Archaeology is in an age where digital methods and practices are having an unavoidable impact on all areas of the discipline.  Research, teaching, compliance, preservation, public engagement, and publication – all are being transformed by digital tools and technologies.  The problem is that  there are very few opportunities for students, scholars, professional archaeologists, or closely related disciplines to build these vital digital skills. The Institute on Digital Archaeology Method & Practice hopes to address this by providing invited attendees the opportunity to receive hands-on instruction and experience in a wide variety of critical digital skills, tools, and technologies – especially those that fall outside the “traditional” suite of digital tools with which many archaeologists are already comfortable (CAD, GIS, databases, etc).

Institute Themes

The activities of the Institute for Digital Archaeological Method & Practice (lectures, workshops, etc) are organized to address a variety of themes:

  • Geospatial & Digital Cultural Mapping: the geospatial web, with particular emphasis on low cost or open source tools to display, visualize, share, publish, and creatively combine geospatial data for research, scholarly communication, and public engagement. Articulates with any existing “traditional” GIS experience that invited attendees may have, and draws heavily on the domain of Neogeography.
  • Publication and Scholarly Communication: the radically changing landscape of scholarly publishing and communication, and the ways in which archaeologists (public, private, scholarly, or student) can leverage new digital tools and platforms to build, publishing, and widely disseminate engaging archaeological “publications.”
  • Data, Linked Data, and Digital Libraries: digital archaeological data standards and platforms (both centralized and decentralized). Promote best practices as well as legal and technical standards for making archaeological data useful, usable, open, sharable. Methods, tools, and best practices for building digital libraries and repositories for preservation and access of archaeological materials, data, and information.
  • Public Outreach & Engagement: using a wide range of digital tools and techniques to engage with the public over issues of archaeological resources, preservation, and archaeological education.
  • 3D & Augmented Reality: Low cost and low friction methods, tools, and best practices to capture and present archaeological materials in 3D for research, publication, teaching, or public engagement. Special emphasis on physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, digital imagery or geospatial data and information.
  • Project Development & Management: the practical, day-to-day work and intangible aspects of developing and managing digital archaeology projects. Including issues of digital archaeological project sustainability.

Pre-Institute Activities

Before arriving at Michigan State University for the first institute meeting, invites attendees will be required to create an account on Codecademy (codecademy.com) and complete (at least) the following tracks: HTML & CSS (http://www.codecademy.com/tracks/web), JavaScript (http://www.codecademy.com/tracks/javascript), Make a Website (http://www.codecademy.com/skills/make-a-website), and Make an Interactive Website (http://www.codecademy.com/skills/make-an-interactive-website). While not required, invited attendees are also encouraged to complete the PHP track (http://www.codecademy.com/tracks/php). If invited attendees already have (demonstrated) familiarity with the content covered in these tutorials, they can be excused from doing theses pre-requisite exercises. In addition to the required Codecademy tutorials, invited attendees will be provided with a pre-institute reading list that they will be required to complete before arriving at Michigan State University.

Institute Meetings

The institute will bring together 20 participants to the campus of Michigan State University for two 6 day sessions in 2015 (August 17-22) and 2016 (August 15-20). The institute meetings will be made up of lectures, hands-on workshops, and rapid development sessions on a variety of digital archaeological methods, tools, platforms, and technologies.  Invited attendees will also collaborate with one another on a series of rapid development challenges intended to allow them to apply and experiment with tools and techniques covered in other parts of the institute. In year 2, the focus of the institute will shift from structured sessions to focused work on the attendees’ projects.  Invited attendees will formally present their project so that it can be critically and constructively evaluated by invited experts (and other attendees).  Year 2 will also include focused social development session intended to provide an opportunity for attendees to further refine their projects in the company of both the returning experts as well as their fellow attendees. Year 2 will also include a series of talks and workshops focusing on topics suitable to digital projects in development. These sessions include Data Preservation, Advanced Project Management For Digital Archaeology, and  Sustaining Digital Archaeology Projects. Invited attendees will attend both institute meetings.

