Home > Archaeology, The New Media > What does Archaeology and the New Media look like?

What does Archaeology and the New Media look like?

After a phone chat with an old friend yesterday, I got to wondering what an edited volume on archaeology and the new media would look like.  Here are my random thoughts:

1. Dynamic. If we’ve learned anything from the New Media moment, it’s that static media is old media. The New Media – whatever that really is – is dynamic, adaptive, conversational, and unstable. It is a bit difficult to understand how a traditional edited volume that recognizes the value of the New Media in archaeology would bridge the gap between a static book form (and I would certainly count most ebooks as static, electronic versions of the Old Media) and the dynamic forms of expression that have characterized new media concepts. I could, perhaps, imagine a publication as a application for the iPad or coming wave of Android tablets that would fully embrace the nascent ability of e-readers, like the Kindle, to allow people to read collectively by providing access to other readers annotations.

2. Historical. At the same time, I’d want a volume to reflect and capture a specific historical moment in the development of archaeology as a discipline.  As archaeologists, we know that excavation and documentation are both productive and destructive processes.  The creation of a volume on archaeology and the New Media could embrace this destruction/production dichotomy both by preserving in some way our thinking about the role of web 2.0 technologies in our work and by destroying the web 2.0-ness of these technologies (and ways of thinking) in a static, profoundly archaeological volume.  The archival tendency in archaeology could presumably accept the loss of the New Media experience for the sake of its historical description and preservation in another medium.

What do these first two points mean? An application or web site and an archive (a printed volume)?

3. Sampling Strategy.  The one thing about New Media engagement with archaeological work is that range of applications and goals.  Some projects see New Media as a means of publicizing their work to an established group of “stakeholders” or even working to expand the group of stakeholders by leveraging the webs infinite reach (and this is the point of departure that my project took when first experimenting with blogging).  Other projects developed New Media technologies in their core project goals viewing the text-blogging or photo-blogging or video-blogging or pod-casting or whatever as central to the way archaeological research functions as story telling.  The use of new media also extends from the New World archaeological practices to the deepest bastions of Old World archaeology and from the most highly restricted research oriented projects to field schools.  Sampling a range of project’s that have used New Media would be necessary to document New Media in both practice and theory.

4. Definitions. The sampling strategy proposed above would help create a definition for the New Media in an archaeological context that would capture a moment in time and a discrete range of relationships between archaeological methods and media technologies. The production of an archives forms the basis for this kind of disciplinary definition that can serve as a measuring stick of effectiveness, innovation, and mark out more clearly conceptual boundaries.

5. Best Practices.  There are practical concerns for using New Media technologies in archaeology.  Some of them have to do with control over archaeological data and various national policies for the dissemination of sensitive archaeological information.  As New Media technologies are increasingly used to record various aspects of archaeological research, there should be a set of  best practices to ensure that the output of even the most ephemeral outputs are not lost.  While a single set of best practices is unlikely to emerge, principles of curation would certainly provide a framework around which more practical approaches could cohere.

What are your thoughts on the design, scope, and content of a volume on Archaeology and the New Media?

Categories: Archaeology, The New Media
  1. Fee
    October 1, 2010 at 11:05 am

    For the first two points, I think it is indeed both an archive and a web app. (A web app will run both online and natively – once compiled – for both iOS and Android). This would let us hit the broadest audience: users of text, the web, and mobile devices. It could also help form a community around the work.
    What I continue to struggle with though is how to collect and organize the ideas we have for content. I think you’ve got some good ideas here – the best practices section could essentially be a collection of case studies for the use of new media in archaeological research and education. I think the definitions ideas works as well, although I might broaden it…
    I guess I better get to work! I’ll write up my ideas and post to my blog. We’ll have a prospectus in no time : )

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