The Russian philosopher G.I. Gurdjieff once said that if you are in prison, and you wish to liberate yourself, the first thing that is necessary is to recognize and acknowledge that. If you cannot do this, you cannot improve your situation.
The same is true in archeology.
What is the ‘prison’ most archeologists sit in? While not a professional archeologist myself, I share the same excitement and passion, and have spoken to many in the field. No matter what age, or in which country, it is always the same. It is this:
There is a significant disparity between the way we see ourselves and the value that we bring to society, and the way others [including our own families and friends] see us.
Simply put, our works and finds excite us. When most people think about archeology however, their eyes glaze over, and they do not share the excitement. When I excitedly tell a friend that I spent 6 hours at a site, she rolls her eyes and I know she is thinking ‘don’t you have better things to do than digging in the dirt?’
THIS in my humble opinion is the primary root of the difficulties the archeological profession faces. It is a brand issue. AND also the key to Gurdjieff’s proverbial ‘prison’,
In order to better explain the solution that I propose, I am going to make a hard right turn, to another industry that we are all familiar with. Bear with me please.
1987 – Finnish telecommunications company Nokia introduced its first handheld mobile phone. By 1998 it had overtaken Motorola to become the global market leader in handset sales. In 2005 it sold its billionth phone. Impressive. It reached its peak in 2007 with a 40% market share in the global handset market and nearly 50% of the smartphone market. [I know – I was one of the first in the country to own the Nokia N95 – with 8GB of storage, access to email and the internet and a 5mp camera]. In 2007, Nokia hit a market capitalization of $150 billion.
2003 – Canadian technology firm Research In Motion [RIM] – introduced the world to the Blackberry. With its tiny keyboard and secure network, it allowed its users access to email on the go, and changed the way we work. It became so addictive that it was called the ‘crackberry’. By 2008 the company was valued at around $70 billion.
2007 – Apple’s Steve Jobs walks onto the stage of San Francisco’s Moscone Center, pulls an iPhone out of his pocket, and, as archeologists like to say the rest is history.
In 2013 Blackberry’s value had declined from $70 billion and the company was sold to a private equity firm for just under $5 billion.
And Nokia? Once valued at $150 billion was sold to Microsoft in 2014 for $7 billion.
Apple’s Value today [market cap] is roughly $888 billion.
What happened? How did Apple so easily vanquish the leaders in the space? The simple answer is LOVE.
Nokia and Blackberry owners viewed their handsets as important tools. Apple iPhone owners however loved their phones.
The difference was the way Steve Jobs approached product design. [I highly recommend Isaacson’s biography]. He focused on the User Experience. Today ‘User Experience’ or ‘Client Experience’ has been translated into a wide array of industries and is commonly known as UX or CX. Everything that one does with the iPhone and other Apple products is beautiful and elegant. We lovingly caress [swipe] the touch screen. It is more than just a tool. It is an extension of who we are.
NOW BACK TO ARCHEOLOGY.
I wish to propose a similar term: VISITOR EXPERIENCE or ‘VX’. It is imperative that archeologists begin with the end in my end. Allow me to describe the ‘ideal end’:
(1) A visitor exits a museum exhibition or archeological site.
(2) The experience is so jaw-droppingly awesome that he immediately feels the urge to post his or her experience online.
(3) He becomes more than just a visitor. He becomes an evangelist and everyone he meets in the next couple of days, he tells about his experience and recommends that they too must see this.
Such an unforgettable VX [Visitor Experience] can be achieved with the correct application of cutting edge technology.
In my next post I will share of one such experience I had. LAST WEEK.
Until then. Adieu.