Assistant Senior Instructional Professor, Associate Director of Undergraduate Studies
1155 E. 60th Street
Dr. Clindaniel is an Assistant Senior Instructional Professor in the Masters in Computational Social Science program and a computational anthropologist. His research broadly centers around investigating the articulation between digitality and materiality from a computational perspective in order to better understand material culture -- in both the ancient and contemporary world.
For example, using computational methods and digitized archaeological data, he has been able to systematically decipher several symbols from the Inka khipu sign system in his Ph.D. dissertation (Harvard 2019). Using knots and cords, khipus are said to have recorded everything from accounting records, to stories and songs. They are the primary sources of the Inka and are thus essential for understanding how the Inka represented themselves before the Spanish conquest. However, unlike many ancient writing systems in other parts of the world, Inka khipu signs had not previously been deciphered (outside of the numerical system, which was cracked in the 1920s), leading scholars to often rely on the limited accounts of later Spanish chroniclers to tell stories about the Inka past. This decipherment work is a current focus of Dr. Clindaniel's research and he plans to expand it in the coming years with the hope that scholars will soon be able to write a more complete Inka history that incorporates the ideas of the Inka themselves, as encoded in their khipus.
Dr. Clindaniel is also working to extend traditional archaeological theory and methods to better grapple with the articulation of contemporary materiality and digitality. For instance, in a recent study, he examined the material characteristics of facemask production during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Etsy digital marketplace and studied the ways in which facemask materiality was politicized over time. This interest in the link between digitality and contemporary material culture informs several of the courses he teaches at the University, such as MACS 20400/40400 "Computation and the Identification of Cultural Patterns," where among other things, students learn to use computational methods to investigate the coproduction of material culture (e.g. fashion and food) and its digital manifestation in digital marketplaces and on social media.