March 2007
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Day March 29, 2007

Robert C. Dunnell’s graduate theory courses online!

While I was down in Long Beach recently, Carl Lipo and I talked about digitizing a series of video tapes made in the mid-1990’s of the last time that Robert C. Dunnell taught his graduate archaeological theory courses. Carl has found the time and some resources to start doing that, and the first couple of files (representing the first 5 or so class sessions) are now available in Windows Media format on his website. The classes are an amazing resource and learning experience. We have to apologize in advance for sound issues in lecture #2 — the colleague (who shall remain nameless) who was auditing the class and taping the lectures for us had some….technical issues.

Carl is digitizing all of Archy 497, the first of two quarters of archaeological theory. In 497, Dunnell focused on “formal theory” — concepts, key conceptual relationships, and the classification tools necessary for all explanation in archaeology. In 498, which likely will be the next digitizing project, Dunnell focuses on “explanatory” theory and the history of archaeological theory.

For those readers unfamiliar with R.C. Dunnell, he was my former academic advisor, longtime Chairman of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Washington, key initiator and driver of Darwinian approaches to explanation in archaeology, and scourge of generations of first-year graduate students. Dr. Dunnell retired in the mid-1990’s and now resides in the Southeastern United States, surrounded by Mississippian mounds, archaeological sites, and decent BBQ joints.

TransmissionLab Version 1.3 available

A small update to TransmissionLab is available, which enables proper batch-mode operation and simplifies the command line acrobatics required for batch mode operation. This version is numbered 1.3, and is available either in source code format (from the Google Code Subversion repository) or as a binary JAR file release. The latter are found under “Downloads“, and include a matched JAR file, a ZIP file with library dependencies, and an example batch-mode parameter file.

Both the batch-mode parameter file and library dependencies have slight differences from Version 1.2, so be sure to grab both otherwise you’ll encounter errors starting up a simulation. In particular, this release adds a dependency upon the Jakarta Commons CLI library for command-line parsing, since this isn’t a strong suit of the Repast libraries.

This version also adds one statistic to the OverallStatisticsRecorder data collection module. For each simulation run, we calculate the average number of agents who have traits (measured at each model tick) which are listed in the “top N” list of traits. In other words, if you’re working with a “top 40” list of song-analogues, this statistic measures the number of agents whose chosen trait is a song in the top 40, as opposed to a trait that wasn’t frequent enough to make the top 40 list. This statistic is thus paired analytically with the parameter for the size of the “top N” lists, and the combination of the two should be interesting to examine across a range of mutation rate and population size parameters.

On a related note, LiveScience has an article on the upcoming article by Alex Bentley, Carl Lipo, Harold Herzog, and Matthew Hahn. I recommend it for a somewhat popularized account of the main conclusions of their 2007 paper. Since much of what we’re doing with TransmissionLab at the moment is going further along the lines suggested by Bentley et al., and earlier Fraser Neiman, Carl Lipo, and myself, it’s a good clue to the kinds of phenomena we can explore purely assuming that choice among alternatives is statistically random or neutral.