Category Archives: Project Highlights

ArchaeoTech LIVE Video Podcast from #SAA2015

Hi Folks,

If, like me, you couldn’t attend the Society for American Archaeology conference happening right now in San Francisco, I have a treat for you! Chris Webster, of Digtech LLC and the Archaeology Podcast Network, helped me record some video interviews with exhibitors from the conference! You can watch the result here on the Diachronic Design YouTube Channel.

I also used some of my R programming skills, learned from the recent Software Carpentry workshop at University of Washington, to pull the last 1,000 tweets that used the #SAA2015 hashtag on Twitter. The wordcloud I created using that data gives you some idea of the most talked about people, sessions, and ideas from the past day or so.

Word cloud of some #SAA2015 tweets (n=1000), April 18, 2015 2pm
Word cloud of some #SAA2015 tweets (n=1000)

Together, I hope these two bits of media give you a quick look into the conference.

Cheers!

-Russell

ArchaeoTech Podcast Episode 8: Interview with Chris Cameron from Field Technologies, Inc.

On the latest episode of the ArchaeoTech podcast, Chris Webster (host of the CRM Archaeology Podcast) joins me to interview Chris Cameron, a CRM archaeologist and entrepreneur whose company, Field Technologies, Inc., has developed “ArchaeoGen,” a tablet-based application for recording shoveltest forms digitally. We talk about Field Technologies’s software and hardware, the process of designing for both field archaeologists and regulatory agencies, and pick Chris’s brain for advice on how other shovelbums can start their own side businesses while on the road!

Download or stream the show here on the Archaeology Podcast Network website!

#15 Mobilizing the Past for the Digital Future Conference Day 1 Roundup

#MobileArc Day1 Tweets, n=57
#MobileArc Day1 Tweets, n=57 per @jadufton’s request for the conference buzzwords.

Bringing Archaeology Conferences Online

If you’re not already watching the livestream of the Mobilizing the Past for the Digital Future Conference, you should absolutely start!

Although the sessions are being recorded and will be available on YouTube afterwards, the conference organizers have done a fantastic job of using new media tools like UStream and Twitter to really bring this conference online in a way few others in archaeology have done. Follow along by watching the hashtag #MobileArc and following the conference account @MobileArc15. I’ve spent most of the afternoon Friday taking care of my son and taking client calls while having the livestream and twitter chat running in the background. These two aspects really allowed me to participate in the conversation and the conference in ways almost as good as being in Boston myself! Continue reading #15 Mobilizing the Past for the Digital Future Conference Day 1 Roundup

Announcing the ArchaeoTech Podcast!

I am now co-hosting a technology-focused podcast with Doug Rocks-Macqueen (of the Doug’s Archaeology and OpenAccess Archaeology websites) as one of several great shows on Chris Webster’s Archaeology Podcast Network.

During the show Doug and I interview archaeologists of all kinds about how they integrate digital technology like tablets, geographic information systems, digital cameras, photogrammetry, augmented reality, and more into their work. We also ask guests to describe the specific technologies they use and how they learned them so that you, our listeners, can apply these tools in your own projects!

As of today, we’ve produced 6 shows with leading digital archaeologists like Stu Eve (of the ARK archaeology recording kit project and Dead Men’s Eyes Augmented Reality), Lorna Richardson (a UK-based public archaeologist), Hugh Corley (an archaeology systems manager at Historic England), Dan Garcia (an innovator in data collection for CRM archaeology projects), and Eric Kansa and Sarah Whitcher-Kansa (the power-duo behind the open data publication project OpenContext).

Doug and I are continuing to record and new shows are available every other Monday at http://www.archaeologypodcastnetwork.com/archaeotech/ or you can subscribe to the show using iTunes (if you like the show, please leave us a review!). If you’d like to be on the show, please email us at Russell@DiachronicDesign.com

I hope you enjoy the show!

Cheers!

-RussellarchaeoTechPodcastLogo

#14 Day of Digital Humanities 2014: Rain and Mobile Databases in Seattle

I originally wrote this post for the Day of Digital Humanities 2014 blogging project. I have reposted it here with only minor changes to fit my blog’s formatting, but you can read the original post here.

I tested MementoDB at a local park prior to using it on the monitoring project.
I tested MementoDB at a local park prior to using it on the monitoring project.

I have a new baby at home and am his primary caregiver while my wife is at work (she’s a cultural anthropologist and does qualitative research on usability and user experience for a local game company), so my Day of Digital Humanities started early this morning at 3am and ended by about 7:30am when my wife and son woke up!

Continue reading #14 Day of Digital Humanities 2014: Rain and Mobile Databases in Seattle

#9 Closer Look: ArcheoLINK Information System

A word about software posts: On this blog, I want to provide review type information about the myriad archaeology software out there, but also want to be clear about what precisely the review represents. In order from least to most rigorous, the different levels of software posts are: Closer Look, Hands-On, and Field Test. In “Closer Look” posts, I write about an application’s features and hypothesize about how an archaeologist might benefit from them. In “Hands-On” posts I write about my experience actually installing an application and trying out some of its basic features. In “Field Test” posts, I write about collecting or processing real data using the application.

Post updated 10/31/13 to include comments and clarifications from QLC, Inc. archaeologist and developer Michiel Kappers [shown in bracketed italics].

