time that Slashdot ever sensationalised anything?

The archaeological tools of the future? A mattock, a digital camera and a laptop. What more could you need?

OLPCOLPC interface

Click to enlarge.

CAA 2007: A summary

January 29, 2007

Here’s some quick Pastxting relevant thoughts from CAA 2007. There was a lot of very interesting papers to be heard on a wide range of topics; big thanks to the organisers and participants for an enjoyable two days. Here’s a quick run down of the papers (in the order they appear in the programme) I thought relevant to this site:

Michael Charno spoke of LEAP:

The aim of the project is to investigate novel ways in which electronic publication over the Internet can provide broad access to research findings in the arts and humanities, and can also make underlying data available in such a way so that readers are enabled to ‘drill down’ seamlessly into online archives to test interpretations and develop their own conclusions.

The completed example: Richard Jones et al.‘s Whittlewood project. It’s a bit like this example of the of the project online, but with less fun ūüėČ

Neil Grindly spoke of the Methods Network. Something to look into I think as a source of money for some pitting activities.

Matthew Wright spoke of Archaeoacoustics Re-examined. Good stuff.

Sebastian Rahtz gave a very interesting keynote about the past twenty years of archaeological computing and some thoughts for the future. Enjoyable as his love for Open Source software dominated his paper.

Tom Goskar spoke of his computer generated visualisation of a submerged Mesolithic landscape.

Mia Ridge asked “web 2.0 buzzword or benefit?” I think we’d all say benefit about that one.

There’s more reports of the conference provided by Jo Cooke for day one and day two. Thanks for her kind mention of my paper in her day one discussion. I was also introduced to the Antiquist group – something that looks fascinating and that I’ll be keeping an eye on.

I think that’s about it for now…

HD software patents

January 27, 2007

Good and bad news from the world of patents that could have implications for Pastxting:

Sony’s video metadata could be patentable in part. The good news – this software patent has been refused. The bad news – Sony is just going to rewrite the application and try again. Steve: Have you run in to this at all with your new camera?

Jury rules that H.264 is not patentable. The good news as reported by Dr Kool, PhD: “This ruling clears the way for H.264 to become a widely adopted open standard.” Lots of good comments in the discussion.

Hearing the past: or just voices in my head?

January 25, 2007

Given my interest in sound and its role in the past, I was interested to come across this website for the Future of Sound tour.  Some very interesting ideas there and it includes Paul Devereux in the list of artists who has done some audio research at archaeological sites.

Further related information about sound and new technology can be found on the Make beautiful brain music post on Wired News.

Open Access in the humanities: 2006

January 24, 2007

Peter Suber’s SPARC Open Access Newsletter (not to be confused with OpenSPARC) contained an interesting paragraph on the subject of Open Access (OA) within the humanities during 2006. Summarised to keep it UK relevant:

The slowest progress toward OA has been in the humanities, but in 2006 we saw significant acceleration… The EU funded the Digital Research Infrastructure for the Arts and Humanities (DARIAH)… JISC and two of the UK Research Councils –the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)– are extending the UK’s e-Science program to the arts and humanities. The AHRC is covered by the general RCUK commitment to OA but is still deciding on the exact form of its own policy. The British Academy wrote a report showing how UK copyright law hindered scholarship in the humanities and social sciences…

Well worth looking at, as is Suber’s blog, Open Access News. Thanks to Steve for forwarding on an email with the links.

The Way We Loop ‚ÄúNow:‚ÄĚ Eddying in the Flows of Media

January 22, 2007


A great paper online here from this collection.

Well worth reading and thinking about in relation to Pit(ing) and potential media projects.

Capitulating the past

January 16, 2007

Can we learn to capitulate to the past rather than to capitalise upon it?

This idea stems from my recent musings on the point or use of new media and its relationship to the study of the past.  The starting point is to allow the idea of the past, of archaeology, of ancient materiality, of past people to remain to some extent mysterious. The past is an opportunity to be creative; it provides an intellectual and corporeal creative arena; it fuels the imagination.  Can we embrace the idea that the past does not need to be explained necessarily to be enjoyed, to be appreciated, to be imagined?  The past, not so much as a thing that we can engage with but as a belief.  The past as a belief is a much more open concept than the past as a commodity to be generated and controlled.

