Digital Heritage 2014: Digital Communities in Action

DH Poster-348-494

I’m chairing a session at this year’s Digital Heritage conference at the University of York–it should be really interesting! Here is the line-up:

Mhairi Maxwell – The ACCORD Project (Archaeology- Community Co-Design and Co-production of Research Data)
Sara Perry – Cultivating democracy and good citizenship via digital visualisation in archaeology
Carrie Heitman – Facilitating Communities of Collaboration: A Case Study from the American Southwest
Gareth Beale – Digital Imaging, Heritage and Participation at Basing House
Lorna Richardson – Digital Activism, Digital Volunteerism

The conference will be on July 12, 2014, for more details check out the event page:

And you can register here:


Emancipatory Digital Archaeology on

It finally occurred to me to post my thesis on Proquest seems to be taking their sweet time to index it. Here’s the abstract and download link:

As archaeologists integrate digital media into all stages of archaeological methodology, it is necessary to understand the implications of using this media to interpret the past. Using digital media is not a neutral or transparent act; to critically engage with digital media it is necessary to create an interdisciplinary space, drawing from the growing body of new media and visual studies, materiality, and anthropological and archaeological theory. This dissertation describes this interdisciplinary space in detail and investigates the following questions: what does it mean to employ digital media in the context of archaeology, how do digital technologies shape inquiry within archaeology, can new media theory change interpretation in archaeology, and can digital media serve as a mechanism for an emancipatory archaeology? To attend to these questions I address digital media created by archaeologists as digital archaeological artifacts, understood as active members of a network of interpretation in archaeology. To give structure to this understanding I assemble three object biographies that identify the digital archaeological artifact’s context, the authorship of the artifact, the inclusion of multiple perspectives involved in its creation, and evaluate the openness or ability to share the artifact. The three object biographies that constitute the body of this work are a digital photograph taken of a teapot at Tall Dhiban in Jordan, a digital video of an unexpected excavator participating at Çatalhöyük in Turkey, and a 3D reconstruction of a Neolithic building excavated at Çatalhöyük within the virtual world of Second Life. In these object biographies I weave together narrative, imagery and rigorous, theoretically informed analyses to provide a reflexive investigation of digital archaeological artifacts. Drawing from this research, I advocate a critical making movement in archaeology that will enable archaeologists to use digital media in an activist, emancipatory role to highlight inequity, bring the voices of stakeholders into relief, de-center interpretations, and to make things and share them.

And here’s the link on

The Evaluation of Digital Work in Archaeology

During the Visualisation in Archaeology closing discussion session we collectively struggled with methods for evaluating visual works by archaeologists as a means of legitimizing the work as an intellectual product on the same level as a journal article or book.  This is especially important for those of us who devote so much time to making videos and multimedia projects and do not get academically or professionally rewarded for this work.

The MLA has taken up a bit of this slack in publishing their wiki on the Evaluation of Digital Work, here:

This wiki is an ongoing project initiated by the MLA Committee on Information Technology (CIT) as a way for the academic community to develop, gather, and share materials about the evaluation of work in digital media for purposes of tenure and promotion. These materials were initially conceived, written, and hosted by Geoffrey Rockwell when he was a member of the CIT (2005-08). The wiki is now maintained as a collaborative project of the MLA and other interested parties, such as HASTAC (Humanities, Arts, Science and Technology Advanced Collaboratory).

It’s this kind of policy making that might bring a more thoughtful use of digital work in archaeology.  As part of a now-defunct journal, Critical Archaeology, I was to have a regular review column that would address these kinds of problems.  Internet Archaeology has a review section, so perhaps I should take my case there, but  I would still like to have a specialized venue to develop these criteria.  It is difficult finding archaeologists who are conversant enough in theory and practice (this especially!) in digital archaeology to be peer reviewers and there are so many projects out there that are using digital media in an uncritical, piecemeal fashion that it would be good to have to more generalizable standards.

Instead of a wiki, I’ve started a google wave to develop these standards.  Full disclosure: I’m still trying to find some kind of use for google wave.  Let me know if you’d like an invite.