What We Choose to Model and How We Think the World Works

Author(s): Mark Lake

Year: 2017


In 1972 David Clarke argued that "models are pieces of machinery that relate observations to theoretical ideas." That "machinery" does not have to be computational, or even quantitative, but with the resurgence of interest in simulation, the adoption of methods from evolutionary biology and the development of more sophisticated spatial statistics, it is increasingly both. Many of the papers in this session are case studies that explore exactly the issue of how effectively we can use models to connect observation and theory-essentially a question of epistemology, or how we get to know about the world. But of course even the most rigorous and effective use of explicit models to connect observations and ideas can only answer the questions we actually ask, so this paper compliments others by reviewing the sorts of models that we offer up against reality, in other words, what aspects of the world interest us and what kinds of relationships do we typically posit between them. Drawing on published examples, I will sketch key debates surrounding description versus explanation, individuals and aggregates, and cause and effect.

Cite this Record

What We Choose to Model and How We Think the World Works. Mark Lake. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 431516)


Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 16154