We can consider the potential for convergence between explorations of the past (as a belief) and explorations of new media.¬†¬†New media provide¬†a new form of discovery; the remediation of exploration.¬† Much as we discover and explore new media, we explore and discover the past and we increasingly employ new media to do this.¬† Through new (and old) media we are establishing¬†a future¬†for the past.¬† Following this, we need not overly worry ourselves about the why’s of using new media; acknowledging a convergence between exploring new media and exploring the past provides¬†a foundation for our endeavours.¬† It is in the doing, the digitaling, the pastxting¬†that the intellect is challenged and channelled.

Media such as wood, stone, clay and metal have been continuosly, and continue to be, explored as modes of expression by people at various times and places.  We as users (and developers) of new media are doing a similar, if not the same, thing.  Herein lies the convergence.  Developing and encouraging a digital habitus may encourage a more open and multisensory academic attitude. Digitaling is good for your scholarly health!

I will continue to explore this notion of convergence, particularly in respect of cultures of sampling -as in sound and (moving) images- and sampling the archaeological record.  Following from this we can explore the relationships between the analogue and digital representations of places, events, people.  We live in an analogue world (including the archaeological record) in its original format that is increasingly sampled and then represented through digital media and then received again by sentient beings in analogue form.

An Open Past

January 15, 2007

Multimedia, multivocal, Wikis, blogs, convergent approaches…


In the past these have all been viewed (by myself included) as ends in themselves; as a goal of the modern, laptop wielding archaeologist.

Why do these things?

That was always the question; what benefits would these approaches bring to modern archaeological discourse? I had almost skirted around these issues in the past. My answer to this question with regards to southern Romania is one that I still believe: By ignoring these techniques you are only encouraging an archaeological imperialism that does little except damage the area in which you are working (in this regard the line taken by the final SRAP publications will make interesting reading). Unfortunately, this answer holds little weight in the countryside of Middle Britain.

The answer to the question “why?” has been on the tip of my tongue for a while now and, with a flash of inspiration and a click of my fingers, it’s finally entered my brain: The persuit of an Open Past. All I needed to do was read that email and it hit me instantly. How could I have missed it before?

This needs to be expanded greatly but, for now at least, I’ve thought of it.

Hacking the Himalayas

January 12, 2007

Of possible relevance to anything to be done on Scilly is the Hacking the Himalayas series by Xeni Jardin and aired on the US’ National Public Radio. Their site allows you to listen to all four of the series’ shows online.

Getting online for was tough, and that was all taking place in a backgarden in Northamptonshire; we relied upon sporadic 3G and WiFi connections. In remote areas, more reliable, creative, connections will need to be established: More bandwidth, less latency.

Whilst the Hacking the Himalayas may not be directly analogous (to what, I don’t even know yet), it’s an example at least of networking ideas as well as technology. As a side note, I’ve set up a Wireless Distribution System at home based on the fantastic OpenWrt.

Saddam Hussein and the “deplorable” Cult of Disclosure

January 2, 2007

More relevant thoughts from The Register:

New media pundits belong to a cult of disclosure – the more information we have available to us, the wiser we will all be. If we could only publish everything, and make it instantly accessible to everyone, we’ll have reached a higher state of consciousness. For example, this belief is beautifully illustrated by the claim that “Widely Available, Constantly Renewing, High Resolution Images of the Earth Will End Conflict and Ecological Devastation As We Know It” – that one (if you hadn’t already guessed) comes from a Google marketing guy.

Arguing against the mobile phone footage of Saddam’s death (I was under the impression that the proceedings were being recorded by the Iraqi Prime Minister’s official photographer, but that’s another matter), John Prescott has described the situation as “deplorable”.

Of course, full disclosure of archaeological activities is quite different from the depiction of an execution, but it’s an interesting subject nontheless and relevant to my previous (elsewhere) discussions of the downfall of CeauŇüescu, archaeology and the media.