Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Thoughts on why #PokemonGO and Archaeological Heritage AR went.

So, after an INTENSELY LONG HIATUS due to work constraints, I thought I'd put a quick piece up on the Pokemon Go phenomenon, mostly because any widescale human trend is super interesting, but also because I have a residual interest in Augmented Reality that is probably Neal Stephenson's fault. This is largely brought on by a terrific article in Forbes featuring Andrew Reinhard of #archaeogaming fame posted in the Women's Digital Archaeology Network by Lorna Richardson.

(here is a video of people in New York freaking out over a rare Pokemon)

The article mostly lays out past attempts at engaging people with heritage, a lot of which was pretty groundbreaking considering Pokemon Go is just about the first popular AR game and it's taken 10+ years to even get that far. Particular shout outs to Stu Eve and his projects over at Dead Men's Eyes are necessary -- if you can smell the Pokemon in the next release, you'll have innovators like Stu to thank. Or not. I'm not really sure how a Pokemon smells. Hamster-y? ANYWAY.  Andrew drew my attention to the whole thing (baffling instagram shots eventually explained by mass hysteria in the press), which he's now written up here, as well as the Forbes article, following on encountering this well thought out post on why Pokemon is the anti-heritage (and not even really AR) by Stu and a bit of ri-post-e (sorry) by Colleen Morgan playing Pokemon's advocate.



So, generally, I've been thinking about this a lot, particularly in the context of why previous efforts didn't take off -- and of course there's no guarantee that this is the dawning of a brave new age, as Stu points out. I suspect a combination of the increasing social acceptability of staring into your phone all the time (remember the etiquette of 2006? no, no one else does either) and the wide-world approach explains quite a bit of the mass appeal, with a little side dish of nostalgia. It occurs to me that site-limited stuff never seemed to do much.
I find all of this really interesting in terms of implications for AR engagement with bioarchaeology and palaeoanthropology; my stuff was always balancing neanderthal heads or spotting skeletons; maybe Pokemon GO shows us this just isn't the way most people want to interact with their heritage? Maybe the value-added of Pokemon GO is in the searching out the unexpected, and seeing an Eevee at Stonehenge prompts the same delight as seeing Dali's Lobster Telephone.
Proof that humans (read:me) find surrealism HILARIOUS

Meanwhile maybe the AR designed for a specific site lacks that sense of discovery, or interaction patterns are rather too close to an audioguide tour to hold our attention? Kate Ellenberger has designed a bespoke archaeology Pokemon GO event in Binghamton NY that seems to indicate that the combination works well, and that kind of tour guide experience might overcome Andrew's initial concerns about lack of content, so I'm not sure if that's really true, given the technical skills and general wit of the Hertiage AR crowd -- but maybe it's something to think about. Maybe when the Facebook of AR becomes a reality, and we are all capable of adding social or gaming layers to community space, the reasonable criticism Stu presents about the lack of information and lack of interaction provided by a game like Pokemon Go can be overcome. And the privileged subset of the world that always has its phone out finds static cartoon chicken-foxes more interesting than archaeological heritage can be gamed into submission.

Apologies if I left a lot of amazing AR projects out of this post, I am super not supposed to be using my daily word count on this. No one tell my editor. ;)

NB EDITED 28 Jul 2016 to update w reference to Kate's project and fix some typos.

Friday, 24 April 2015

The (old) New Churchyard -a way tl;dr excerpt on those Crossrail Skellies


Mostly, I thought I ought to put this up as a tribute to the late Bill White, who was a font of knowledge on all manner of Londoners long since gone to ground. What I’ve recorded here as ‘pers. Comm’ can now be found in the published monograph (cite), but I like to remember it coming straight from Bill himself; his funny, fascinating I insights that I would slowly absorb along with the heat from the mobile radiator set against the arctic cold of the infamous Rotunda.

Excerpt below from my phd (Hassett, B. R. 2011. Changing World, Changing Lives: Child Health and Enamel Hypoplasia in Post Medieval London. London: University College London).

