I feel it helpful to start the blog off with some introduction and admissions of guilt, with the idea that this will help frame my perspective and questions as I go forth. Hopefully, readers will see something of themselves in the following.
To begin, I was classically trained in ancient languages and ‘art and archaeology’ as an undergraduate in the early 1990s at a major research institution in the Midwestern US. I received my MA and PhD in classics with a specialization in preclassical and classical archaeology from another such institution. I therefore hold the requisite papers to be labeled as a classicist or even a classical archaeologist. I have been employed by the College of Charleston since receiving my PhD in 2003. Since 2004, I have engaged in a variety of administrative tasks – first as one who guided the formation of the College’s interdisciplinary archaeology program and served as inaugural director (2005-08), then as chair of the Department of Classics (2008-11). Concurrently, I served as field director for the Göksu Archaeological Project and Assistant Director for the Avkat Archaeological Project – both in Turkey. Those who want to see the full run-down can see the cv (admittedly the 2010 version).
Because of my training and career trajectory, I feel oftentimes schizophrenic. If one tries to assign me a label (as an archaeologist or classicist, for example), my first inclination will be to squirm – hence the title of the post. I will put on a hat if necessary, but only temporarily. By and large I have found labels to do more harm than good. My training on paper shows a normative training in classics and classical archaeology, but the research and employment shows bends into other directions. Engaged in the research (although not as much as I would like), I have been just as involved in the administration and development of academic programs. Therefore, my interests run from not only how to better visualize the ancient world, but how to present it to the next generation in ways that engage, and how to best train the next generation of scholars to take advantage of the plethora of approaches and perspectives that now lie before them.
My interest in GIS and other geospatial applications came as I was finishing my dissertation. I saw GIS as an application that needed to be learned, just as I picked up the skills for designing databases, analyzing chipped stone tools, or understanding economic structures in the past. As time has progressed, however, geospatial applications have become more powerful, easier to use, and at the same time more specialized and complicated at the higher end.
Many of my colleagues come to me and say that GIS is interesting and they see it as an important tool, but they don’t know anything about it. To be clear – I have no formal training in GIS. Rather, it has been continuous learning process, where my use of the tool has developed as my research needs and questions about the past have changed and grown. One doesn’t start by developing an anisotropic least cost pathway. One starts by going to Google Earth, looking up your address and finding directions to the nearest bar. The waters are warm, the atmosphere collaborative, and we’re all here to learn.
This group, I see already, consists of people with a wide variety of interests, approaches, and comfort level with the geospatial world. This is good. I hope to learn and grow from the engagement, and hearing the perspectives. My hopes are that the thoughts expressed here will be moved to greater matters of substance to include new avenues of research, methods, dissemination, and pedagogy.