Some presentations on Introspective Digital Archaeology:

Real Talk
CC-0 1.0 (from original by Matt Bosford)

Critical Use and Re-Use of Archaeological Data (SEADDA WG4 Exploratory Workshop, York, 2020)

A keynote presentation to the SEADDA (Saving European Archaeology from the Digital Dark Age) workshop on the Use and Re-Use of Archaeological Data held online from 31st March 2020. Elements of this presentation can be seen in the posts Delving into Data Reuse and Dark Data.

Digital Agency in Archaeological Practice (COST-ARKWORK Conference, Rethymno, Crete 2019)

Presentation at the On shifting grounds – the study of archaeological practices in a changing world conference (first few minutes are silent!). A key development in archaeology is the increasing agency of the digital tools brought to bear on archaeological practice. Roles and tasks that were previously thought to be uncomputable are beginning to be digitalised, and the presumption that computerisation is best suited to well-defined and restricted tasks appears to be starting to break down. What are the implications of this shift to algorithmic, automated practices for archaeology? Are there limits to algorithmic agency within archaeology? How might our practice change in the light of contemporary technical and social developments in computing and allied fields?

Issues and Challenges for Data Reuse in Archaeology (MASA seminar, Nanterre, 2019)

Presentation to the Mémoires des Archéologues et des Sites Archéologiques (MASA) seminar La réutilisation des données archéologiques: dépasser les frontières? held at the University of Nanterre, Paris, September 2019. Elements of this presentation can be seen in the posts Delving into Data Reuse and Dark Data. Audio | Powerpoint slides

Towards a Digital Ethics of Agential Devices (Computer Applications in Archaeology, Krakow, 2019)

As algorithms and their devices increasingly acquire agency, the need to address their ethical issues becomes ever more urgent. The range of digital devices used across archaeology and the algorithms which drive them are progressively black-boxed as they become more and more complex, but the lack of transparency, the absence of explanation, and the increasing authority of these devices, together with the levels of trust, reliance, and expectations placed upon them, can create either a vicious or virtual circular relationship between the human and digital agent. In particular, as these tools – from software analytics to drones to bio-mimetic robotic devices – increasingly display autonomous behaviours they require a consideration of the ethics of their design, development, and application. What limits should be applied to their use? Can these agential devices contain ethical programming, and consequently exhibit ethical behaviour? Do the responsibilities and liabilities lie with the device, the designer, the user, or in some com-bination? The development of ethics in this area is still in its infancy: for example the IEEE is planning a publication in 2019 looking at the ethical issues associated with the design and use of autonomous systems, and archaeologists can learn from and build upon the digital ethics de-bates that are beginning to take place elsewhere. Furthermore, we have a responsibility to do so. Text version available here.

Digital Creativity or Digital Dark Age? A Scenario Analysis of Archaeological Knowledge Production in an Insecure World (with P. Reilly & G. Lock, Computer Applications in Archaeology, Tübingen, 2018)

Digital technology increasingly pervades all settings of archaeological practice (i.e., academic, contract, public, museum, and archive) and virtually every stage of knowledge production. Through the digital we create, develop, manage and share our disciplinary crown jewels. However, technology adoption and digital mediation has not been uniform across all settings or stages. This diversity might be celebrated as reflecting greater openness and multivocality in the discipline. Alternatively, it can be argued that such diversity is unsustainable, and that standards are insufficiently rigorous. However, all positions face the possibility of being severely tested by some large-scale external event: on every continent we witness economic and political upheaval, violence and social conflict. We ask how secure is the digitally mediated knowledge being produced by archaeologists today? To investigate this question we apply the futurity technique of scenario analysis to generate plausible scenarios and assess their strategic strengths and weaknesses. Based on this analysis we propose some measures to place archaeology in a more robust knowledgescape without stifling digitally creative disruption.