The New Churchyard at Broadgate (LSS85)


The New Churchyard was established in 1569 as an extramural interment ground for the ‘overflow’ of deceased from city parishes though it increasingly became associated with the Bethlehem Hospital nearby and came to be known as Bethlehem burial ground on later maps (Harding, 1998; Harding, 2000). The last burial in the New Churchyard was recorded in 1714 (B. White; pers. comm.); inhumations in this assemblage are the earliest group studied. The cemetery was varied in socioeconomic composition, accommodating not only those who could not afford the sometimes exorbitant burial costs in their own parish, but also burials for which their simply was no room in times of catastrophic mortality (i.e. plague years). It also functioned to absorb all of the London dead who did not belong in the traditional place of burial, the home parish, for reasons of penury, anonymity, moral failure, or religious dissent (Harding, 1998; 2000).
The burial assemblage studied here was recovered during the Broad Street excavations carried out by the Museum of London Archaeological Service (MoLA) from 1984 from an area near Liverpool Street Station in east-central London. This assemblage is possibly the least economically or geographically coherent used in this project. There is a strong suggestion in historical accounts that the dead in the New Churchyard largely represent a particular class of Londoner, aliens and those of low socioeconomic standing rather than a mixed group organised on more traditional, geographically-bounded parish lines.
The location of the cemetery itself reflects its role in housing the marginal after death. It was set up outside the City walls in what would become the suburban parish of St. Botolph Bishopsgate, but was in the mid-1500s a landscape of fields and open spaces. The land was adjacent to the small church of Bethlehem and the land for burial a gift of the Mayor Sir Thomas Roe (or Rowe) in 1569, who subsequently buried his wife in the new ground (Stow, 1598). Further building in the area would see the construction of the infamous Bethlehem Hospital, or Bedlam, nearby (Harben, 1918), and there is considerable interest on the part of Victorian chroniclers of the London dead in the prospect that the burials represent the inmates (Holmes, 1896). Residential building on what remained of the ground seems to have been carried out in the 17th and 18th centuries until eventually Broad Street Station, later Liverpool Street station, was established in 1875 (Harben, 1918). The development of Broad Street appears to have revealed considerable amounts of human remains; many of these are attested as uncoffined, and ‘collected into heaps’ (Macdonell, 1906p. 87) . It seems possible that these ‘heaped’ remains originate at least in part in the mass burial pits London is said to have resorted to during times of epidemic mortality, particularly during plague years, Stow reports a plague burial ground near Old Bethlehem in Moorfields (Harding, 1993; Macdonell, 1906; Stow, 1598). The alternate possibility that they represent simply disturbed remains hastily reburied during earlier construction is dismissed by reference to later sequences of street foundations by an early researcher into the morphology of the English skull, who reports on cranial measurements taken from a large group of skulls uncovered during excavation of a latrine in 1903 and previous excavation in advance of the foundation of Broad Street Station in 1863 (Macdonell, 1906); these were apparently curated at University College London though no trace remains of them. The number of individuals in the assemblage used here who may have been interred in some form of mass burial pit is unfortunately unclear, but there is the suggestion that the earliest burials excavated by MoLA were from mass burial pits and many of the later burials were inhumed in oak coffins (B. White, pers. comm.).
This extra-mural location was apparently not viewed very favourably by Londoners; burial in the New Churchyard was appreciably cheaper than in many parish churches. Harding (2002, p. 97) cites a Katherine Chidley in 1641 who describes burial in ‘Bedlam’ as the ‘cheapest she knows’.  Several parishes record burials of their number in this New Churchyard, among them All Hallows Honey Lane (Keene and Harding, 1987), but it may have been particularly used by the local parish, St. Botolph Bishopsgate (Holmes, 1896). Poverty was not the only impetus for Londoners to seek (or accept) burial there, however. A large number of inhumations in the New Churchyard may derive from times of epidemic mortality, as mentioned above, and may have come from many different locations in the City or in the suburbs.
There were other reasons to actively choose to be buried in the ground as well; chief among these was the sort of identity politics of religion which was such a salient feature of the late medieval and post-medieval city. One of the clearest examples of this can be seen with the popularity of the New Churchyard as a burial ground amongst the gathered churches of the late 16th century. Robert Lockyer, a rabble-rousing proselytiser for the Leveller movement, was very publically mourned as he was interred in the New Churchyard; both his interment in the cemetery and long public funeral procession were highly politicized, public acts (Gentles, 2004). Other members of the Gathered churches and foreign Christians also specified their desire to be buried in the non-denominational ground (Harding, 2002). The Dissenting religionists interred in the New Churchyard were not by necessity poor; many of them were comfortable burghers such as Ludowicke Muggleton and John Reeve, founders of the short-lived (and very small) 17th century Protestant sect of Muggletonians (Lamont, 2008).
          One Robert Greene (1558-1592) provides a lively example of another of the paths leading to the New Churchyard (Harding, 2002). Originating in Norwich, he may at some point have entertained notions of becoming a physician, and obtained degrees from both Cambridge and Oxford (Newcomb, 2004). He may have subsequently married, impregnated, and abandoned a wife in Norwich, after divesting her of much of her fortune; in London, he became a well known libertine, actively cultivating his own legend as witty, irreverent figure in a series of pamphlets. He wrote plays with the group known as the University Wits, which also included notables such as Christopher Marlowe, and left behind a considerable literary output. Nonetheless, he ended his days dissolute and destitute, dead of ‘eating too much pickled herring and drinking too much Rhenish wine’ according to contemporaries (Kinney and Lawrence, 1990, p 157). He was buried in the New Churchyard 1592, and an image of him in scribing away in his funeral shroud was published by fellow writer John Dickenson in 1598, somewhat ignominiously commemorating the character suggested as the basis for Shakespeare’s Falstaff (Dickenson, 1598).

