I was asked to participate in a debate forum for Antiquity, instigated by Computer Scientist John Aycock’s The coming tsunami of digital artefacts. To greatly oversimplify, Aycock warns archaeologists that there is a lot of digital stuff and that we are not particularly well equipped to do the archaeology of digital things and we’d best get our acts together. In their respective responses, Sarah and Eric Kansa focus on archives and Jeremy Huggett discusses the definitions of digital archaeology and digital artefacts. They’re all very worthy discussions–I think it’s particularly funny that Huggett and I both lean on the old bricoleurs chestnut.
Then I go off on a Deleuzian discussion of Minecraft flint, that’s probably a bit half-baked, but it was fun and I’d like to expand on it. Then I say we can’t record all the digital things because we’d move up in the long list of environmental baddies, shades of the Borges map that covers the territory, etc. I also try to make cyborg archaeology happen. Forgive me.
Aycock (2021) advises us to partner with computer scientists to examine the code. This is, of course, advisable for us to understand how the Minecraft flint was created, how it changed over time and is linked to other in-game affordances. We could document and potentially ‘excavate’ the Java code for the game, as Aycock and other archaeologists have done. The code, however, is one part of the assemblage that the Minecraft flint comprises, and I am equally interested in the other constituent parts. A prefigurative, embodied, feminist post-human approach—also known as cyborg archaeology (Morgan (2019); by way of Haraway (1985) and Braidotti (1997))—would encourage us to investigate the political implications of Minecraft, as its play is based in an extractionist settler colonial understanding of the world (Brazelton 2020), accompanied by a call to reconfigure the game along kin-based networks. An embodied approach would explore the effects of the digital on our bodies: on posture, bone spurs, and microplastics in our organs. A climate-aware archaeological investigation of scale and environment could help us understand how digital mining of a different kind, for example, bitcoin, is hastening global warming (Mora et al. 2018).
You can go to Antiquity to access my response:
Morgan, C. (2021). An archaeology of digital things: Social, political, polemical. Antiquity, 1-4. doi:10.15184/aqy.2021.125.
Or check it out here: