ArchyPOP presents: Pop Culture for Dummies

How has the ‘90s influenced our culture today? How do pop culture artifacts from the 90s represent that time? How has that inspired pop-culture movements today? How has people’s relationship with artifacts from the 90s changed since then?

Project Goals

My overall goals for this project were to gain contemporary archaeology skills while expanding my knowledge on archaeology’s relationship with pop culture. We dedicated an entire unit of our class on the study of pop culture and the valuable insight it has on culture—including showcasing unexplored narratives from the past. We wanted to focus specifically on the ‘90s because of the particular relevance it has for my generation and my culture. We are obsessed with the ‘90s—‘90s fashion, ‘90s shows, ‘90s stars and more importantly ‘90s material culture. This obsession with the past isn’t a new concept, and can be seen across every generation. We thought exploring this ‘nostalgia’ phenomenon would provide valuable insight on the human condition! Finally, we also thought it would be a useful exercise to choose a topic that hadn’t been covered in our pop culture unit! We thought exploring this territory might exercise are archaeology thinking much more than revisiting a topic covered in class. I couldn’t have been more excited to dedicate my project to the important evaluation of the ‘90s!

Findings

People attach significant emotional and even monetary value to material culture from the ‘90s. One case study we did explored both sides of this with the discovery of Nintendo 64. The person who found it displayed intense emotional attachment to it and even personified the old gaming system. Then, we were able to analyze the response of the community which immediately focused on the monetary value of the controllers—they estimated the found artifact could be worth from $1,500 to $3,000 dollars (almost worth one quarter at UW)! The original price of this item was $200. It’s obvious certain objects from the ‘90s are considered rare and are coveted by the general public. However, this begged the question: why.

Tumblr is a fantastic tool to gauge pop culture interest (we will talk more about it later) through the use of their tag system. When someone makes or reblogs a post, they can add identifiers to help organize their post and even explain their interest in it. The most common tag that came along with ‘90s artifacts was #nostalgia, the sentimental love for the past. Usually that was it! #nostalgia, #90s, #nineties were usually the only identifier. There was usually no expression of interest specific to the object, or any commentary along with it! It seems that for the most part, tumblr bloggers are just chasing that feeling of nostalgia. That’s also one of the key differences between archaeology of pop culture and nostalgia culture. Archaeology involves an analysis or critique of the object or it’s place in society where nostalgia just has appreciation for it. We actually gained a lot of insight on contemporary archaeology for this project.

Our project also showed us the shortcomings of doing “online archaeology”. A large part of archaeology is viewing objects themselves and actively testing a hypothesis. By looking only at material culture through the internet, we could be missing a lot of key context clues that could change the direction of our investigation! Not only that, but it is hard to test hypothesis when we don’t have a site to examine. The scientific method is a crucial part of Archaeology, and COVID has severely limited our ability to get a realistic contemporary archaeology experience. However, are project did a fantastic job showing us how important that step is, and I would still count it as a valuable experience. We still gained a lot of valuable insight even if we weren’t able to use the contemporary archaeologist field techniques we learned about in class.

Methodology

As touched upon earlier, the Tumblr format gave us a really unique experience to delve into the relationship between the general populace and 90s artifacts. We could search through other people’s blogs and examine the commentary they attached to material culture from the ‘90s

As touched upon earlier, the Tumblr format gave us a really unique experience to delve into the relationship between the general populace and 90s artifacts. We could search through other people’s blogs and examine the commentary they attached to material culture from the ‘90s

We were able to pull on many different lines of evidence because of this. We used quotes from readings and articles, did detailed case-studies of specific objects and their reception, and tracked the overall popularity of ‘90s objects by looking at their “reblogs” and posting it to our blog!

Big Picture

This was a challenging and fun final project to end the school year on. I’m really proud of our Tumblr blog, and I feel it really taught me a lot. I’m ending this quarter with an expanded knowledge on pop culture and excitement for contemporary archaeology! This project also gave me respect for the difference between the work I did on the blog and real archaeology field experiences. Truly this unessay gifted me with a thirst for real world archaeology experience. In other words, I’ve found this project to be very inspiring. c:

Find the blog: https://archypop.tumblr.com/

See next page for Bibliography.

