Studio Michael Shanks
Welcome to the website of our lab and studio at Stanford University.
Welcome to our network of colleagues, friends and collaborators, projects, aspirations, and hopes.
This is a new version of an online presence, combining elements of what was previously called metamedia@Stanford, archaeolog, and archaeography.com. There will be regular additions and updates from May 2020.
We are based in Stanford Archaeology Center and are affiliated with the Center for Design Research in our School of Engineering, led by Larry Leifer [Link].
An archaeology lab and creative studio
– connecting past and present, working with what remains, so that we might be better prepared for complex uncertain futures.
Informing the future.
Because archaeology is the means to escape short term thinking and see a bigger picture.
For as long as we have been human our experiences, our lifeworlds have been shared with artifacts, other species, artificial and natural environments. Archaeology is the discipline of things, of our connections with artifacts and other species. Archaeology is the only field that takes such connections into account, offering an orientation on who we are, where we have come from and where we might be going.
For a long while we have called our lab Metamedia. Why?
One answer is the significance of connecting, of mediating past and present. Archaeologists work with what remains, taking a long-term perspective on how we get on with things, the shape of history, design and making. Archaeologists connect past and present with a view to the future in a kind of memory practice. Archaeologists mediate. Actuality, this presence of the past, is a vital energy in making us who we are, supplying orientation, hindsight to inform foresight. What would we be without memory? And memory needs media – stories, images, sounds, impressions, just as archaeologists always have to turn the remains of the past into media with which we can work – plans and photographs, information, analyses and reports, academic papers, museum collections and exhibitions, books and TV programs.
Why meta-media? Because the vital questions are not so much technical, for example – “how do we write about the past?” “how do we describe old things?” “how do we take photographs of ruins?”. A better question addresses purpose – “how might we connect past and present so as to share and build better futures?”
A lab and studio. Because we don’t just run analytical scientific projects investigating the past-in-the-present. Archaeological research does not discover the past. We pursue research creation [Link] – in working with what remains archaeologists exercise the archaeological imagination, creatively crafting pasts-in-the-present.