Thursday, 28 February 2013

CAA UK – a conference to twitter about

My busy week did have its highlight in London last week, where I attended the CAA UK conference. I was presenting the ceramiscene to the computing audience. Our paper ended up being the first after some fiddling with the original programme and this meant I ended up storming through the central London dragging my trolley in order to make it in time to the conference venue in East End.

This conference was unusual, since it was hosted by a commercial unit, namely L-P:Archaeology. It was also held in a bar – in the side building of the former Truman brewery. Suiting fine with these difficult economic times, the wine reception was a pop-up event in an empty shop front. All very NOW. By the screen there was a side screen for all the incoming tweets from the conference attendants and others. This was a concerning news to me and I did not dare to check the tweets when speaking – being videoed was bad enough. Apparently there were no too critical comments during the ceramiscene paper, so I got through it reasonably well, considering I literally ran to the front of the screen to deliver. My lunch bun was waiting for me in the first row.

The interactive nature of a conference with tweets flashing to the screen could be truly scary, but all content was very civilised. Some critical comments or questions were targeted to the key note speaker Mark Lane, who has edited a volume of World Archaeology on open archaeology. The irony of the eventual pay-for-view nature of the traditional publication series and the topic had not escaped other archaeologists and some authors dropped out when they heard about the set up. Lake was very protective about the publishing venue – and he referred to the fact that his University expects him to publish in a series of certain importance and impact – but most open archaeology publication do not have the standing, yet. He was generally critical and I was wondering if he truly is for or against open archaeology, but overhearing his comments to some delegates suggested that he is for it in principle. I did my duty as the Editor-in-Chief of the Monographs of the Archaeological Society of Finland and pointed out that most of the open publications are relative newcomers and we are just building up the reputation and a reliable and classy peer reviewer base.

The conference gave a good snap shot of the present state of computing. Since this year’s CAA International is in Perth, Australia, there were many European papers and delegates from Scandinavia and Baltic states among others. The papers covered cloud computing and cool mobile phone heritage apps. The laser scanning seems to be going slightly out of vogue and photogrammetry was lauded with some applications using historic records from earlier excavations as well. If you were not there, you can visit the papers, since they are to be uploaded onto YouTube. Ours can now be seen on YouTube.

As I said, we were conferencing in a bar. Not only was the venue comfortable with warm brick walls and comfy sofas for some delegates to sit on – a definite improvement from non-descriptive university conference facilities – but the conference had all the tech where its mouth was.

PS. It was sad that the Brick Lane curry was the worst I probably have ever eaten. While the colleagues around me were complaining about their curries being too hot, my aloo paneer was the mildest thing ever. It was like a Finnish spinach soup with some paneer thrown in. A curry as made by an old Finnish lady... But it was admittedly a Friday night and there were about 60 of us, if not more.

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