Robert Greene shown writing, in his shroud. Plate from Dickenson, 1598.
Robert Greene devoted some of his limited time on earth to slagging off other writers: he did not think much of this Shakespeare guy.
 Aside from dissolute libertines and religious dissenters, the New Churchyard also absorbed the very poor (Harding, 2002). However, alongside the pauper’s graves and the interments of people who had not been able to afford the more expensive burial rates in the overcrowded London parish churches and churchyard, there were some more extravagant graves. Excavation at Broadgate uncovered some prestigious burial vaults, and a few of these contained coffin plates allowing identification of the remains interred within. Final publication of the excavated finds should provide more information on the higher status quotient of the assemblage (B. White, pers. comm.). With interments drawn from such a broad social range it seems precipitous to characterize the burial assemblage excavated at Broadgate as predominantly socioeconomically deprived or otherwise until further characterization can be made about the types of burials excavated; however those with a better knowledge of the material held at MoL suggest strongly that it is predominantly low-status in character. There is little prospect of funding at the present time for the reconciliation of all of the archived material. Incidental findings noted by B. White, curator (retired) of the Museum of London suggest that the archaeological evidence of high status burial at the site is at best misleading: the one identifiable name from a coffin plate is of a 48 year old Mrs. Ann Farringdon, who was judged unlikely to be the young (26-35) woman interred in the coffin to which the plate was attached. Further suggesting that reuse of the burial vaults may have confused matters is the cased of a lead coffin which is inscribed as containing four members of the Jenkes family but was found on investigation to contain the remains of no less than twelve individuals (B. White, pers. comm.).



*yes I stole that from Douglas Adams.


