A Post-Digital Archaeology?

Given the current state of digital archaeology, is it more properly referred to as post-digital archaeology? What does this mean? There’s a lot of confusion about the term ‘post-digital’, not least because it’s often used by techno-boosters in the sense of “what next?”, assuming that since everything is now digital, we’re looking to the next ‘big thing’ – a presumption that is questionable to say the least.

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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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