Mar 072015
 

Stranger Visions

In her 2012 piece Stranger Visions, Heather Dewey-Hagborg used DNA found in public left in chewed gum, cigarette butts, and hair to construct estimated face busts.

The question behind Stranger Visions actually came to me as I was sitting in my shrink’s office. I was staring at this generic print of a painting above the couch I and I noticed that the glass covering the print had a crack in it. As I looked closer I observed that in that crack was lodged a single hair. Now, as I am sitting there, ostensibly with the purpose of introspecting and talking about my feelings, my mind wanders to imagining who this person might be… Where are they from? What do they look like? How crazy are they?

More recently, Dewey-Hagborg developed a spray to erase 99.5% of traces and to replace the remaining 0.5% with DNA from other sources. [via Popular Science | Thanks, Thomas]

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Mar 072015
 

A lost village

At the upcoming SAA in San Fracisco, Andrew Rheinhard and I are participating in a forum on digital public archaeology. Our piece, ‘Playing Pedagogy: Videogaming as site and vehicle for digital public archaeology’ is still in a process of becoming. Our original abstract:

While there is an extensive literature on the pedagogical uses of video games in STEM education, and a comparitvely smaller literature for langagues, literature, and history, there is a serious dearth of scholarship surrounding videogames in their role as vectors for public archaeology. Moreover, video games work as ‘digital public archaeology’ in the ways their imagined pasts within the games deal with monuments, monumentality, and their own ‘lore’. In this presentation, we play the past to illustrate twin poles of ‘public’ archaeology, as both worlds in which archaeology is constructed and worlds wherin archaeological knowledge may be communicated.

We had initially thought to write a game to explore these ideas, and so our entire presentation would involve the session participants playing it. But writing games is tough. In fact, it would be hard for one to top the game made by Tara Copplestone for the 2014 Heritage Jam, ‘Buried’. However, another venue presents itself. Andrew recently proposed to the makers of No Man’s Sky that he be allowed to lead an archaeological expedition therein.

“What!” I hear you exclaim. Well, think of it like this. We’re used to the idea of reception studies, of how the past is portrayed in games, movies, novels. We’re also used to the idea of games as being the locus for pedagogy, or for persuading, or making arguments. What happens then, in a game like No Man’s Sky, where the entire world is generated algorithmically from a seed? That is, no human designs it: it emerges. Rather like our own universe, eh? Such procedural games are quite common, though none perhaps are as complex in their world building as Dwarf Fortress (which evolves not just the world, but also culture & individual family/clan/culture lineages!)

What then does such  xenoarchaeology look like? How does that intersect with digital public archaeology? Well, if archaeological method has any truth to it, then in these worlds we might be faced with something profoundly alter, something profoundly different (which also accounts for why the writers of Star Trek placed such stock on archaeology)

We’ve got a month to sort these thoughts out. But it was in this frame of mind that I started thinking what archaeology in Minecraft would look like, could look like, and what it might find. Not in Minecraft worlds that have been lovingly built from scratch by a human. No, I mean the ones grown from seeds. It’s quite interesting – since no computational process is actually truly random, if you know the seed from which all calculations and algorithms are run, you can recreate the exact sequence that gives rise to a particular world (in this, and indeed in all, computational simulations). There is quite a thriving subculture in Minecraft it turns out that share interesting seeds. And so, as I searched for seeds that might prove fertile for our talk, I came across ‘Double Village’ for Minecraft 1.64. (See method 5 for spawing worlds from seeds). If you’ve got Minecraft 1.64 you too can join me on my expedition to a strange –desert land….

—-

The texts all say the same thing. Set the portal to ‘Double Village’ and soon you’ll find the exotic and lost desert villages. I put on the archaeotrancerebretron, grabbed my kit bag, and gritted my teeth. My companions all had theirs on too. We stepped into the charmed circle…


 Posted by on March 7, 2015

Dater’s Index

 Humor  Comments Off
Mar 062015
 

By Emily McDowell, this recounting of dates initiated by the internet is funny. Fittingly posted on Valentine's Day, a sample:

Estimated percentage of profiles containing the description "fun-loving": 80

Estimated percentage of people who do not actually love fun: 0

Estimated percentage of single people in Los Angeles who both work and play hard: 85

Estimated number of times I rewrote my profile: 7

Estimated number of times I wore the same dress on first dates: 28

Estimated number of times I switched my own “body type” check box: 12

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Mar 062015
 
(Via Lt-Antiq list)
 
Dear Colleagues,

Friday, March 6, beginning at 10 AM Eastern US time please join us for the online streaming of Hugoye Symposium IV: Syriac and the Digital Humanities.

Project presentations include tools for digital philology, manuscript studies, Linked Open Data, hagiography, OCR for middle eastern languages, and prosopography.

Full schedule and details of the stream are at
http://www.bethmardutho.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=627| |

 
David A. Michelson

Assistant Professor of the History of Christianity
Vanderbilt University 

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DNA face estimation

 dna, statistics  Comments Off
Mar 062015
 

DNA faceParabon NanoLabs is working on a service that provides face estimates using DNA found at crime scenes. Pretty cool.

But, before anyone gets too excited, keep in mind that the estimates are still really rough.

Greytak agrees Snapshot is not super-precise, nor is the science ready for it to be. "Our goal is not to produce a profile that is perfectly accurate and there is only one person you've ever seen who could match that profile," she says. "Really our goal is to produce something that will look similar enough to a person that it will jog a memory and, at the same time, make it clear which people it is not."

There was an art project a few years ago that was something like this. The artist used DNA in gum and hair that she found in public spaces, and I could've sworn I shared it. Anyone know what I'm talking about?

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Mar 062015
 

Faculty working conditions are student learning conditions. This is perhaps the most important refrain of the adjunct activism movement, and the one that is most likely to lead to change. If the primary goal of colleges and universities is to educate students, then the ways that labor conditions affect student outcomes should be of central importance.

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Mar 062015
 

Congratulations to the winners of the ​VL Innovators Challenge​, who will split ​$500,000 ​in grant funding!

  • Designing Culturally ­Competent Health IT for US Latino Migrant Farmworker Population (a unique program that uses technology to improve health for migrant farmworkers in rural Virginia), represented by ​Alexis Chaet

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Mar 052015
 

California DMV wait times

I think there are people who still go to the Department of Motor Vehicles without an appointment. Because who doesn't like a good session of waiting in line? Lucky for you, Gene Ekster put together a simple time series that shows the average wait time throughout the day.

Data is from the the published wait times on the California DMV site. Although there's no mention of how the sample data was collected. From a common sense standpoint, and based on wait time in a lot of other places, the results make sense. There is less wait time on Wednesday and more on Monday. Go in the morning, and avoid 11am or later if you want to reduce your wait. Or just make an appointment.

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R site updated

 Software  Comments Off
Mar 052015
 

New R Homepage

The R site has a new face. It looked dated for years — maybe decades — so I'm glad it got a refresh (with further updates in the coming months I assume). I felt like the old look was such a turn off that I had to reassure newcomers that even though the site looks like crap, the computing language itself is in fact not crap.

At the same time though, the site has been the same since my first introduction to R back in undergrad. It was almost a source of comfort. A constant. A rock. So today, as we look ahead over the horizon towards what comes next, let us still remember the greatness that was and forever will be.

Aaand scene.

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