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Subject:

Re: The theory of the Archaeological Practitioner

From:

"WEBSTER D.S." <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

British archaeology discussion list <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 29 Oct 2012 08:13:26 +0000

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (263 lines)

Mike,

No problem, give me a few days to ponder on what would suit best and why

Regards
David 

-----Original Message-----
From: British archaeology discussion list [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Michael Haseler
Sent: 28 October 2012 19:43
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [BRITARCH] The theory of the Archaeological Practitioner

David,

that is very kind of you and much more than I was expecting. Yes, please please do send the references.

Mike

On 28/10/2012 11:36, WEBSTER D.S. wrote:
> Mike,
> You are straying in to deep deep waters. But of course that is where the interesting stuff is to be found. Perhaps the best way to go forward is that I send you a number of what I think are relevantly useful  texts (in pdf format). In this way we can both meet and go forward  on common ground.
>
> Regards
>
> David
>
> ________________________________________
> From: British archaeology discussion list [[log in to unmask]] on 
> behalf of Michael Haseler [[log in to unmask]]
> Sent: 28 October 2012 09:43
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Re: [BRITARCH] The theory of the Archaeological Practitioner
>
> David,
>
> it's interesting what you say about mirror neurons. Whether or not 
> these are "the" physical manifestation, there clearly is a mechanism 
> by which we learn a "language" of movement by which small individual 
> movements are combined to bigger movements and then this language of 
> more fluid movements into something bigger and bigger until we only need to think:
> "another drink of coffee" ... and then almost by magic my hand reaches 
> out, picks the coffee cup up brings it to my mouth, I suck in the 
> liquid, swallow, put the cup down ... and I can do all this without 
> barely loosing my concentration. Indeed, after I trod on an old fence 
> post and hobbled for a few weeks, I couldn't stop limping. Somehow the 
> fluid movement I had been doing all my life eluded me and try as I 
> might I could not work out what was the "normal" way one walked. And I 
> had to ask my son to walk across the room so I could see how it was 
> done. (I seem to recall whereas I just thought I had to move the legs 
> like a walker, the problem was that there was a part of the movement 
> where one actively adjusts the position of the foot for balance and 
> this put pressure on the injured part - so I wasn't so much limping as 
> loosing balance each step).
>
> In other words, I had no conscious knowledge of what my body was doing.
> Indeed, I have very little language to describe it. Moreover, I could 
> not dissect the single movement "word" of "walking"  into constituent parts.
>
> At the other end of human experience is the "grand unifiers". 
> Physicists who try to suggest that the world can be simplified to one 
> equation (which gets longer every time one hears about it). Religions 
> who categorise the as the single master plan of the god(s). Academics 
> who systematically codify life, the earth, archaeology, history into 
> nice organised chunks of this age or that pottery type. I'd call this 
> the "god instinct", or perhaps the "everything has an explanation" instinct.
>
> So, at one end of life we have "things just happen" ... like walking 
> although any parents knows that walking (and talking) takes an awful 
> lot of learning.
>
> But this is not the "dimension" I have in mind. One of the phrases 
> often used in organisations to refer to problems is "fire-fighting". 
> The idea is that if people spent more time thinking through what they do ...
> looking at the big picture, they would spend less time fighting. Now 
> this is all well and good if your job is an administrator ... but it's 
> pretty useless advice to the firefighters whose job it is to fight fires!
>
> So, their job is to deal with what happens. Not to think it through - 
> but to act - ideally thinking it through and planning whilst acting.
> That is my real interest. It is the philosophies of action ... the 
> philosophical basis of thought processes when dealing with what is 
> happening rather than what will happen. And the truth is that an awful 
> lot of the world is dealing with problems in the here and now. Time & 
> resource constrained with an evidential base that "is", rather than 
> what one would ideally want. To name a few:
>
> firefighters (a senior Glasgow firefighter was on our course!) GP 
> doctors Engineers Administrators Journalists
>
> If we look down this list we will find some of the brightest 
> professions
> - so being a "firefighter" doesn't mean you can't think. So I know we 
> use a great deal of intelligence, strategies and theories in the "here 
> and now" professions, but the reality of academia is so alienated from 
> this "just do it" ... "just deal with the next patient" world, that 
> academia doesn't seem to be able to recognise the profound 
