Epoiesen: a journal for creative engagement in history and archaeology (update)

Epoiesen continues to percolate away in the background. I thought y’all might be interested to know where we’re at. Because of the experimental nature of this project, the library was a bit nervous about having us in the ‘regular’ location on their server (I chose an importune time to ask: Carleton had just had a run-in with ransomware and other assorted digital shenanigans). Instead, we’ll be outside the firewall, in the ‘DMZ’. I rather like that. The URL will be a subdomain of the main library site. It’s active right now, but cloaked a bit longer while I get a few more pieces and responses in.

My ambition is to do a formal ‘ta da!’ at the start of the 2017-18 academic year. If you’ve got material that you think might be suitable please get in touch. Get in at the beginning! HeritageJam was a huge inspiration, so see their gallery for examples of things that might spark ideas. I’m also looking for people to act as Respondents – that is, peer reviewers who write (or craft) from a personal engagement with the pieces. They would write about the way the piece has moved them, or troubles them, or pushed them to see things differently, or sparks various thoughts… The idea is that this will start a dialogue that the reader can continue in the margins – Epoiesen is equipped with the Hypothes.is web annotation framework. (Every piece that goes up by the way – whether a submission or a response – will get its own DOI).

Below, I’ve copied the text from the ‘about’ page for this journal/zine/site.


ἐποίησεν (epoiesen)- made – is a journal for exploring creative engagement with the past, especially through digital means. It publishes primarily what might be thought of as ‘paradata’ or artist’s statements that accompany playful and unfamiliar forms of singing the past into existence. These could be visualizations, art works, games, pop-up installations, poetry, hypertext fiction, procedurally generated works, or other forms yet to be devised. We seek to document and valorize the scholarly creativity that underpins our representations of the past. Epoiesen is therefore a kind of witness to the implied knowledge of archaeologists, historians, and other professionals, academics and artists as it intersects with the sources about the past. It encourages engagement with the past that reaches beyond our traditional audience (ourselves). We situate Epoiesen in dialogue with approaches to computational creativity or generative art:

I think that generative art should ideally retain two disparate levels of perception: the material and visual qualities of a piece of art, and then a creation story or script and the intellectual journey that led to the end result. It possibly should bear marks of that intense interaction with the spatial environment that the visible work manifests.

Epoiesen accepts code artefacts, written submissions in text files (.md) written with the Markdown syntax, videos, 3d .obj files, html, or other formats (contact us if you are unsure: we encourage experimentation). Digital artefacts should be accompanied by the descriptive paradata or artist’s statement.

Submissions will be reviewed, and the reviews will be published at the same time as a Response, under the reviewers’ own names. Submissions and Responses will each have their own Digital Object Identifiers. Epoiesen eventually will be indexed; it is supported by Carleton University’s MacOdrum Library. Submissions are accepted at any time, and published as they become ready. Each year’s submissions will be organized retroactively into ‘annuals’. The entire journal will be archived and deposited in a dataverse-powered repository at Carleton University.

There are no article processing fees. We are generously supported by MacOdrum Library at Carleton University for at least five years.

This website is generated from a series of markdown formatted text files, which are run through a series of templates to create the flat-file html architecture.

Why Epoiesen?

Michael Gove, the Conservative British politician, said in the run-up to the United Kingdom’s 2016 referendum on European Union membership, “people in this country have had enough of experts”(Mance 2016). And perhaps, he was right. There is a perception that archaeology is for the archaeologists, history for the historians. On our side, there is perhaps a perception that speaking to non-expert audiences is a lesser calling, that people who write/create things that do not look like what we have always done, are not really ‘serious’. In these vacuums of perception, we fail at communicating the complexities of the past, allowing the past to be used, abused, or ignored, especially for populist political ends. The ‘know-nothings‘ are on the march. We must not stand by.

In such a vacuum, there is a need for critical creative engagement with the past (see Holtorf, 2007). In Succinct Research, Bill White reminds us why society allows archaeologists to exist in the first place: ‘it is to amplify the whispers of the past in our own unique way so they can still be heard today‘ (White 2016). We have been failing in this by limiting the ways we might accomplish that task.

Epoiesen is a place to amplify whispers, a place to shout. Remix the experience of the past. Do not be silent!

Holtorf, C. (2007) ‘Learning From Las Vegas: Archaeology in the Experience Economy’ The SAA Archaeological Record 7(3): pp. 6-10, http://www.saa.org/Portals/0/SAA/Publications/thesaaarchrec/may07.pdf

Mance, H. (2016) ‘Britain has had enough of experts, says Gove’, Financial Times Jun. 3, https://www.ft.com/content/3be49734-29cb-11e6-83e4-abc22d5d108c.

White, B. (2016) ‘Archaeologists: Please Remember Why We Exist’ Succint Research Nov. 2, http://www.succinctresearch.com/archaeologists-please-remember-why-we-exist/.


I am grateful to the following scholars who have agreed to be a part of this experiment, and be the editorial board:

Sara Perry, University of York
Megan Smith, University of Regina
Eric Kansa, The Alexandria Archive Institute
Katrina Foxton, University of York
Sarah May, University College London
Stu Eve, L-P Archaeology
Sarah E. Bond, University of Iowa
Gianpiero di Maida, Christian-Albrechts Universität zu Kiel
Gisli Palsson, University of Umea