A bit late, but in light of my revise-and-resubmit re: my original proposal here’s my revised presentation proposal for the Queerness in Games Conference 2018 as it was submitted April 14th, 2018:
To track the flow of information within archaeogaming, I have created a proto-ontology of archaeogaming as it may be perceived through a queer interdisciplinary lens. In an effort to express ideas in an accessible and interdisciplinary way a short explanation of both what archaeogaming is and does as a crux of archaeology and gaming will be provided alongside an explanation of the ontology-as-method approach taken by this project. This project began as a mind-mapping exercise, and the ontological method which has since been applied will be explained through that progression.
In order to facilitate this work, I have taken terms from the bibliographies of several texts and created a series of connections between these terms and an edited Canadian Archaeological Association ethics statement. Additionally, I have taken terms from the instructional manual of an early Pokemon game to demonstrate one of the ways in which this ontology may be put into practice. As this project works to identify potential sticking points and holes within the current practice of archaeogaming, I have come to this project through a lens of queer studies and discourse in order to showcase said sticking points with reference to a more established field of study.
As I have already presented this project at Currents (the Macewan University Anthropology, Economics, and Political Sciences Undergraduate Conference) as of March 3rd I have a good understanding of how to structure time for a 20 minute presentation:
5 minute archaeogaming explanation
3 minute ontology explanation
12 minute project talk (including explanation of future work to be done with this project)
Disclaimer: This post was written as part of my ANTH 320: Archaeology of Gender requirements in Fall 2016.
“A Sexist View of Prehistory,” written by Brian Fagan, is a well organized article in a compare-and-contrast format, with two secondary sources. While both sources are archaeologies of gender, they apply radically different approaches, and in this way they may be considered to be diverse if not in direct opposition. This being said, Fagan’s arguments as to the in/validity of each source could have been enhanced by additional sources. Fagan does make good use of descriptive analysis for the limited use of sources, however, and provides clear and detailed descriptions of each source as well as perceived boons and faults. A single image is provided by the author (in addition to a number of very delightful, and frankly huge, advertisements), however it is quite small, and is only of the cover of Marija Gimbutas’ Civilization of the Goddess as opposed to a figure or example from within the book. While technically appropriate, the article is not in any way enhanced by the image.
Fagan presents Gimbuta’s Civilization—and concept of a Goddess cult in general—as a popular trend of thought as opposed to an interpretation supported by archaeological evidence. Gimbutas, Fagan claims, uses only a vague interpretation of motif to generate grand inferences about neolithic and Bronze Age figurines and pots from Central Europe. Although these inferences are based in very little actual evidence they have been latched on to by the general public and academics alike, though Fagan doubts if many of them are archaeologists themselves. By way of contrast Fagan offers Christine Hastorf’s “Gender, Space, and Food in Prehistory” as an example of research rooted in contemporary archaeological practice. Fagan summarizes Hastorf’s research as being a study of the Sausa (Andean maize and potato farmers), having taken into account human remains, ecofacts (ex plant remains, seeds, etc), space distribution (ex compounds; kitchens, patios, etc), and ethnographic accounts. Fagan explains that Hastorf specifically examined the changes in diet, communal space, and gendered space post-Inkan conquer, as Sausa population groups changed after the Inka took control (A.D. 1460).
With regard to language use, in describing Civilization Fagan tends towards using more “flowery” prose-like speech in descriptions of Gimbutas’ work and adherents. Such speech is not used in describing Hastorf’s work. In isolating such language to descriptions of Gimbutas, Fagan tends to come off as biased by way of belittling Gimbutas’ work. While I am unaware of the cultural context of this article with reference to the socio-academic archaeological climate of the early-1990s, as an aged piece Fagan’s argument could have been strengthened by keeping a singular tone throughout the entire article. This being said I am not entirely sure if such a change matters in this context, considering how aggressively Fagan tears apart Gimbutas’ methods regardless.
In considering the course objective I believe this article does contribute to my ability to meet said objectives, as it provides summaries of differing interpretive methods for discerning gender in the ancient past, and forces me to consider the consequences of an archaeology of gender on anthropological and archaeological theories. Interpretive skills of some form or another are a necessary component of archaeology, and a comparative analysis of two different methods interpretation such as this is invaluable in highlighting differing standards of practice. As I appreciate the open-learning format of ANTH 320, in moving forward from reading this article I decided to the time to re-read the Archaeological Institute of America’s “Code of Ethics,” (AIA), and the 2012 American Anthropological Association “Principles of Professional Responsibility” (AAA). Although neither are specifically relevant to Gimbutas’ situation, they are both texts with which I have previous knowledge and thus seemed most appropriate for review. In doing so I cannot help but come to the conclusion that while I do not agree with Fagan’s tone in writing on Gimbutas’ Civilization I agree that at best Civilization is at best a very public interpretive misstep, and at worst an ethical misstep with far-reaching consequences. Moving forward I am interested in learning more about archaeological and anthropological ethical standards so as to better inform my position in situations such as this. Additionally, I am interested in learning more about ethical standards cross-communally (ex intercontinentally, etc). Although archaeological and anthropological ethics and standards of practice are topics which have come up in-class on occasion in my near-3 years of university I could likely count those occasions on one hand, which considering the effect ethical faults may have on people/s seems woefully inadequate in hindsight.
