small acts of disruption in archaeological publishing

Last month I presented at the Computer Applications in Archaeology Conference in Tübingen. I was in #s1 (full TAGS archive here) on ‘creative disruption’ in digital archaeology. Below, my slides and the speaking notes from my presentation.


1.1. first of all – see Katherine Cook’s Twitter Conference Paper because it is a much better discussion than anything I will do here this morning.

1.2. anything I say must be taken with a grain (or more) of salt. White guy on the internet – can get away with a lot that isn’t possible/permitted to folks who don’t look like me. So folks who look like me have to assume the risk so that others can flourish

1.3. A small experiment in failing gloriously in public – i want to put my publishing projects into a framework of information ethics & sensory archaeology.
– ABM: simple rules, complex results;
– small change: unpredictable results:

– complex systems teach us that small changes can lead to startling emergent effects
– i want to think about some small things we can do that disrupt
– the first small thing is to realize that ethical considerations have to be front and centre with digital archae – see the work of Meghan Dennis!

2.  – Allison Parish, poet & programmer at NYU: “a computer program is a way of projecting power. That’s the point of a computer program, to make a decision and then have it happen millions of times. That’s the real ethical dimension of this for me.

3. decisions taken in a digital medium, given the nature of computation (whose fundamental action is to copy), get multiplied in their effects. Hence, the choices, when there is a choice to be made (as there always is), are a force multiplier for what we think is important.

4. start from first principles:

  • fundamental action of computer: to copy
  • fundamental result of copying: connection
  • fundamental consequence of connection: extended sensorium
  • digital archaeology is an extended kind of digital kinaesthetia, we go intothe flow

5. let’s talk about the things of digital:

• Luciano Floridi: treats everything that exists as informational objects or processes (including bio and other entities, right into databases, agents, etc)
• everything that exists, exists in relation to everything else, with at least some minimum worth. Thus anything that destroys or diminishes data is entropy or morally evil
• ‘Information ethics describes a moral universe [an infosphere] in which not only is no being alone, but every being is indeed morally related to other beings, because in their well-being is connected the welfare of the whole system. [journals] are systems that affect larger systems with their actions, affecting themselves as well, since other systems are procedurally and informationally related to them… Information ethics considers moral actions an information process’. (Sicart discussing Floridi, video game ethics 130). He said ‘agents’; I said ‘journals’
• consider: a paywall is an immoral act because it promotes entropy, it diminishes informational entities
• journals, as we know and love them today fundamentally prevent connection; connection is a kind of sensation (especially digitally)

6. hamilakis 2013 – 415 – argues that aesthetics + politics share same ontological ground: the distribution of the sensible – what is allowed to be sensed + experienced + what is not, what is deemed appropriate or permissible to be sensorially appreciated + embodied and by whom – consensus that is established (imposed or tacitly accepted) sensorial order dissensus, the challenge to that order by pushing new + heterodox sensorial regime

7. to stop entropy, we need to restore sensation, that digital archaeological kinaesthesia of distant knowing

hamilakis talks not of senses but of a sensorial field that returns affectivity to our work – “sensoriality + affectivity also enable + invite a radically different approach to the presentation of the archaeological work, be it in scholarly publications, popular authors, or museum displays, thus creating affective instances + environments for diverse publics” h book 20

this is where my projects come into it. I think. You’ll tell me if I’m wrong, eh? ;)

8. ‘epoiesen’ – made – implies sensuous engagement with the past. ‘epoiesen’ on vases: what games were these people playing/ what did ‘epoiesen’ imply for them? about the human body, about innovations of depiction of human form on a medium that traveled – a ceramic social network

9. the first small act of disruption: a focus on the affectivity of digital or other creative work. a focus on process, and design, and valuing subjectivity

10. another small act: …which also ties to video game ethics: games, as the native art form to the digital age, are only ethical if the choices within are meaningful, consequential… thus publishing in Epoiesen also has to give the author a meaningful choice. here, in terms of licensing. author led. form led (text, photos, art, interactives). yes this is harder for me, but so what?

another small act: futureproofing. responsible to the digital entity, don’t lock in scholarship in proprietary formats. reproducibility, replicability guiding poles

11. collaborative reading – hypothesis

12. another small act: reframing peer review. not about quality assurance. not about guarding the borders. but rather about creating new webs of relationships. new conservations. publishing as a starting point, not a finish line. own names. DOIS to recognize the value of the labour, for to fit in the other games.

13. ODATE – some more small acts. Now, Hamilakis points out H book 9 – archaeology a device of modernity that relies on sense of autonomous and disembodied vision – on other hand, that attitude undermined by intensely physical, embodied interaction with things and environments. This is the same idea that Caraher points to in his ‘slow’ archaeology. digital archaeology is slow. (at least, the way I do it)

14. ODATE is a digital archaeology textbook environment that sits in the same sensuous framework as epoiesen. It comes with its own linux-based computer ( Digital archaeology – to learn it, to challenge it, to dispel the magic of Apple’s training us to expect ‘it just works’ – needs us to open the hood. no disembodied distance from the work of the machine. There is a sense of flow that comes working with data and computation that is every bit as sensuous and embodied as ‘dirt’ archaeology.

15. ODATE: digital archaeology is slow. It is organic. Built on github, language of forks and branches is a biological one. ODATE is always going to be wrong and out of date. That is a strength: with github, replicability and reproducibility and cutting and pasting of the bits that work for you . It will grow, there will be multiple copies. There will never be one canonical version of ODATE. That’s a helluva disruption, right there.

16. conclusion – small acts of disruption in archaeological publishing are actually large acts of disruption in how we think about, with, and through digital archaeology. if we think of archaeological publishing in terms of information ethics and archaeological senses, I think there’s one final small act of disruption that flows from that, and it’s this: we all can do this, already.