The Ethics of Interpretation and Academic Practice: Article Review of “A Sexist View of Prehistory”

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.

goddess
Source

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.


Bibliography

AAA. (2012, November 1). Principles of Professional Responsibility [Web log post]. Retrieved November 16, 2016, from http://ethics.americananthro.org/category/statement/

AIA. (2016, January 8). Code of Ethics (2016) [PDF]. Archaeological Institute of America. Retrieved November 16, 2016, from https://www.archaeological.org/sites/default/files/files/Code%20of%20Ethics%20(2016).pdf

Fagan, B. (1992, March/April). A Sexist View of Prehistory. Archaeology, 45(2), 14-15, 18, 66. Retrieved November 16, 2016, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/41766076

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Virtuality in Physical Space: “Ingress” as Augmented Reality

Disclaimer: This post was written as part of my ANTH 370: Space and Place requirements in Fall 2016.


Ingress is a digital application game for mobile devices. The app uses the user’s GPS and mobile data information to place the player in an augmented reality map (Fig. 1, Fig. 4). The purpose of the game is to join one of two factions, and to capture cultural artifacts in the landscape. These artifacts include murals, statues, art installations, and major public buildings. The way in which a player “captures” an artifact is through the hacking and attacking of the defenses of a portal which has been placed in the game near where the artifact exists in unaugmented reality. Looking at a specific portal within Ingress—that of Macewan University Residence—I’ve worked to identify not only how the physical space within which Ingress exists effects players and non-players, but also how the physical and virtual spaces differ.

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Despite a number of gathering spaces located in the residence lobby, the design is overwhelmingly sociofugal. The inclusion of a moat separates people on the tables from the people on the couches from the people playing ping-pong from the people playing pool. Despite this, it is often a center of activity within the residence, as one or more of these spaces is almost always in use. There are large windows along quadrants C and D which look out to a small courtyard with trees and bushes. Between each of these windows there is a false potted tree. While there is extensive construction of the new Centre for the Arts and Culture building visible from the main doors, from the viewpoint of the C and D windows this construction is masked by the trees. This brings the nature of the outside in. The Residence building was designed with the intent of having a low carbon footprint, and the attempts made to bring nature into the space reflect that.

The sociofugal design of the Residence lobby is contrasted by the virtual design of Ingress. As a virtual space, Ingress is sociopedal in its design and requires a sense of cultura in order to be effectively navigated (Richardson 2003, 85-86). There are many opportunities to chat with other players through a built-in chat function, and real-time portal data is provided in the chat stream. Due to the player leveling functions in the game, it often takes groups of 2 or more to completely deplete enemy defense reserves on a high-level portal. As well, the primary method by which points may be earned for a faction is through linking of several portals together, an activity which is difficult to undertake alone (Ingress 2015). Though every portal will have images taken by players attached to the portal data (Fig. 2), due to the digital nature of the app Ingress excludes nature by design. Within the virtual space of Ingress there is a single point of focus, which is the portal. Within the physical space of residence this portal exists at the crux of the four quadrants. Due to the area of influence players inhabit within the game this portal is accessible from outside of residence, as well as in all spaces vertical to the portal. While the Ingress community is friendly overall, during the time allocated for research there was little activity, save for a few users talking about where they were planning to go for the day.

Within the physical space of Residence there are three areas which are the focus of attention, listed indexically: The main entryway, the front desk (which is visible immediately upon entrance), and a pool table. While the pool table is not immediately visible to those who enter the space, it exists as primary hubs of activity within the space. This is likely due to the fact that residents must pass by the table in order to travel to and from their rooms on the West side of the building. The most prominent interaction within the physical space which I was able to observe was that of the people at the pool table. As a small group of five people, I assumed from previous experience that passers-by would stop to join the game. This was not the case, despite the fact that the majority of foot traffic through the physical space at the time in question passed by the pool table. Despite this, the interaction amongst the pool players was familiar and friendly. This contrasted the majority of the traffic in the lobby who appeared to be passive, and only coming through the space in order to leave through the main entryway.