Dickenson J. 1598. Greene in conceipt new raised from his grave to write the tragique historie of faire Valeria of London; . wherein is truly discovered the rare and lamentable issue of a husbands dotage, a wives leudnesse, and childrens disobedience. received and reported by J. D. London: Richard Bradocke for William Jones.
Gentles IJ. 2004. Lockyer, Robert (1625/6–1649). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/47102.
Harben HA. 1918. Berwick Alley - Billingsgate Market. A Dictionary of London: Centre for Metropolitan History. p http://www.british-history.ac.uk/.
Harding V. 1993. Burial of the plague dead in early modern London. In: Champion JAI, editor. Epidemic Disease in London. London: Centre for Metropolitan History p 53-64
---. 1998. Burial on the margin: distance and discrimination in early modern London. In: Cox M, editor. Grave Concerns: death and burial in England 1700-1850. CBA Research Report 113. York: Council for British Archaeology
---. 2000. Death in the city: mortuary archaeology to 1800. In: Haynes I, Sheldon H, and Hannigan L, editors. London Under Ground: The Archaeology of a City. Oxford: Oxbow Books. p 272-283.
---. 2002. The Dead and the Living in Paris and London, 1500-1670. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Holmes I. 1896. The London Burial Grounds: Notes on their history from the earliest times to the present day. London: The Gresham Press
Keene D, Harding V. 1987. All Hallows Honey Lane. Historical gazetteer of London before the Great Fire: Cheapside; parishes of All Hallows Honey Lane, St Martin Pomary, St Mary le Bow, St Mary Colechurch and St Pancras Soper Lane. p 3-9; http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=8466.
Kinney AF, Lawrence J. 1990. Rogues, Vagabonds, & Sturdy Beggars: A New Gallery of Tudor and Early Stuart Rogue Literature Exposing the Lives, Times, and Cozening Tricks of the Elizabethan Underworld. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press.
Lamont W. 2008. Muggleton, Lodowicke (1609–1698). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/19496, accessed 19427 March 12010].
Macdonell WR. 1906. A Second Study of the English Skull, with Special Reference to Moorfields Crania. Biometrika 5(1/2):86-104.
Newcomb LH. 2004. Greene, Robert (bap. 1558, d. 1592). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/11418, accessed 11427 March 12010].
Stow J. 1598. The Survey of London. Kingsford CL, ed.


Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Repost from the MSU Archaeology Blog

Here follows a repost from the excellent MSU Capblog - check them out here!

Hello MSU! And hello followers of this blog. Since I fall into the former category, it's very cool to be asked to share a little bit about what has become a fairly all-consuming obsession project: TrowelBlazers. If you don't know us, please come be our friend. Or not, you know, it's cool.

The TrowelBlazers project is a born-on-twitter idea that took off from a handful of early career academics (post docs all) who joined in the general academic-internet wide horror at the type of 'inspirational' material produced by major research funders to encourage women to participate in science. If for some reason you missed the utterly patronising travesty that was the European Commision produced 'Science: It's a Girl Thing', please do feel free to watch it now. I'll wait.

Squirm inducing, right? I think what as a group we shared was the feeling that there was something particularly galling in the visual representation of women 'scientists' - that the only girls could ever be inspired to achieve academically would be by highlighting their sexual attractiveness.

This did. not. sit. well.

So, we started talking. We started googling. We asked twitter, facebook, friends, colleagues, and ourselves: did you have a role model? Was there an inspirational figure whose story you cant believe more people don't know about? What would a real inspirational woman look like? And wow, was there a response, both dug up by ourselves and submitted to our website. We trawled archives to find that same arresting visual 'wow' that, presumably, was what the EU video was after. And we found it, but we found it in pictures and drawings of real women, who had real contributions to the trowel-wielding disciplines (archaeology, geology, and palaeontology), and who had real and tangible effects on the women who followed in their footsteps. 

Virginia Grace
Image: American School of
Classical Studies
at Athens: Agora Excavations
Hilda Petrie
Image: EES Flicker


In a world where equal pay, equal opportunity, and gender balance in professional positions is still a long way off, the TrowelBlazers project hopes to be just a bit of a (very lighthearted) reminder that women have made amazing contributions to our fields, and even if they were denied the careers their male contemporaries had, they still, just by forging on, mentoring, guiding, and supporting the next generation, made a huge contribution to getting women out into the dirt.