  • J. Huggett, P. Reilly and G. Lock (2018) Whither Digital Archaeological Knowledge? The Challenge of Unstable Futures. Journal of Computer Applications in Archaeology, 1(1), pp.42–54.

Extended Practice and Digital Representations (TAG 2016, Southampton)

When we consider the relationship between aspects of archaeological practice and the digital tools we increasingly incorporate within our practice, our focus is – inevitably – on the questions, applications, and results. Consequently, our reflective approach to the digital is frequently limited to the relatively mundane: what it offers, what it delivers, what it costs. But the relationship between practice and the digital extends far beyond this. In a very real sense, the digital becomes a part of extended practice: the digital shares in the practice, it takes on part of the practice in its own right, it can even undertake the practice absent the archaeologist. What are the implications of this for our approaches to the visualisations, representations, constructions, explorations, conceptualisations that we create in our digital environments?

The Apparatus of Digital Archaeology (Computer Applications in Archaeology, Oslo, 2016)

Digital Archaeology is predicated upon an ever-changing set of apparatuses – technological, methodological, software, hardware, material, immaterial – which in their own ways and to varying degrees shape the nature of Digital Archaeology. Our attention, however, is perhaps inevitably more closely focused on research questions, choice of data, and the kinds of analyses and outputs. In the process we tend to overlook the effect the tools themselves have on the archaeology we do beyond the immediate consequences of the digital. This paper seeks to address the apparatus more directly within the context of the developing archaeological digital ecosystem.

A Digital Detox for Digital Archaeology (York Heritage Research Seminar, 2016)

It’s difficult within a technologically-driven world to find that moment of quiet to allow contemplation of where we have been and where we are now, before we consider where we might go. Some choose to undergo a digital detox, in particular turning off email and social media for a period to provide an opportunity to refocus and offset the attention deficit that frequently accompanies the digital world. But what may work for the individual isn’t feasible for a discipline where it would be unrealistic to think we can walk away from the digital in Digital Archaeology. Nevertheless, the opportunity to review, rethink, and refocus is no less valuable and this is what an introspective approach to Digital Archaeology attempts to afford,  looking into the heart of Digital Archaeology as a means of meditating on its future.

Disciplinary Issues: the research and practice of computer applications in archaeology (Computer Applications in Archaeology, Southampton, 2012)

An annual international conference on computer applications in archaeology (CAA) has been meeting annually for almost forty years, so one might expect that there would be a reasonable idea of the nature and role of archaeological computing. However, some commentators see it as an emerging field while others suggest the need for a new archaeological speciality: Archaeological Information Science. Even the Wikipedia page on computational archaeology describes archaeoinformatics as an emerging discipline. Is this a sign of a lack of confidence in forty years-worth of enterprise and development or is it instead an indication of growing self-assurance in the subject? In recent years other fields, including GIScience and Information Systems, have sought to evaluate their intellectual core and identity; this paper suggests that it is time that archaeological computing does likewise.

Core or Periphery? Digital Humanities from an archaeological perspective (Cologne Dialogue on Digital Humanities, 2012)

The relationship between Digital Humanities and individual humanities disciplines is difficult to define given the uncertainties surrounding the definition of Digital Humanities itself. An examination of coverage within Digital Humanities journals narrows the range but at the same time emphasises that, while the focus of Digital Humanities might be textual, not all textually-oriented disciplines are equally represented. Trending terms also seem to suggest that Digital Humanities is more of a label of convenience, even for those disciplines most closely associated with Digital Humanities. From an archaeological perspective, a relationship between Digital Archaeology and Digital Humanities is largely absent and the evidence suggests that each is peripheral with respect to the other. Reasons for this situation are discussed, and the spatial expertise of Digital Archaeology is reviewed in relation to Digital Humanities concerns regarding the use of GIS.  The conclusion is that a closer relationship is possible, and indeed desirable, but that a direct conversation between Digital Humanities, Digital Archaeology and humanities geographers needs to be established.