Monday, 23 October 2017

"Digital" vs. "Archaeology" - who's on first ?


I recently came across this article and thought it might be a good candidate for discussion in our blog - not so much because of the scholarly detail (it is quite short), but rather due to the way that Technology seems to have overshadowed Archaeology in the article. 

There are clearly some innovative and arguably "cool" technologies being promoted here.  Using  robots to probe archaeological sites where human intervention would either be unsafe, impossible, or destructive seems very cool and also makes good practical sense.   Leveraging a "cloud" based archaeological information management system would likely be a requirement given the large data volumes produced by the various  data sensors on the robot.   (Although this example reminded me of the "data deluge" discussed by Cooper and Green (2017) in our readings this week.   Who and how will they make sense of all of the data?)   And finally, the development of multiple web and mobile application interfaces to enable the results to be disseminated to  various "user" groups based on their needs would also be warranted.    

Lots of technology to showcase, but what about Archaeology?   Aside from a few cursory references to "Cultural Heritage" in the article and a somewhat patronizing final statement that places technology "once more at the service of culture and restoration", this article really didn't seem to connect back to Archaeology in any substantial way for me.   

This is only one article and perhaps even an obscure one at that.   But do you think that this example is indicative of a larger risk for Digital Archaeology where technology becomes THE thing rather than just a thing?   My perspective on this comes from a 30+ year (first) career in IT where I've seen a lot of shiny balls come and go.   I think we need to be very careful not to elevate "Digital" to the status of the primary identifier in "Digital Archaeology".   Archaeology is what we do - Digital is just one of the ways that we do it.  

What do you think?   I will look forward to your comments and reactions.       

Jeff

1 comment:

kayla lausanne said...


I definitely agree that technology is becoming the forefront of archaeology, however I personally don't see technology as becoming the thing. From what I have seen, when ever a new technology within archaeology comes about, shortly after there is a series of different authors who discuss the consequences and ethical concerns of the technique. I believe us as archaeologist boast the technology to further engage the public as people now tend to be more interested in the technology used and the benefits of it. Just as with public archaeology, we emphasis the aspects that will be more people will engage with. Although this article does emphasis the digital over the archaeology, there are checks and balances within the archaeology community that ensure archaeology remain the forefront of thought.