The interactions between the pool players mirrors that of the interactions within Ingress. While there was no activity to the portal at the time in question, there were several people talking about how they were to be spending their day (Fig 3). Though it was a public interaction, in that all players within the City were able to view the interaction, the conversation seemed private enough that no players joined the conversation past the original few.

The quadrant spaces of the lobby exist as expressions of material culture, as in each area there is evidence to their use (marks on the walls, implementation of equipment next to the pool table, etc). Other examples of material culture include posters advertising programs within the residence, and pamphlets available at the front desk. The space overarchingly s>mells of garbage (this is a smell I’ve become accustomed to and am no longer truly aware of). There is also a café which occasionally gives wafts of soup or cooking meats. The lighting specifically is interesting. There is overhead tunnel lighting from the entrance to the front desk, and again from the front desk to the elevator bays. This creates a sense of purpose for those entering residence to come to the front desk, or to return to their rooms. Within Ingress, the whole of the residence lobby exists as a piece of material culture through the existence of a portal. There are several challenge maps which may be undertaken, wherein a player is guided along a path of portals with the intent of hacking each portal along the way. The Macewan Residence portal acts as a starting point for at least three of these maps. As Ingress is available only on mobile devices there is a component of difficulty in discerning who is influencing the portal and who is not.

Residence exists as a primarily private space. The lobby exists both privately and publicly, depending on the time with which it is being accessed. Weekdays, from 7am-5pm, it exists publicly. At any other time it exists privately through the implementation of a “locked door” policy wherein residents and hotel guests must use their passcards to gain access to the lobby. The front desk exists as specifically private space. There exist private offices behind the front desk, and each of the elevator bays and room hallways require a passcard in order to gain access at all times. Ingress mirrors this, somewhat, in that people who do not have a player account are not able to access the full app. Though it is significantly more difficult to gain access to residence, this is not to say that access to the portal is allowed to all persons within the physical space of Residence. Additionally, although the portal is accessible from outside of the lobby, it is not accessible from all areas of Residence due to area of influence players exhibit (Fig. 1).

As an employee of residence I expected to be more aware of the actual number of people moving through the lobby than I was. The fact that there were in excess of 30 exits from residence in the span of only an hour was shocking to me. When not paying full attention to the movings of people within the space, it definitely feels like there is less movement than there is. Doing my quantitative analysis during a Saturday morning shift (one of the slowest shifts of the week) was beneficial as it gave me the opportunity to take more detailed notes on what, comparatively, little movement there was. I would be interested to see the amount and types of movement there is during a weekday morning shift, however it realistically gets too busy for me to take accurate notes while on shift, and the only time I’m not on shift during weekdays is when I’m in class so the opportunity just isn’t there.

As a relatively new player of Ingress I don’t necessarily have a fully fleshed out concept of what would be “normal” activity for the time period I chose. Having said this, I was somewhat surprised to see no activity to the portal at all. The Ingress community is very active in Edmonton, and through the app one is able to see all activity of all portals within a specific area (Fig. 3). Usually late nights and early mornings are the most active times of the day, but on my research day this was not the case. In the future I would be interested in seeing if there is a way to quantify the Ingress portal data through the app, if not to see the activity of a specific portal but of a specific area (ex. neighborhood, city, etc). This data is available in real-time, but finding a way to collect it over a period of time for reference later would be more useful.

Residence acts as a transitory space. This is true not only of the lobby physically, but also in that many who live in residence use the space as an in-between their parent’s home and their first apartment. This is mirrored by Ingress in the way that portals never stay captured by a single faction for too long. This is not to say that the two spaces are identical, as while the physical space is sociofugal in design, Ingress requires cultura.The juxtaposition of the two spaces together shows differing values within the differing communities. Where residence tries to get one out of the community (toward a degree, assumedly), Ingress pulls one in.


Bibliography

“Ingress.” Ingress Wiki. Accessed October 15, 2015. <http://ingress.wikia.com/wiki/Ingress&gt;.

Richardson, Miles. “Being-in-the-Market Versus Being-in-the-Plaza: Material Culture and the Construction of Social Reality in Spanish America.” In The Anthropology of Space and Place, edited by Setha M. Low and Denise Lawrence-Zúñiga, 74-91. Blackwell Publishing, 2003.

QGCon 2018 Application

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.


Bio:

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.

Website: mxmoireabh.com
Twitter: twitter.com/mxmoireabh

Session Title:

Ontologies of Practice: A Proto-Ontology of Queer Archaeogaming

Session Abstract:

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).

The map described in the above abstract may be found at: https://twitter.com/mxmoireabh/status/951213232416411649

Who is the inauthentic woman?: Fractal Recursivity in Charisma’s “King”

The song I’m looking at for my first media response is King by Charisma. I chose this song as it nods to and constructs femininity in a specific way, wherein there is an authentic woman via constructing an inauthentic woman by comparison. This construction isn’t new by any means, and is an aspect of fractal recursivity, wherein “the fact that the differences which are made to be iconic are used in the creation of an ‘other'” (2004, Andronis). That said: this construction is important to consider as a reflection of not only Charisma’s lyrical considerations of women (within the scope of this project), but also how said constructions have come to be (a bit beyond the scope of this project).

For the remainder of this essay I will be using the term ‘authentic woman’ as it is contrasted by the ‘inauthentic woman.’ That said: I cannot agree with the message sent through the lyrics, and actively wish to push back against the idea that there is an inherently authentic womanhood which is contrasted by an inherently inauthentic womanhood.

Image Source

I will proceed with a short analysis of the specific language used in the song by examining the chorus and several verse sections (although I have included the lyrics in their entirety, with exception of chorus repetitions due to brevity). Disclaimer: I do not wish to express negativity toward either the song or Charisma with my analysis, as I know absolutely nothing of Charisma proper and enjoy the fuck out of the song. I also appreciate any and all constructive criticisms and comments made either here or via Twitter.


Chorus:

Oh I
Can’t wait until I become king
say goodbye to the bullshit and shallow things
No more of their plastic and empty dreams
When I become king

Although Charisma sings that one day they will become “king” this is not to say that Charisma is rejecting femininity, but rather that she is associating her own feminine identity with respect to the power and authority attributed to the entextualized title of “king.” Whereas the authentic woman is able to gain power and authority through “say[ing] goodbye to the bullshit and shallow things” the inauthentic woman is trapped by her inability to move away from “plastic and empty dreams.”


Verse, Part 1:

Can you hear me now
Loud and clearly now
I got shit to say
So just hear me out
Look what’s winning now
Are we for real right now?
Building plastic dolls just to make daddy proud

Here Charisma positions herself as the authentic woman, who is subsequently assertive (“I got shit to say”), while calling to attention the contrast between herself and what I have deemed to be classed lyrically as the inauthentic woman. Whereas the authentic woman is assertive in her speech, construction of identity, and concerns over others (“are we for real right now?”) the inauthentic woman is constructed only for the male gaze (“building plastic dolls just to make daddy proud”).


Verse, Part 2:

Turn that bullshit off
Play my music loud
Just be who you are
Don’t let them tear you down
I’ve some self esteem
that’s what’s up right now


Verse, Part 3:

I’m on Skype with my friends like wassup right now
Bless my brother Cal
Cuz he helped me up
Peace to my hometown I’m in
LA now
No injected butts
No injected lips
Beauty lies within
That’s what always wins out

Here again we see that the authentic woman has “beauty [which] lies within” and rejects “injected butts” and “injected lips.” Additionally the authentic woman “always wins out” by virtue of standard deletion (ie. the inauthentic woman who has been modified in some way is the default, and the authentic woman is constructed through a process of trait deletion).


