#PATC Keynote: Bots of Archaeology


Is it still public archaeology if it’s written by a machine? With a machine? For a machine? In this piece, my bots and I wonder about the way we are ensnared online and off in meshworks and correspondences, juxtapositions and transductions, of power and data, and what this might mean. Where does the human end and the machine begin? We wonder about creativity and procedural generation and the essentially algorithmic nature of archaeology. We offer no answers, but maybe, pose the right questions.


The following were tweeted out in the appointed time slot.

  1. For the longest time there was a theory current that I, Shawn, was not actually a real person but a bot https://t.co/bwGvRmjsv1 #patc 1 of 25

  2. Bots have long been on the web. In 2005, Wired was telling us how to buy our own pokerbots for fun &profit https://t.co/xaCECvXA2v.

  3. & let’s not even broach the bots tweet for political partisan purposes. Not as recent as you might think – https://t.co/9xtffauxna

  4. No, I want to know how you can tell if I’m a real human or not. Let’s run myself, & bots \@tinyarchae & \@glitcharchaeo through Bot or Not.

  5. Or just click on these links https://t.co/pQ5Hz5ehXQ https://t.co/Es0RWpbBGh https://t.co/AUs58AgwUd I may well be a bot.

  6. To a bot-detecting algorithm, my performance on twitter makes it 1 in 4 that I’m a bot. \@Tinyarchae has 1 in 3 chance of being a bot.Hmm. pic.twitter.com/wJjqgco1xP

  7. And \@archaeoglitch has 1 in 5 chance. P’haps I am a bot after all. Or maybe, performing here means we take on algorithmic characteristics? pic.twitter.com/GibiLgmQvm

  8. So what does this mean for public archae on twitter? We talk about twitter as 1 of many kinds of socnets, in digital platform sense.

  9. Network’ describes a system of relationships; but a better word is ‘meshwork’ in Tim Ingold’s sense: lines that parallel, intertwine

  10. Meshworks are defined by knots; knots leave loose ends. Lines in this case are our own lives,each tweet p’haps a knot in larger meshworks

  11. a knot tying us together through the digital aether, whether we react to it, view it, click on it, respond to it, reflect on it

  12. in which case it doesn’t matter if the agency behind the tweet is human or algorithmic. We respond to the tweets, and they respond to us.

  13. We correspond. Co – respond. We go along together. This isn’t ‘interactivity’. Consider Ingold’s kite flyer, the kite, and the air.

  14. ‘It is not that you need air to interact with a kite; rather you need a kite to correspond with the air’. So,Tweeter – tweet – platform> pic.twitter.com/kL55UcZdJT

  15. It’s not that you need the platform to interact with a tweet; you need the tweet to correspond with the platform (Ron & Harry: fail) http://pic.twitter.com/1qAdWB36BK

  16. That is to say, we are changed in particular ways by our interactions with twitter. We are made bot like and algorithmic. pic.twitter.com/CyhUWyLOif

  17. so let us use this idea to turn tweeps into archaes & put bots into human context. Here’s source for \@tinyarchae https://t.co/v8CI3JV4ez

  18. It’s a jumble of json, keys & values. I use tracery.io. The code is a layering of intentions and knots, cuts & fills of semantic spaces

  19. surface is what you see as a tweet, so natural soil, as it were, has to be the ‘origin’ point that specifies all which can be created.

  20. nice thing about the tracery.io editor, is that it takes the .json that drives everything, and lays it out like a section drawing (ish) pic.twitter.com/sDdHzhGKsv

  21. then it’s just a matter of figuring out what counts as a cut, and what counts as a fill, and where the natural is versus the top… pic.twitter.com/RQjvTfViHY

  22. & its harris matrix looks like this. So if I can go from generative procedural grammar to some output mediated as section & matrix, http://pic.twitter.com/YGGgxokM2H

  23. I can take a real world site & reverse engineer to its procedural grammar. & I can get a bot to perform it & you will correspond to it. http://pic.twitter.com/gukqNrjjDV

  24. twitter is fundamentally correspondences through time. It’s not just humans here. The act of corresponding changes us algorithmically

  25. so final q to you: how does this human-bot meshwork change public archae? Is archae fundamentally algorithmic? Are we all archaeo-bots? pic.twitter.com/N8lHxbpD5G

….thank you; have a nice day. Right, @tinyarchae? Thanks also to @lornarichardson @clmorgan @ekansa & @adreinhard #patc #keynote2 #out!

…and if you’re wondering why the featured image (and final image) are shots from the tv adaptation of ‘Going Postal’, by Terry Pratchett, see this.