Guest post by Brenna Hassett (@brennawalks) , on behalf of Team TrowelBlazers.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Why Bother? the final #blogarch question. Now with added answers!

Ok! Got distracted by other academic commitments, so fell off the #blogarch wagon for a bit, but back on for March and Doug's final question:

 where are you/we going with blogging or would you it like to go? 


"Where do we go from here?
Is it down to the lake I fear. 
Ay ay ay ay ay ay..."


Or, as several of my colleagues would put it, why am I wasting my time writing non-peer reviewed anything? Why would I share anything about my work when people could find out and use it themselves, without giving me credit? I've encountered time and again the repetitive mantra that blogging is at best a waste of time, and at worst an ego-stroking, publicity-seeking exercise carried out by those who just can't hack 'real' academic research.

Owwww.

This does rather beg the question - why bother?

Well, one answer is, I increasingly don't. My personal blog languishes as research projects that really can't be discussed publicly (by request of the PI, but also because I work with medical data and that is a big no-no) take over my time. What was once an outlet for side projects I couldn't see leading to publication (looking at you, augmented reality skulls!) is now almost solely about communicating the experience of being an early career researcher. Because the field project I've been working on already has it's own fantastic blog, I don't feel I have to share that side of my work in a new forum. And finally, nothing in the news recently has pissed me off enough to write out a sarcastic rant

Of course, if you know me under my other identity, as 1/4 of Team TrowelBlazers, you also know I'm totally lying when I say I don't blog as much. I blog ALL THE TIME. A post a week, for a year, on awesome fantastically-be-hatted, snake-wearing, Olympic-fencing women archaeologists, geologists, and palaeontologists.* But the difference there is that the TrowelBlazers project is very much a community thing. Very loosely 'run' by a group of early career researchers, it's a very public-participatory experience: people submit posts almost as often as one of our team writes one. We've got short-form communications like twitter and facebook underpinning a larger community who are all talking to each other, which means our 'blog' is more of a forum than a missive. 

So, as I see it, a personal blog is nice, like a tl,dr twitter archive, or even a public journal. But aside from letting me vent, I'm not sure how much I get out of it. On the flip side is the TrowelBlazers project, which I get enormous amounts out of - energy, enthusiasm, community, networks, support, pictures of women climbing into tombs in very large hats, you name it. The difference is in the level of interaction, and at the end of the day, no one wants to be caught talking to themselves.





* not all at the same time.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Some #MuseumMemories for #MuseumWeek - Decommissioning Medusa

As it's #MuseumWeek in the world defined by the extent of hashtags this week, I thought I could follow up on @HenryRothwell's suggestion that I, ahem, explain myself. Or rather, I explain this photo:

I've managed to bring home my very own permanent installation, formerly a statue in the Natural History Museum Earth Gallery. It used to live amongst its fellows, God/Babbage, Atlas, Spaceman, Cyclops, and another one I've forgotten. Poseidon maybe.



I'm not saying it was easy. The statue clocked in at 2.65 meters, which necessitated a large van-

And several brave folk to lift it (this is why it comes in handy to know a lot of archaeologists. They don't shirk manual labour!)

But with a few hacksaw-and-hammer based modifications, we managed it. And while the exhibition space may be changing, at least I will always have a permanent and terrifying memory of my life at the museum :)

Friday, 27 December 2013

we be #blogarch December: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

Welcome to round two of the #blogarch adventure, orchestrated by Dougsarchaeology. This month, the question posed to those of us who still do this blogging thing is more reflective: what's been good about blogging? Bad? And what's been downright ugly?

Well geez.

