Caught in the Middle of Tech Wars, Grad Life

For the past 20 years and more, graduate students in archaeology have been caught in the middle of a low-tech-high-tech war. One of the persistent issues we encounter in the course of a curriculum is that we are taught what our professors were taught, and what their professors before them were taught, with little room to budge. This teaching methodology is increasingly detrimental to our abilities to find viable employment opportunities in the post-grad school world, which is exponentially obsessed with lightning advances in technology and those who know how to wield it’s power. I know it has been a struggle for myself, barely getting a B in an Intro to GIS course offered at school, and stumbling through YouTube tutorials for arcGIS, Surfer, and AutoCAD. I have managed to pick up a few tricks working for a large CRM company with a substantial and quite cheerful GIS  and programming team.

InstituteDigitalArch-Logo-35Luckily for our current generation in grad school, the Humanities and Arts & Sciences has recently become interested in this thing call “Digital Archaeology.” The NEH funded an Institute on Digital Archaeology through Michigan State University. Research, teaching, compliance, preservation, public engagement, and publication – all are being transformed by digital tools and technologies, yet 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 addresses 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). What is so great about this is that you can follow these trainings and projects through YouTube and Twitter. I mean these guys are going to the Institute on Digital Archaeology, they are very active and accessible through social media. Second logical question is, okay that is great NEH, but how can I learn to incorporate new digital technologies in a productive and efficient way into my own field work or CRM work? Technology is supported to simplify our lives and make our work better right? This is where traditional curriculum takes a back seat to student and nonprofit groups who can bring in digital archaeology professionals and supplemental technical training that can be applied in the “real world.” One such resource is Professional Certifications for Scientists (PCS) that offers, as of right now, free courses on subjects like artifact identification or navigation. The Center for Digital Archaeology (CODA) is another site that offers trainings to archaeologists. codaOne of the CRM professionals making it easier for us anthrograds to gain the skills necessary to be competitive in this digital age is Chris Webster. He is the Chief Operating Officer at Codifi, Inc. which is a company devoted to paperless archaeology. This company provides all the support you need on the back-end so that you can just do archaeology, what you have been training for your whole life! Chris also runs his own CRM company DIGTECH, LLC and is the driving force behind the Archaeology Podcast Network (APN). It was first through the APN, specifically the show Archaeotech where I first began to learn about R Code, Python, and why it is important to have some semblance of photography skills. It was as easy as popping in some earbuds on my walk to campus to find out what current working archaeologists are using in the field, whether its drones, software, ipads, etc.

If you are now fired up, like I am, and are a full one hundred, where do you go from here? Well, practice makes perfect, so start practicing, start learning, and take advantage of all the free resources at our fingertips. Here is a techy-list of things that will help get you started in your new digital archaeology journey in the new year:

  1. Codifi Photoboard
  2. Compact Portable Power (also Biolite)
  3. ArchaeoTech Podcast
  4. SoilWeb (Free) USGS soil survey data app
  5. Meshlab (Free) 3-D object viewer
  6. Earthtones ($2.99) munsell soils app
  7. Theodolite ($5.99 on sale) augmented reality overlay app that displays real time GPS, compass, azimuth, bearing, range, and inclination right over the camera
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