Developing Digital Stories

Ola Henfridsson (2014) has recently argued that developing compelling stories is perhaps the most important mission of the qualitative information systems researcher. “A powerful story … may inspire us to take action, whether it is within the realm of knowledge, the realm of practice, or at the intersection between the two.” (2014, 356).

Shouldn’t the same be said of the digital archaeologist – shouldn’t we be developing our own narratives?

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Big Data and Distance

One of the features of the availability of increasing amounts of archaeological data online is that it frequently arrives without an accompanying awareness of context. Far from being a problem, this is often seen as an advantage in relation to ‘big data’ – indeed, Chris Anderson has claimed that context can be established later once statistical algorithms have found correlations in large datasets that might not otherwise be revealed.
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Open Data quality

In relation to the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) database, David Gill on his ‘Looting Matters’ blog has pondered “How far can we trust the information supplied with the reported objects? Are these largely reported or ‘said to be’ findspots?”.

Spatial information is frequently cited as a problem in relation to open archaeological data – but the focus tends to be on the risks it poses for looting (for example, Bevan 2012, 7-8; Kansa 2012, 508-9).

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What is Introspective Digital Archaeology?

Introspective Digital Archaeology seeks to examine the ways in which digital technologies within archaeology may have changed what we do, how we do it, how we represent what we do, how we communicate what we do, how we understand what we do, and how others understand what we do. This is in contrast to the more traditional approach, in which archaeological perspectives of digital technologies tend to cluster around the context of application, accounting for and justifying the use of a particular digital methodology in a specific circumstance. An introspective approach to Digital Archaeology represents a much wider and more fundamental approach to the understanding of the digital transformation of archaeology and considers the intermediation of digital technologies at every stage of the production of archaeological knowledge.

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New Aesthetics and Digital Archaeology

In 2011, James Bridle coined the term New Aesthetic to describe his curation of a series of images on Tumblr. This New Aesthetic was predicated on the discovery and revelation of images which are embedded in digital technologies and without which they could not exist. In the process they provide a reminder of the way technology insinuates into modern life, changing perceptions and understanding. One example familiar to archaeologists is satellite imagery:

“Every satellite image posted is a meditation on the nature of mapping, that raises issues of perspective and power relationships, the privilege of the overhead view and the monopoly on technological agency which produces it.” (Bridle 2013)

Archaeologists such as Julian Thomas have observed the potential implications of such technologically privileged views of landscapes, and, on a smaller scale, digital archaeologists are familiar with the way in which the tell-tale fingerprints of software tools such as ArcGIS and AutoCAD can frequently be identified in the maps and illustrations they are used to create. However, aspects such as these have largely remained un-investigated within archaeology.

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