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Archaeologies

, Volume 5, Issue 3, pp 389–415 | Cite as

Fractured Media: Challenging the Dimensions of Archaeology’s Typical Visual Modes of Engagement

  • Sara PerryEmail author
Research

Abstract

As new media technologies increasingly populate our toolkits, questions arise about whether archaeologists are yet even competent users of orthodox media. Prior to engaging with emerging tools, this paper takes one step back to probe the subtexts of traditional two-dimensional archaeological images. Of interest is whether the many implications of these images can be made poignant via personally manipulating and imposing upon their form and function. Influenced by the work of various playwrights, artists, anthropologists, cultural theorists, and archaeologists, this paper examines what is legitimate in our practices of picturing the past, and what it means to explicitly—perhaps illicitly—interfere with typical archaeological visuals. Via tentative experiments with assorted maps, photos and illustrations, I endeavour to turn these orthodox modes of engagement into more defiant tools of discovery and critique. Ultimately, my objective is to disrupt convention and prompt archaeologists to confront and respond to themselves (and their responsibilities to others) in their everyday interactions with media.

Keywords

Archaeological visualisation Two-dimensional representation Enskilment Modes of engagement 

Résumé

Alors que les nouvelles technologies médiatiques peuplent de plus en plus nos boites à outils, des questions se posent au sujet de la compétence des archéologues à utiliser les médias *orthodoxes*. Avant de s’engager vers les outils émergents, cet article prend du recul pour enquêter sur les sous-entendus des images archéologiques bidimensionnelles traditionnelles. Je suis intéressée si les nombreuses implications de ces images peuvent être poignantes en les manipulant personnellement et imposant sur leur forme et fonction. Influencé par le travail de différents dramaturges, artistes, anthropologues, théoriciens de la culture, et archéologues, cet article examine ce qui est légitime dans nos coutumes d’imager le passé, et ce qui résulte d’interférer clairement—peut-être illicitement—avec les visuels archéologiques typiques. Par des expériences hésitantes avec diverses cartes, photos et illustrations, je tente de transformer ces modes orthodoxes de rendez-vous en outils plus pertinents de découverte et de critique. Finalement mon objectif est de perturber la convention et pousser les archéologues à s’affronter et à répondre à eux-mêmes (et leur responsabilité envers les autres) dans leur interaction quotidienne avec les médias.

Resumen

Ahora que las nuevas tecnologías de medios abundan cada vez más en nuestros kits de herramientas, surgen preguntas sobre si los arqueólogos son todavía usuarios competentes de los medios *ortodoxos*. Antes de entrar en las nuevas herramientas, este trabajo da un paso atrás para explorar los contextos de las tradicionales imágenes arqueológicas bidimensionales. Especialmente interesante es saber si las muchas implicaciones de estas imágenes pueden resultar conmovedoras con la manipulación personal y la imposición en su forma y su función. Influido por el trabajo de varios dramaturgos, artistas, antropólogos, teóricos culturales y arqueólogos, este trabajo analiza qué es legítimo en nuestras prácticas de imaginar el pasado y lo que significa explícitamente (tal vez ilícitamente) interferir en los típicos medios visuales arqueológicos. Mediante experimentos provisionales con mapas surtidos, fotos e ilustraciones, procuro convertir estos modos ortodoxos de compromiso en herramientas más osadas de descubrimiento y crítica. En última instancia, mi objetivo es acabar con las convenciones y animar a los arqueólogos a afrontar y responderse a ellos mismos (y a su responsabilidad para con otros) en sus interacciones cotidianas con los medios.

Notes

Acknowledgements

This paper is testimony to the power of interdisciplinary research, in the sense that it has been—and continues to be—crucially shaped in interactions with both archaeologists and visual, social and biological anthropologists. I owe much to Jonathan Marion, Peter Biella and the participants of the Society for Visual Anthropology Special Event Sessions at the 2007 American Anthropological Association meeting in Washington, DC. Several of the disruptive strategies at the heart of this essay were developed out of ideas worked through at these sessions. I am particularly grateful for the support of Krysta Ryzewski and the convenors of the Experience, Modes of Engagement, Archaeology session at the 6th World Archaeological Congress in Dublin, Ireland. Session participants Colleen Morgan and Sarah May provided especially meaningful feedback on my approach, as did two reviewers of this article. I am indebted to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the University of Southampton and the Higher Education Funding Council for England who have helped to fund aspects of my research. I extend many thanks to Brian Fagan, John Terrell and the publishers who so generously allowed me to reproduce—and manipulate—their images. More than anything, I appreciate the insights of Stephanie Moser and the continuous encouragement and artistic motivation of Ian Kirkpatrick.

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Copyright information

© World Archaeological Congress 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ArchaeologyUniversity of SouthamptonSouthamptonUK

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