Verse, Part 4:

So if you is tired of fakeness as I am
Then give me the freedom to sing
I can’t wait I can’t wait to be king

I’d like to call attention here to the fact that I have chosen not to include chorus repititions as an aspect of my analysis, but I’d like to note that I do find it very interesting that the bridge (“I can’t wait I can’t wait to be king”) is repeated in addition to the chorus proper (2017, Vox). If I had chosen to analyze this piece on the basis of literary analysis as opposed to a constructive analysis this is absolutely something I would have focused on more.


Verse, Part 5:

Let me clear the air
This is not a diss
This is opposite of all that gossiping
This is common sense
Mixed with consciousness
This is ‘ I love myself ‘ that’s why I’m the shit


Verse, Part 6:

So why would I care?
If it’s not a hit
When was truth ever based on acknowledgement
I’ve got self esteem
Plus my squad is lit
That’s why we’re taking off like a rocket ship

As part of this analysis I cannot discount the effects of the music proper. The song itself is poppy, and uses a popular triplet meter. In using this as an example of the ways in which the musicality turns to other music for genre convention constructive practices it is thus possible to conclude that although Charisma sings that they do not require validation they are influenced by popular genre conventions and are simultaneously willing to influence said conventions. This is another example of fractal recursivity whereby Charisma is “tapping into this great collective artistic movement” (2017, Vox).


Verse, Part 7:

So don’t try to tell me what’s cool right now
I could care less of what’s in right now
The only thing I wanna be right now
Is me


Verse, Part 8:

So we don’t need you for [unintelligible]
We know that we can do anything
I can’t wait, I can’t wait to be king


As has been shown above this song and the language used therein are directly related to the topic of language and gender. Where the authentic woman has access to power, authority, and subsequently prestige the inauthentic woman exists as a “plastic” thing for the male gaze. Repetition is used to great effect in this construction, with specific associations of “king” (obviously) and “plastic […] fakeness.

In completing this analysis I am left wondering whether or this song could function without the foundational premise of authentic versus inauthentic womanhood? I would be interested to look more into the ways in which gender is produced through music (and specifically how music videos amplify this, something which is well beyond the scope of this analysis). Moving forward I would love to see other songs that people think follow similar lines of gender construction in addition to those which fight against gender/ed language in music. In reviewing the course objectives this song allows for a “discuss[ion regarding] the role of language in the construction of gender […] identities” in addition to facilitating my own “critical respons[e] to [an] original source readin[g]” and thus would be appropriate for further consideration beyond the short essay I have written here. I think that there is still consideration to be made here regarding the trajectory of the way/s in which music influences thought as it stands in opposition to the way in which specific people express their own ideologies. While this type of analysis cannot be undertaken on a single source, “King” would absolutely be a necessary aspect of a larger project due to its explicit engendering.

[A few] questions I’m left with:

  • How does racialization impact not only an analysis of the lyrics as they construct womanhood, but also influence further understandings of womanhood therein?
  • How do aspects of racialization of genre convention with respect to specific musical tropes or mores influence an understanding of the music overall?
  • How are trans women excluded from the category of “authentic woman” here? Would it be possible for the lyrics to continue to express their base message of us vs. them without excluding trans women? How?

Investing in a #SelfcareSunday 

We are our own best investments. Time for some self care!

On Thursday I was a panelist speaking on Linguistic Violence at Macewan University, and it got me thinking about self care. Too often I don’t take care of myself. With the hustle and bustle of school, freelancing, and Just Being sometimes I need a reminder to slow down!

So with all that in mind I made a short list of things I do/can do to practice self care for myself:

  • talking about it
  • reconnecting with community 
  • reaching out to people
  • doodling
  • painting
  • doing readings on-time
  • taking meds on-time
  • petting Sushi 
  • journaling 
  • meditating 
  • putting on pants
  • playing a videogame
  • having a bath
  • getting out of bed
  • listening to music
  • playing with putty
  • listening to audiodrama 
  • looking at family pics
  • writing
  • hugs
  • doing my hair
  • high fives 
  • looking at pictures of cute animals
  • smiling 
  • brushing my teeth
  • doing my brows
  • reading about cool shit
  • listening to podcasts 

What are some strategies you have to practice self care?