The Good

Friends! Contacts, networks, people to talk to. But I think more importantly, blogging offers a longform elaboration of the casual conversations and offhand interests that the 140 character world doesn't really give you a chance to get into. For instance, I am pretty good at working up a #twitterstorm rage. I've had lots of social media chats with friends and strangers about things that seriously, epically get my metaphorical goat (looking at you, #aquaticape! also, druid in-fighting). But here's the thing about an insta-rage: you sound like a total jerk. Seriously. That rage needs context. And maybe pictures of the Judean People's Front (splitters!).


literally, any excuse to use this photo
The Bad

Oh hai impossible deadlines and epic time-suckage! Apart from this, personal, blog, I also play 1/4 of the instruments in the feminist archaeology tribute act TrowelBlazers.com . Aside from being totally rewarding and a heck of a lot of fun, a regular blogging time commitment is pretty hard to juggle with my postdoc (teeth!), my fieldwork (teeth! but in Turkey), and my personal health and hygeine.

 Honestly, the most difficult part of keeping up a blog has been the fact that I am strongly advised not to divulge any details of my current research by actual Acts of Parliament (shout out to the Human Tissue Act!). In addition to legal restrictions on what I can and can't discuss, there are organisational attitudes to navigate; i.e. nothing I say here can reflect too much on my employment over at the Museum That Dare Not Speak Its Name Without Being Cleared By the Press Office.  So between various pressures to keep mum and the general sense by people who sign off on my paychecks that blogging doesn't count for impact metrics with our funder, there are a huge number of disincentives to keep blogging.

The Ugly

I have never had an experience publishing my blog that I would describe as 'ugly' per se. Unintentionally, out-of-control, hilarious? Yes. Very much. I got so peeved with theories of an 'aquatic' period of human evolution (after we walked out of the sea that first time) that I went all Rudyard Kipling on the idea that it wasn't the sea -- it was SPACE! This was the sarcasm that launched a thousand tweets, and they were unapologetically funny. However, the relentless mockery in short form (tweets, my take on the subject for Radio 4) comes off as more snide than I ever intended the original post to be.

In the end though, the same things that were 'good' about blogging -- engaging with people who are neither me, nor my mother -- are the same things that were 'ugly'. The 'bad' is just part and parcel of the whole blogging experience - it takes time, which, for most archaeologists I would reckon, is in short supply.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

ah, but what have you done for me lately? a response to the #saa14 #blogarch carnival

...in which your correspondent participates, not for the first time (those were the good ole' days, eh Colleen?) , in the digital round robin that is a blogging carnival, with the hopes of someday seeing it at the SAAs.

Follow along with the carnival through the #blogarch tag or Doug's blog here.

November's question:
Why blogging? – Why did you, or if it was a group- the group, start a blog?

I'm guessing that like many of my blogging compatriots, I started my personal blog for a combination of reasons, starting with interest in a new bright and shiny thing (blogging! whatever next-- hoverboards? Hey, it was a different time), and running the gamut of self-publicising social media instincts, including the desire to join a conversation of peers, the chance to talk loosely and informally about things I was interested in, and the chance to share my devastating wit with the world at large.*  The world is a lonely place at the end of a PhD or in the dreaded gap between degree and employment, and I enjoyed the company.


Gertrude Bell, behatted.
I could say quite a bit more about my *other* blog, TrowelBlazers.com. The TrowelBlazers project came about organically, but was consciously designed and organised by our group, with planned posts and a duty roster - a very different scenario from the haphazard, laissez faire attitude I maintain with my personal blog. I think in the end this reflects the very different uses both are put to. Where TrowelBlazers is a wonderful, glorious, time-suck of discovery and funny pictures of women in outrageous outfits that we actively want to bring to a larger audience, my personal blog has very much become a repository or archive of small projects that would otherwise be left by the wayside. My personal blog has become a bit of a memento mori for the various shiny things I get distracted from my actual job (dental anthropologist / bioarchaeologist) playing with. I think this answers the second part of the carnival question: ' Why are you still blogging?'. Quite frankly, if I don't write down how I made an augmented reality app with bouncy Neanderthal skulls, I'm never going to remember.
* who uniformly failed to notice.