Garbage: What our trash says about us

Human beings are mere placeholders in time, like zeros in a long number; their garbage seems to have more staying power, and a power to inform across the millennia that complements (and often substitutes for) that of the written word.

William Rathje & Cullen Murphy, Rubbish!
Empty Xbox disc holders found in my trash
Items in trash: 13 plastic packages, 43 old xbox game containers, 4 plastic food containers, 20 old dishes

The plastic packaging indicates a lot of items were ordered from amazon recently, the plastic food containers are specifically from produce ordered from amazon. The old xbox game containers and plastic food containers are the result of spring cleaning. These items and behaviors are all indicative of the change in my lifestyle brought on by the virus.

Garbage is the physical documentation of the impact Covid-18 has had on our lives (“Coronavirus”). For one, the amount of foodstuffs ordered to the house has dramatically increased. Part of that is due to quarantine making ordering food preferrable to risking a drive to the grocers. Even so, the increase in food produts has increased too drastically for it to be explained by me changing where I purchase my groceries. The amount of food waste has doubled because, instead of ordering for a one-person household, I am now ordering for a two-person household. Quarantine has brought my mom back from her work travels and it reflects in our trash.

The increase in other amazon packages is also due to the virus and the subsequent return of my mother. Sharing a home with me again has been a little difficult for us since the house has been altered a bit in her absence. What was once her office has become my study in recent years. In light of that and other changes in space, she has had to order material to create a workspace for two instead of one–sticky notes, desk stands, seat cushions, etc. all to make this feel like her home again.

The thrown out dishes are also a result of her coming home and the quarantine. She suddenly is blessed with enough time to finish the projects she had started before she started traveling for work. This week she finished throwing away aged and ugly dishes from my childhood. It wasn’t a project I ever tried to finish for her, since I couldn’t guess what was important and what wasn’t. Now that she is back she has efficiently sorted through the kitchen to get rid of the objects we don’t need or want anymore. She isn’t the only one who has been inspired to do improve our home though.

Quarantine and my mom have inspired me to do some sorting of my own. I recently went through my Xbox 360 games and moved the discs into a CD binder to cut down on the space they take up. Now, they take up space in the garbage instead.

In fact, every piece of garbage thrown out this week is evidence of the times we’re living through right now. Last month, I had to take the trash out maybe once for the entire 4 weeks because of the little waste I went through by myself.

I can’t help but imagine other households are finding a similar increase in garbage. For one, an increase in packaging is a given as more households make the transition to ordering necessities online. The dishes and xbox game might be unique to our household, but I imagine there is a similar increase in “hobby” trash in every home. This week my mom and I filled our time by cleaning out our home a bit, other households might have filled the time with crafts or makeup–most hobies will have a impact on the trash. While specifics might be a little different, I imagine households across the US will have similar patterns to their garbage right now.

Archaeologists in the future will keep the virus in mind while they look at our at the garbage produced and see the impact of quarantined families: increase online orders and evidence of more time spent on chores and hobbies.

Sources

“Coronavirus: Discarded Disposable Gloves on the Street.” BBC News, BBC, 8 Apr. 2020, www.bbc.com/news/in-pictures-52188627?fbclid=IwAR0xrvZp-SyLFzcnOWHynfRU19e0RI6ZnqyBQSvtQ3ftcjY1cAif3t8oh94.

Rathje, William L., and Cullen Murphy. Rubbish!: The Archaeology of Garbage. Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona Press, 2001. Print.

About me: Nat

Hey everyone, my name is Nat!

Professional Life

I’m a senior at UW, majoring in Anthropology. I am most interested in the intersection between anthropology and technology! I hope to use my coding background to further my knowledge of the human condition. In that same vein, I also have a particular interest in relationship between people and technology!

Personal life

Life is pretty interesting for me right now. I’m in the probably relatable predicament where I suddenly need to put more time into a hobby or go stir-crazy in quarantine. Lately I find my time mostly consists of going on jogs, listening to musicals, playing video games, doting on my cat (named Dogg–don’t judge me, I was 8 when I named her) and knitting! Below is a picture of my latest project, a Lord of the Rings scarf for one of the friends I play video games with. I think the key to surviving quarantine for me can be summarized in two easy words: keep busy.

Thanks for reading!