Interim Year, Virtual Meetings, & Online Seminars

During the period between the institute’s year 1 and year 2 meetings, attendees will work on their proposed capstone projects. They will be able to call on their mentor as needed during this period, and will be expected to post regular project updates to the institute’s website (an ongoing project diary of sorts). In addition, invited attendees will participate in a series of virtual meetings (several of which will be open to the broader public) in which participants will be expected to provide regular updates as to their project’s progress. During the interim year, the institute will also organize and host a series of web-based seminars for institute participants on digital archaeology topics. The web-based seminars will be delivered by the co-directors, institute experts, or non-institute experts. The goal of these are to provide timely discussions of new technologies, methods, and best practices germane to the institute’s focus. While these seminars will be primarily for institute participants, they will also be open to the general public (as well as being recorded and posted on the institute website).

Institute Capstone Projects

While participants will attend lectures, participate in hands-on workshops, and collaborate on small scale rapid development projects, the organizational focus is on a significant digital archaeology capstone project which attendees will be challenged to envision, design, develop, and launch during the institute. At the end of the institute’s first meeting, attendees will be expected to present a formal proposal for their capstone digital archaeology project. On the basis of that proposal, they will be matched with one of the institute’s invited experts who will act as a mentor. If the nature of the project warrants it, attendees will be matched with more than one mentor. While participants are welcome to develop their projects individually, institute staff will look for opportunities to pair participants whose projects are clearly similar in theme, content, or technology. encouraging this team-based approach is particularly important in the case of non-archaeologist participants who are less likely to come with particular project (collection, dataset, question, etc) in mind. In cases such as these, institute staff will ensure that the non-archaeologist is teamed with an archaeologist whose project they find particularly interesting or engaging. Invited attendees are also welcome to collaborate on their capstone projects with colleagues who are not attending the institute. The specific focus of the capstone projects is totally open – invited attendees are free to choose a project that interests them.  The only requirement is that the project is open and accessible to the intended audience.

An Ethos of Openness

The institute will embrace an ethos of openness.  This means that all institute materials (learning materials, videos, etc) will be made accessible to the public.  All collaborative rapid development projects built by invited attendees during the institute will be made accessible to the public. Regular project updates and blog posts written by invited attendees will by open and accessible by the public on the institute website.  Invited attendees will be strongly encouraged to use open source tools, framework, and technologies to build their capstone projects.  Where appropriate, invited attendees will be strongly encouraged to release their projects (or critical technical components of their project) under an appropriate open source license on GitHub.

About the MSU Department of Anthropology

The MSU Department of Anthropology is highly regarded nationally and internationally for its strong regional and international archaeological field research and training program, ethnohistoric work, and publication record of both faculty and graduates. Over the past decade the department has become particularly well known for its focus on issues of interdisciplinary cultural heritage. The department houses the Campus Archaeology Program (campusarch.msu.edu), a unique program that works to mitigate and protect the cultural heritage resources on Michigan State University’s historic campus. The department, in partnership with MATRIX, also hosts the Cultural Heritage Informatics Initiative (chi.anthropology.msu.edu), a platform for interdisciplinary scholarly collaboration in the domain of Cultural Heritage Informatics at Michigan State University.

About MATRIX: The Center for Digital Humanities & Social Sciences

Founded in 1994, MATRIX is a Michigan State University Research Center of Excellence. A permanent research center housed in the College of Social Science, MATRIX is on par administratively with an academic department. Since its founding, MATRIX has successfully completed more than 100 significant digital humanities and heritage projects funded by the sources such as the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Institute for Museum and Library Services, the National Science Foundation, the Hewlitt Foundation, and the Mellon Foundation (among many others).

About Michigan State University

Michigan State University founded in 1855 as the pioneer Land grant institution is internationally known as a major public university in the United States, with a global reach. With over 47,000 students and 10,000 faculty and staff, we have advanced knowledge and transformed lives through innovative research, academics, and outreach for over 150 years. MSU is a member of the Association of American Universities, the National Association of State Universities and land-grant Colleges, and the Big Ten athletic Conference. Michigan State University is committed to intellectual leadership and excellence in both developing new knowledge and conveying that knowledge to its students and to the local, national and global community.