In this post, I want to bring up examples of “participatory digital archaeology in action,” and how this might affect the discipline and expectations placed on archaeologists. What is the promise and what are the pitfalls of digital engagement? The article by Morgan and Eve (2012:522) speaks of the positive impact of archaeologists such as Mary Beard, Michael Smith, and Rosemary Joyce taking an active online role. The idea is that we can enable digital media in archaeology as an emancipatory force. Morgan and Winters (2015) continue to advocate tools such as blogging as a key tool in enhancing communication and even potentially revolutionizing publication. As researchers struggle with publicizing their work, many are turning to blogging (it was actually recommended to me and some other students this morning). Additionally, as it was pointed out in class, many online conversations over archaeological finds and/or heritage continue with or without archaeologists. This implies that archaeologists (and other researchers) have a certain responsibility to engage online to contextualize their work and/or dispel misconceptions. In contrast, Perry et al. (2015) address the potential negative consequences to the researcher from such engagement, such as harassment, abuse, and threats to physical safety, as well as the lack of institutional support for targets of abuse. Public backlash, and even harassment, has always been a risk in academia, but now the internet provides unprecedented levels of accessibility to targets. While proponents of digital engagement espouse creating a more open and inclusive environment, it may paradoxically create a chilling effect on participation. Having personally seen the sometimes tragic effects of online harassment, I share their concerns, though I appreciate (and read) the efforts of archaeologists that voluntarily engage in public online discussion. As archaeologists are becoming more expected to create an online presence (be it through blogs, personal pages, or funding mandated project websites, etc.), I believe it’s important to be aware of these challenges as well as potential resources for online engagement.
As we consider the potential of digital engagement in archaeology, what role do you see archaeologists taking, especially when confronting different concepts of cultural heritage, “alternative” histories, pseudoarchaeology, and refuting public misconceptions?
My first example is the continued discussion over Confederate monuments in the United States:
Second is this example of an archaeologist attempting to put together a guideline for spotting misinformation about the Maya in online resources:
Finally, there is Trowel Blazers: http://trowelblazers.com/
Which is a site "dedicated to outreach activities aimed at encouraging participation of women and underrepresented groups in archaeological, geological, and palaeontological science."
What about these attempts at outreach do you find effective? Ineffective?