Politely: I believe that the purpose of this article is to describe the inadequate nature of Gimbutas’ approach to neolithic female figurines (and other artefacts), and to showcase an alternate approach by which gender may be studied through archaeological practice. Perhaps more realistically: Whenever an article addresses a single author as the source of a perceived problem in academia it can come across as “academic pummeling”—that is to say that because the author who is being addressed cannot immediately respond (and, due to the nature of publishing, they may never be given the opportunity to respond) it can seem as though Academic A is given an unfair advantage over Academic B in a “battle of words.” This is not to say that I condone Gimbutas’ position, but rather that the method in which Gimbutas’ position is being challenged marks the nature of academic publishing as a medium as being (generally) unilaterally discursive. Even if the medium as an entity is not to be considered in such a way, the genre of academic-on-academic derision is one which has existed through time and into contemporaneous publishing practice.
Decided to make my QGCon 2018 application public because conference apps always stress me out and I’m always curious about how other people put theirs together so I figured I should be demonstrative of the Academia I Wanna See.
Brieal is a fourth-year undergraduate honours student in the department of anthropology at Macewan University in Edmonton, Alberta. They’re interested in far too many things. Primarily, however, they’re interested in linguistic anthropology and language revitalization, archaeogaming and the people who do it, literary theory and its applications in things that aren’t English papers, and how these disparate ideas actually all make sense together (but only if you squint a bit, tilt your head to the side, and whisper “digital humanities” over and over). When they aren’t yelling their way through their degree they spending time with their shiba inu named Sushi and naps.
Ontologies of Practice: A Proto-Ontology of Queer Archaeogaming
To track the flow of information within archaeogaming I have created a proto-ontology of archaeogaming as it may be perceived through a queer interdisciplinary lens. This project works to identify potential sticking points and holes within the current practice of archaeogaming by placing practices and methodologies within the context of the potentials within queer archaeogaming. To facilitate this, I have taken terms from the bibliographies of several texts and created a series of connections between these terms and an edited Canadian Archaeological Association ethics statement. Additionally, I have taken terms from the instructional manual of an early Pokemon game to demonstrate one of the ways in which this ontology may be put into practice. The method for this project was originally designed as a mind-mapping exercise, however as it progressed it slowly became closer to an ontology in-practice. This is to be considered as a positive change, as in the form of a [proto-]ontology it may be better understood not only by people working within the archaeogaming community, but also potentially in the future by archaeogaming AIs.
This panel will consist of a short (approximately 15-20 minutes) explanation of what archaeogaming is and where this research fits into present archaeogaming practice, and is to be followed by a demonstration of archaeogaming-as-method by using the ontology to map how different resources may be labeled as queer archaeogaming (3 examples, approximately 10 minutes each).
Disclaimer: This post was written as part of my ANTH 320: Archaeology of Gender requirements in October 2016, and may or may not reflect my current assessment of the archaeogaming blog. That said I’d love to do an archaeogaming blog review in the future, which is why I’m posting my previous thoughts here today! 🙂
The blog I am choosing to review is Archaeogaming, which has been written by Andrew Reinhard since June of 2013 (Reinhard, 2016). Archaeogaming is a blog which I have been regularly reading since November of 2015 after having been introduced to the concept of archaeogaming via the Twitter account of the same name (@Archaeogaming). I have found it influential not only as a student of the social sciences and humanities, but also as a person who really just enjoys playing video games. The most prominent reason for my choosing of Archaeogaming for review beyond familiarity, however, is that I believe the blog has the opportunity to directly influence my final research paper in ANTH 320: Archaeology of Gender via focused reading into the construction of a definition of archaeogaming as practice, as well as exposure to methodology within the sub-field of archaeogaming.
The first post I decided to focus on is the “Archaeogaming Map (Revised)” (Reinhard, 2015). This post was originally published on December 18th, 2015. I chose this post as, in my opinion, it provides the clearest definition of what archaeogaming actually is as a field of practice. The intent of the post is clearly to provide a vehicle for the map itself to be presented. Reinhard explains in the blog post that the intent for the map is to perhaps act as an inspiration for those already in the field of archaeogaming, or as definition for those curious about the field. The tone of this post is very short and to the point compared to subsequent posts considered for this review. This being said this works in the favour of the content as the blog post acts only as a vehicle for the map to be presented, and allows for Reinhard to keep reader focus on the image of the map itself which is a clear description of several archaeogaming topics arranged as heading > subheading > topic (Reinhard, 2015). Additionally, the map uses an appropriate image from a secondary source (the webcomic xkcd), and the secondary source is linked to with licensing information in-post. The word, grammar, and spelling choices of the map are additionally appropriate, and in at least one instance clever (Figure 1).