> philosophical basis of such thinkers.
>
> Mike
>
>
> On 27/10/2012 12:11, WEBSTER D.S. wrote:
>> Hello Mike,
>>
>> My point about a settled why of the digging relates to what for want of a better word, is the mundane activities of life - the quotidian 'seen but unnoticed' aspects within the hurrly-burrly of life. The JCB driver, for instance, or the grave digger, do their job of digging in the straightforward manner they are expected to do. This is not to say that they do not think about what they are doing in carrying out this operation; they are thinking about the how, not the why. What you describe is a more immediately directed situation as is paradigmatic of archaeological excavation. You learn to talk about, conceive off, digging within the mundane and then is extended  reflexively through archaeology. By reflexive I mean in the sense of "the woman washed herself" here the woman is simultaneously the agent and patient of the activity of washing.
>>
>> As for mirror neurons. Wittgenstein tells the fable of a people who all have a beetle in a matchbox, but no one is allowed to look in someone  else's matchbox. The semantics of the word 'beetle' is governed by the totality of how the word 'beetle' is used by these people.   The beetles in everybody's matchbox play no grammatical part in determining the semantics (meaning) of the word 'beetle'.
>>
>> When all the excitement about mirror neurons kicked off, many in psychology (and archaeology too) jumped on the bandwagon. But we had seen this kind of thing often enough before. Those of us (my PHD is in developmental and ecological psychology though I now work in commercial archaeology) who favoured the Vygotskian paradigm of culture-historical psychology (e.g. the work done in neuropsychology by Luria) could discern the flaws in the argument without to much effort. Needless to say by 2005  the original authors of the mirror neurone hypothesis (e.g. Giacomo Rizzolatti) were starting to qualify their arguments in the face of both conceptual and experimental problems. Personally speaking, discussions of mirror neurones in the present context is a waste of time.
>>
>> Regards
>>
>> David
>>
>> ________________________________________
>> From: British archaeology discussion list [[log in to unmask]] 
>> on behalf of Michael Haseler [[log in to unmask]]
>> Sent: 26 October 2012 20:56
>> To: [log in to unmask]
>> Subject: Re: [BRITARCH] The theory of the Archaeological Practitioner
>>
>> David,
>>
>> thanks there is/was a lot to think about there. (Struggling to get 
>> original  Ackermann 1988)
>>
>> I'm not entirely convinced of your "When people get down to digging a 
>> hole, they have already settled the why of it".
>>
>> There are some very good strategies that involve thinking after 
>> doing:- Incrementalism. Described to me as "just doing ... a bit at a 
>> time and thinking a bit each time". It's a strategy which is the 
>> opposite of the "grand design". It more or less says: "we'll dig a 
>> hole, see what we find ... then decide where to dig the next ... see what we find ...
>> decide.  Bottom-up .... start with the detail and then work out the 
>> detail into bigger plans and bigger until you have the total over-view.
>> (Top-down .... start with a grant plan, then divide into sub-plans 
>> and then sub-sub plans until you "just do it". )
>>
>> So, "just doing it", can be part of a much wider strategy. At the 
>> other extreme we can act without ever thinking as that is implied by 
>> learning by gesture or the coupling of movements together and whilst 
>> it is disputed, this is linked with the idea that Mirror neurons 
>> enable us to "visualise" actions and again create movement 
>> "sentences" out of movement syllables.
>>
>> Interestingly, I've struggled to find the words to describe the 
>> intention of a "think after you do" strategy, as all the words for 
>> intended strategies imply top-down: "orchestrated", 
>> "thought-through", "thought out". It is as if "just do it" ... is the 
>> absence of any thought ... there it is again ... I can't say: "lets 
>> plan to 'just do it'". ... After we dig this whole we'll just go down 
>> the pub ... that works. What's that strategy?
>>
>> Mike
>>
>> On 26/10/2012 15:51, WEBSTER D.S. wrote:
>>> A Few Comments:
>>>
>>> 1. When people get down to digging a hole, they have already settled the why of it, so no need to cogitate further on the matter.
>>>
>>> 2. All actions contain an understanding of its adequate completion. If asked, what did you do? "Why, I dug a hole, and here is the hole that I have dug", and this, and this, and this I what I did in the digging of it".
>>>
>>> 3. Digging holes is part of the grammar of sentences like "I will dig a hole, "I have dug a hole" etc.
>>>
>>> 4. It is within a pattern of living (lebensform) that includes digging holes that sentences like "I will dig a hole" find their meaning; the practice and the sentence are of the same weave. To understand, why dig a hole, and speak thereof, is immanent in  the mastery of the language of those who would dig holes. No theory is at issue here, but rather, a 'one-step hermeneutic' (Ackermann 'Wittgenstein's City') that collapses the hermeneutic circle.  Meaning is given directly because the relevant hermeneutic horizon is imminent in the language that we already speak (cf. Ackermann 1988).
