Sunday, 14 May 2017

Forms of dwelling

This year saw the publication of my and Phil Mill’s edited volume Forms of Dwelling: 20 years of taskscapes in archaeology. This volume was a result of two different conference sessions, one in the Bournemouth Theoretical Archaeology Group (TAG) conference in 2013 and the other in the Nordic TAG in 2014. Naturally, not all participants could not submit work for various reasons. Many people were busy publishing their research in ranked journals and you cannot blame them. You never know when an edited volume actually will come out.

Nevertheless, the most important presenter did send content. Tim Ingold whose idea the taskscape concept was and from whose 1993 article ‘The Temporality of Landscape’ the 20 years was calculated did write a very personal piece on the circumstances in which the concept was formulated. He also explains how he thinks that taskscape is a redundant concept and a landscape incorporates it. He is surprised that the taskscape has been so popular especially in archaeology and how it has taken a life of its own. As an archaeologist I am a bit sad that he did not celebrate his contribution to archaeological theory more but he writes from his own point of view considering he has already long since moved on. His work on lines and meshwork is similarly influential in archaeology.

In a way as a counterpart of Ingold’s article was another very personal piece of work from Andrew Fleming. It was not so much on taskscape, but it was worth publishing from the view point of landscape archaeology and as a personal opinion on certain aspects of archaeological theory. In his article Fleming discusses what he calls a ‘re-humanisation project’, postprocessual way of getting humans into archaeology. His approach is highly critical, coming from a long-term practitioner of landscape archaeology, and he prefers to aim at ‘re-historisation’ of the past, mainly by investigating the relationship between humans and the landscape.

The third paper was not presented in the original sessions but Killian Driscoll was filling a gap between the original creator and later appliers by being one of the users of the concept in the early 2000s. His paper ties the latest research on Mesolithic Ireland to the threads of thought he has had in his research throughout his career. This was kind of finish to the first part of the book and our own article on our ceramiscene concept started a short series of three contributions on classical archaeology, us on ceramiscene and Republican and Early Imperial landscape at Nepi in central Italy, Pirjo Hamari on roofscapes in the Nabatean area in the Middle East and Arja Karivieri on religious taskscapes in Late Antique Athens.

After the classical interlude the papers from the Nordic and British TAGs were presented in a chronological order. The highlights, to name two, included Astrid Nyland’s work on Norwegian stone quarries and Matt Edgeworth’s article on taskscapes, ceramiscenes and flowscapes in the Black Country. Not that the Sámi sacred places or skyscapes are less interesting as the work of Tiina Äikäs and the team led by Tom Gardner showed. The other topics touched upon diachronical landscapes in Norway, Maori landscapes and secret landscapes. The book was finished with a real scoop. The concluding remarks were written by professor Julian Thomas whose work Fleming was criticising. I liked the circularity of actions in the volume and I think these two finished in good terms in the end. They both clearly love theory after all, even if they approach it somewhat differently.

Editing a volume is hard work, but the result was definitely worth it. The cover photos chosen from the material provided by the authors have been beautifully inserted in a three-tone graphic design. We could not be happier how it looks like. The only thing we were wondering was the lack of index. However, the articles were so far apart from their themes that this would have been a lot of extra work for something that would not be as useful as in a monograph or a more focused edited volume. This was not only about Britain or Nordic countries or the Mediterranean.

The book is on same by the Oxbow Books and you can find here.

Monday, 1 May 2017

A true innovation

Sometimes you just hope you had got the idea. But somebody else did when it did not even occur to you. However, it does not make you marvel the quality of the original innovation any less. On the contrary, it makes you appreciate the originality of the thinking and the work put into realizing the plan.

Basically, it was a simple idea. A group of scholars take turns in tweeting under a unique hashtag. Everybody gives a presentation in a set time with more or less set number of tweets on their selected subject under a common theme. The other scholars follow the hashtag or like the presenters in order to follow the presentation in real time – or return to an earlier presentation. Naturally, it took an advertising campaign, selecting or approving from abstracts the final presentations and circulating a timetable and people’s handles. The timetable took into account the time difference between Europe and the Americas so that it started with more British presentations and finished with the American ones. This was a set put together by someone who understands how Twitter works, what is possible and how people communicate there.

This was the archaeological Twitter conference on public archaeology, i.e. Public Archaeology Twitter Conference (#PACT) that was imagined by Lorna Richardson. It run on Friday starting at 9.30 am British time and finishing only at 11.30 pm. Everyone got a 15 minute time slot and the subject matter covered everything from the accessibility of archaeology and the gender relations in archaeology and the exploitative nature of labour in early career archaeology to gaming as heritage to the endangered sites in the Middle East and presentations of more traditional field projects. The key note lectures took place the evening before and were given by Professor Shawn Graham from Carleton University and Dr Colleen Morgan from York University. They had slightly more time to their topics about bots in archaeology and a personal view to the poetics of digital archaeology.

Lorna was inspired by the World Seabird Conference so it was not totally original thinking but applying it to archaeology required quick reasoning and adaptation. This all was against a background of some fierce critique towards archaeologists twittering from some corners. As one participant commented, you could take part into a conference from your own kitchen. You can still check the programme and work through the conference now.

I can only say that I did retweet some of the advertising material along the process. I did enjoy the resulting conference as a spectator. Now I have to see if further ideas come out of this.

I should remind people that I and Philip Mills have got the 20 years of taskscapes volume out, but that will require a blog post of its own next week.