The use of a spelling error in this situation not only forces the reader to pause to reconsider the thought, or re-read the line, but it is also mimetic to the “glitch as artifact” described in the line immediately above. The idea of creating a visual representation of a field of practice is not unheard of, and having the map be so detailed is ideal for an emergent field where many theories, ideas, and methodologies have either yet to be defined or yet to become standard practice. The information within the map presented appears to be accurate based on my own understanding of archaeogaming, however no explicit sources are given. This being said Reinhard makes clear in the blog post that the map is based on lived-experience, and an assumption can thus be made that the Archaeogaming blog itself is the source.
The second post which I decided to look at is “Archaeogaming’s Grand Challenges,” which was originally posted on January 25th, 2016. The introduction establishes a clear purpose, and provides tonal reference for the “Achievement Hunter”-esque (Rooster Teeth) body of the post. The purpose of the post—to define “Archaeogaming’s Grand Challenges”—is explicitly outlined in the title, and in the prompt Reinhard attributes for the post. Tonal reference is found in the use of the Xbox 360-style achievement image at the outset of the post, and subsequent explanation: “Because archaeogaming is so new (at least in the formal, academic sense), we have a number of mountains to climb, or, to keep this on-topic with video games, we have a lot of achievements to unlock” (Reinhard, 2016). The introduction additionally provides background information on the history of archaeogaming as a field of practice, and provides links to other blogs and websites on the subject. While the introduction fulfills the purpose of what the post is about, and some history on the subject, the tone isn’t consistent with the rest of the post. While Reinhard explicitly demarcates where the achievements are to begin the demarcation seems oddly placed at approximately one third of the post in, as having the image at the outset of the post makes it seem as though the entire post will have the achievement-hunting tone. Having the demarcation so late also causes pacing issues as the body of the post thus seems comparatively short to the introduction. In my opinion the post could have been improved—and had more impact—if the tone were to remain consistent, and the introduction be edited for length. This being said even the seemingly brief use of a writing tone which is mimetic to video game play is fun and appropriate considering the topic of the post being “challenges to [your] archaeology,” (Reinhard, 2016) and it works to bring the reader into a state of mind which connects both archaeology as practice and video games as subject.
The third post which I decided to look at is “Archaeology in Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition.” This post was originally published on October 25th, 2015. I chose this post as I played 2013’s Tomb Raider, and is one of only two posts which comes when using the on-site search function with the term “gender” as of October 10th, 2016. The post is a summation and analysis of the 2014 Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition, which is itself an update of 2013’s Tomb Raider. The practice of reviewing games is by no means anything new, but what sets this post apart from other summaries and reviews lies in the focus of the post on archaeology. Reinhard clearly identifies archaeologists as characters, artifacts as in-game items, and archaeological methodology as game-play. In the process of identifying archaeologists as characters Reinhard also makes note of gender representation, and gender disparity within the game-space through the characters of Lara Croft and James Whitman. In focusing on characterization Reinhard notes that the gender dynamic between Croft and Whitman mirrors real-life gender dynamics in archaeological field-sites, and makes reference to the Every Dig Sexism project which “[catalogues] every day sexism in Archaeology and Heritage” (@everyDIGsexism, 2015). With reference to the in-game world and items word choices are appropriate, and work to bridge the virtual archaeological space with real-life terminology and practice. An example of this is defining the game’s use of the term “relic” as “a generic term for an artifact of interest” (Reinhard, 2015).
Images are used to positive effect, and at various points in the post. While a “note” appears at the end of the post attributing screen-captures to Reinhard there are two images which are a) not screen-captures, and b) not otherwise annotated to their original source. These images include a comparison of James Whitman, and James Wright (Figure 3) and later on a comparison of graphical output between Sony Playstation console generations (PS3 to PS4) (Figure 4).
Table 1. Archaeogaming 2016 Post Frequency
# of posts
In seeing the consistency with which Archaeogaming has maintained posting updates in 2016, with the exception of June 2016-present day (Table 1), my initial expectation in conducting a close reading was that there would be more posts which would be directly relevant to discussions on gendered archaeology and the archaeology of gender. While many of the posts may be forced to fit into a discussion on gender, few explicitly address gender as either an aspect of gaming or of archaeology. This being said in my general survey of the blog I found that the blog periodically links out to other blog posts on the subject of video games, archaeology, and archaeogaming respectively which are written by women. Of the three posts summarized here, this only occurs in “Archaeogaming’s Grand Challenges,” however. Gender is also incorporated via open comment sections. As of October 12th, 2016 the three posts summarized in this review contain open comment sections, and based on my own Euro-Western analyses of the names of the commenters all comments are made by women. Despite the concerns which I have outlined above I believe that Archaeogaming is an invaluable resource of theoretical and methodological archaeological data, albeit more generally within the field of archaeology than specifically within the scope of gendered archaeology or the archaeology of gender.
For ease of access each slide has been posted here, sans PowerPoint notes (because most of them can be found here). That said when this was presented at Animethon I had a co-panelist, CJ, who influenced both the direction and scripting of this version of the presentation. As I’m being graded for this version, however, I’ve paraphrased and edited his input to be read as more natural to my own voice and included him as a reference in my bibliography.