>>>
>>> 5. Concepts are not theories; concept are acquired within the mastery of language. Theories are representations. Or if you like, concepts provide the content of theories but are not themselves theories.
>>>
>>> 6. As Goethe would have put it: digging holes, excavation, just is the theory of archaeology in its fullest expression.
>>>
>>> A good thread
>>>
>>> Regards
>>>
>>> David
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>> ________________________________________
>>> From: British archaeology discussion list [[log in to unmask]] 
>>> on behalf of Michael Haseler [[log in to unmask]]
>>> Sent: 26 October 2012 09:23
>>> To: [log in to unmask]
>>> Subject: [BRITARCH] The theory of the Archaeological Practitioner
>>>
>>> When people dig a hole, they don't tend to spend a lot of time 
>>> thinking why they dug the hole ... except archaeologists.
>>>
>>> But normal people just "do it". Now, that is in itself a theory ... 
>>> that allowing oneself just to "get on with the job" ... will get the "job"
>>> done. A lot of theoretical constructs come into play ... about the 
>>> mind-body dynamic, about have materials behave and the way "things 
>>> work". These are usually so intuitive to us, that we don't even 
>>> think about the theoretical constructs we use to create this dynamic 
>>> with the world.
>>>
>>> Now, in archaeology, this is important. Because the whole of 
>>> archaeology could be described as people "just doing things".
>>>
>>> Or "we did holes" ... in order to find when,why,how ... "people dug holes".
>>>
>>> But archaeology has this concept (theory) of the "ritualistic" ... 
>>> which I couldn't understand until someone whispered to me "that 
>>> really means we don't know". But, ritualistic implies a lot more, it 
>>> implies a purpose and meaning ... whereas "just digging a hole" ... 
>>> implies functionality. One could liken the "ritualistic" versus "practitioner"
>>> to the debate "creationism" versus "evolution". One a theory 
>>> implying meaning and purpose, the other a theory that there is no 
>>> meaning or purpose. It is just "what happens".
>>>
>>> So, just as we can have a "theory of evolution", it should also be 
>>> possible in archaeology to have a "theory of just doing things". I 
>>> suppose, the equivalent of "just doing things" in the present would 
>>> be considered economics. Animals clearly don't have money, but other 
>>> resources like energy could be a proxy for money creating what I 
>>> term "enerconics", or I suppose land, or other resources could be 
>>> other proxies so we get "any-conics". But leaving aside the 
>>> unnecessary pun, we could apply the theory of economics to 
>>> pre-history and create a theory of archaeology with NO MEANING. You 
>>> could say that this is a deterministic theory ... that we are all 
>>> pre-ordained by economic necessity to do what we do and  like the 
>>> peacocks feathers are just a obscure artefact of evolution, so all 
>>> this symbolism we see, all the apparent beauty and symbolism in 
>>> archaeology, is merely an artefact of economic needs.
>>>
>>> But this approach that we are "pre-ordained" and really have no 
>>> choice, ignores the fact that people spend an awful lot of time 
>>> thinking, and we even think a lot even when we are t "just doing 
>>> things". Time-team "just dug holes", but they spent a lot of time 
>>> thinking about where to put those holes and responding to what they 
>>> found in the holes. There was the economic resource constraint (3 
>>> days, x-workers and Tony), but the resource constraint didn't 
>>> dictate WHERE the holes where dug, only how many/how big.
>>>
>>> So, what was the theoretical model used? Apparently it was "there's 
>>> something interesting here - let's dig". Or perhaps more accurately 
>>> "the most interesting place looks to be ...". Usually done to 
>>> combine a number of features or where experience suggests that most 
>>> information will be found in terms of datable artefacts. This is a 
>>> theory ... but it's not a theory I find in the archaeology book of theory.
>>>
>>> Also, there is a clear ethos (theory) in archaeology that 
>>> "experience counts". ... age and experience seemed to be quite 
>>> critical when deciding where to dig next. This could just be that 
>>> those with grey hairs spend least time in holes on their knees, and 
>>> so have more time to look at the big picture, but I suspect, there 
>>> is a fundamental theory in archaeology that experience IN ITSELF is 
>>> a basis for better understanding of how to research sites. Maybe it 
>>> doesn't need stating, but in the "theory of the practitioner", the 
>>> theory of "just doing things" which is what archaeology tries to 
>>> understand ... i.e. the ordinary pattern of the past ... if 
>>> experience is important in the here and now, it is important in the past.
>>> .....
>>>
>>> Which brings me to the question ... if anyone understands what I'm 
>>> talking about and could tell me where to find/thinking work along 
>>> similar lines, I would be very very pleased to receive any 
>>> references or suggestions for reading.
>>>
>>> Mike

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