ArcheoLINK Background

 ArcheoLINK is a piece of software developed by archaeologists that aims to provide a complete system for archaeology project management, data recording, inventory, and analysis; in short, an Archaeological Information System (AIS). Dutch archaeologists Michiel Kappers, Willem Schnitger, and Elsbeth Westerman originally designed ArcheoLINK to meet their research and project management needs as heritage management archaeologists as well as for academic research in the Caribbean. The company Kappers et al. founded, QLC, Inc. recently created a US version of their software, ArcheoLINK-Americas, that is customized for American academic and CRM archaeologists. Kappers recently visited the Diachronic Design office and gave me a demonstration of both the latest version of ArcheoLINK, as well as some of the features they are currently developing. This post describes each of ArcheoLINK’s feature categories, as well as my thoughts on how field archaeologists might use these features. [Paragraph updated to differentiate between QLC, Inc., the company, and ArcheoLINK-Americas, the US version of the ArcheoLINK software.] Continue reading #9 Closer Look: ArcheoLINK Information System

FAIMS GIS

#8 Hands-On: FAIMS Mobile Data Collector App

A word about software posts: On this blog, I want to provide review type information about the myriad archaeology software out there, but also want to be clear about what precisely the review represents. In order from least to most rigorous, the different levels of software posts are: Closer Look, Hands-On, and Field Test. In “Closer Look” posts, I write about an application’s features and hypothesize about how an archaeologist might benefit from them. In “Hands-On” posts I write about my experience actually installing an application and trying out some of its basic features. In “Field Test” posts, I write about collecting or processing real data using the application.

Background

The Federated Archaeological Information Management System (FAIMS) project is an open source software project by the University of New South Wales in Australia. The project is a subset of the National eResearch Collaboration Tools and Resources (NeCTAR) program, which aims to build new infrastructure for Australian researchers. The goal of FAIMS is to build a comprehensive information system for archaeology that allows archaeologists to collect digital data from sites using mobile devices, process them in local databases, archive data in digital repositories for long-term storage and future reanalysis, and easily exchange data with researchers across the world. The FAIMS mobile app runs on Android devices running version 4.0 or higher of the Android operating system.

 I recently worked on a project customizing the FAIMS data collector for a US CRM company  and creating data entry forms on the mobile application. I worked through the FAIMS cookbook, which explains how to create the different kinds of data entry fields, such as text boxes, calendars, dropdown menus, radio buttons, and even how to add in map layers and shapes using the FAIMS app’s internal vector GIS system (Figure 1).  Continue reading #8 Hands-On: FAIMS Mobile Data Collector App

My camera

#7 Supercharge your Field Camera with CHDK

Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) cameras have loads of features that make it easier to take great photographs like the ability to take RAW images, use intervalometers, or take bracketed shots. The price and size of DSLRs, however, make them somewhat impractable for every field crew to carry one on every project. Instead, companies often send crews out with cheap and easily replaceable point and shoot cameras. Point and shoot cameras with some DLSR features are available, but are more expensive. Few companies are probably willing to pony up for an expensive point and shoot when the dust, weather, and grimy/slippery fingers combo on survey and excavation projects tends to destroy a lot of field cameras. I usually discover this when I go to turn on the camera and find that the shutter refuses to open and the lens extends at a 30 degree angle.

 

Picture of a broken point and shoot camera.
Figure 1. A broken lens, a typical kind of field damage. Picture from flickr user tanakawho.

Do you ever wish that you could supercharge your field camera with some of these advanced features? It turns out that if your camera is a Canon, you can. Let me introduce you to the Canon Hack Development Kit (CHDK). CHDK is a custom firmware (software that runs embedded on a device, think of the software in a car GPS or in a WiFi router) that can unlock these kinds of advanced features, as well as give you a way to program your camera using scripts to add your own custom features.

Continue reading #7 Supercharge your Field Camera with CHDK

Digital and analog archaeology tools shown in the field.

#6 Archaeology Digital Data Tools

For today’s blog post, I wanted to share a table comparing some of the digital tools available to collect, organize, track, and begin analyzing archaeological data. This table is by no means complete, so please add comments of projects not yet listed! If you have personal experience working with one of these programs, feel free to also comment on your experience. I plan to update this table periodically as I get the chance to install and test each one.

(Click through to view the table)

Images of the two digitization games: Mole Hunt and Mole Bridge

#5 Digitizing Fieldnotes through Crowdsourcing and Games

I was recently talking with a university librarian about ways that he could digitize some of his collections. In our conversation, I brought up two “crowdsourcing” projects I knew of where librarians and archaeologists were soliciting help from the public in order to digitize large bodies of text documents from both a library collection and large archaeological projects.

The output of digitization projects, machine-readable documents, make fast searching and indexing of archaeological information possible, as well as allow researchers to conduct text-mining analyses that extract patterns from the digitized information. Actually digitizing past documents, especially handwritten documents, is tedious work however, and many organizations do not have the resources to complete this work. While archaeologists are collecting more and more data digitally, a vast body of archaeological information exists only in paper: books, reports, articles, forms, and field notebooks. Even if we assume that anything published may have been digitized by the publisher (if they still exist), that still leaves a large body of archaeological data and analyses trapped in paper. One way archaeologists and others can digitize paper documents is to use optical character recognition (OCR) software to analyze scanned pages and match image shapes to text characters and words. While OCR programs have improved a lot over the years, the programs still make errors, especially when converting text that uses specialized language and OCR programs are generally pretty bad at recognizing handwritten characters. Often, humans need to carefully proofread and double check OCR transcriptions to ensure the text matches the original documents.  Several organizations are pursuing crowdsourcing projects to invite volunteers to help verify digitized documents or even transcribe documents too complex for OCR software to digitize.

Screen capture from the UrCrowdsource website where you can transcribe archaeology documents.
Transcribing archaeological descriptions in UrCrowdsource.

Continue reading #5 Digitizing Fieldnotes through Crowdsourcing and Games