Presentation TAG 2010 Bristol

I just submitted an abstract for TAG 2010 in Bristol, for the session ‘Thinking beyond the tool: archaeological computing and the interpretative process’. Hope it gets accepted. Feel free to comment on the abstract!

‘Facebooking the Past: current approaches in archaeological network analysis’

Short abstract:
This paper will explore how current computational techniques in understanding present-day social relationships can be applied to examine the many types of relationships archaeologists are interested in on the one hand, and those they are confronted with in their data on the other.

Long abstract:
Facebook currently has over 500 million active users, only six years after its launch in 2004. The social networking website’s viral spread and its direct influence on the everyday lives of its users troubles some and intrigues others. It derives its strength in popularity and influence through its ability to provide a digital medium for social relationships. The key to understanding the strength of Facebook lies in the evolving system of relationships as well as the particular social interactions between individuals it is made up of.

This paper is not about Facebook at all. Rather, through this analogy the strength of relationships between people becomes apparent most dramatically. Undoubtedly social relationships were as crucial to stimulating human actions in the past as they are in the present. In fact, much of what we do as archaeologists aims at understanding such relationships. But how are they reflected in the material record? Do networks of Roman pottery distributions, for example, reveal the past social processes underlying them? How can we model and analyse them using modern tools? And is it possible and relevant to reveal past social relationships using computers at all?

This paper will explore how current computational techniques in understanding present-day social relationships can be applied to examine the many types of relationships archaeologists are interested in on the one hand, and those they are confronted with in their data on the other. It will focus on the way these existing tools direct archaeological efforts in exploring past social relationships.

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