Archaeological Epistemology in the Digital Age

Part of: Society for American Archaeology 82nd Annual Meeting, Vancouver, BC (2017)

Digital technologies are becoming integral to archaeological practice, from research to pedagogy and public outreach. In the past decade, many archaeologists have reflected on how these technologies impact their work in the field and in the classroom, but they largely focus on how they developed, implemented, or improved digital tools or techniques designed to organize, analyze, and disseminate data. Yet as digital technologies become increasingly essential to how archaeologists investigate the past, we must also consider how they create new ways of engaging with, interpreting, and classifying materials, things, sites, and regions. For example, how do—or could—digital databases alter our understanding of relationships between and inextricable assemblages of humans, organisms, things, soils, and environments? Must the digital data we create themselves become artifacts of an archaeological record imagined as a collection of static entities? Or can the digital data add a new dimension to our understanding of the archaeological record as a dynamic process made up of sequences of entrained elements? How do digital tools change the way we "assemble" constellations of artifacts and practices, and consequently, reconstruct the past? This session addresses these questions of archaeological epistemology in the digital age.

Resources Inside This Collection (Viewing 1-12 of 12)

  • Documents (12)

  • Agelah and the Powershot: Digital Possibilities for Alternate Ways of Knowing in Archaeology (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Allison Mickel.

    Digital recording methods offer a range of new means of collecting, organizing, and presenting archaeological information, which lead to new ways of thinking about the past. Capitalizing on the intuitive design of digital technologies additionally creates the potential for communities whose voices have been missing from the archaeological record to contribute their perspectives. In this paper, I draw upon my experiences experimenting with multimedia recording strategies at Petra, Jordan and at...

  • The Anthropology of Data Design and Project Strategy (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Cinzia Perlingieri. Kelley Shanahan. Elena Toffalori.

    Much of what we do today as archaeologists and cultural heritage professionals is designing digital projects. From organizing field documentation methodologies to processing, analysis, publication, and sharing, we design workflows based on how content is best represented in a digital format. Transition to digital form is still rarely linear, even more so when you help others adopt digital solutions for their content. Given the cultural nature of projects we work on, at CoDA, we have adopted a...

  • Archaeology's Digital Interfaces (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Jeremy Huggett.

    Computing devices have been increasingly used by archaeologists since the 1950s, their adoption accelerating significantly since the 1980s with the availability of personal computers. What is the nature of this changing relationship and what are the implications for archaeology (and computing)? These questions will be addressed through the metaphor of the interface. We are accustomed to the textual and graphical user interfaces as a means of negotiation between archaeologist and computer, but...

  • The Digital Evolution at Chan Chich, Belize (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Brett Houk.

    In 2012, the Chan Chich Archaeological Project transitioned from paper field forms to a relational database on iPads in the field and an iMac in the laboratory. Since then, the database has evolved each season, becoming more powerful and more useful with each modification. The project has also adopted Structure from Motion as a standard method for documenting excavations over the past three seasons. The digital revolution has not been without its difficulties, but the evolution of the database...

  • Downscaling in Archaeology: From digital forest to probable trees (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Daniel Contreras.

    Integrating archaeological and paleoenvironmental data about the past is a longstanding archaeological goal. It is often central to basic archaeological interpretation, fundamental to addressing questions of human-environment interaction, and vital to realizing archaeology’s potential contributions to studies of vulnerability, resilience, and sustainability in the face of climate change. However, such integration faces challenges of scale, resolution, and mechanism. Increasingly abundant digital...

  • From Trench to Tablet: Field Recording, Interpreting, and Publishing in the Age of Digital Archaeology (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Erin Averett. Derek Counts. William Caraher. Jody Gordon.

    Since the arrival of robust mobile tablet devices in 2010, archaeological documentation has increasingly become born-digital. The adoption of digital tools and practices has not gone unnoticed, with reactions ranging from enthusiastic acceptance to outright skepticism. Significantly, scholars are beginning to offer more critical and reflexive views of the issues surrounding the use of mobile devices in archaeological fieldwork, interpretation, and dissemination. The ability to disseminate...

  • Podcasts as Archaeological Digital Preservation (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Chris Webster. Tristan Boyle.

    Archaeologists are increasingly collecting and storing archaeological data in a digital format. While a lot of time and effort has been spent on the HOW of digital information collection, little time has been spent on the other side - public outreach. An archaeologist's job is only half complete when the digital data are safely stored on multiple servers and in an archival format. If no one knows about it did it ever really matter? Podcasts are typically free and are accessible by everyone with...

  • Producing Knowledge Through the Production of 3D Digital Artifacts (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Kevin Garstki.

    It is becoming more common to see 3D digital artifacts used for analysis and interpretation, often as if these digital forms are equivalent to the original. This paper discusses the process of creating a 3D model as an essential but often under considered aspect of the final product that should be taken into consideration in their use in any archaeological analysis and interpretation. Digital artifact models inhabit a strange place amongst the suite of traditional archaeological data – their...

  • Rethinking Assemblages in the Digital Age (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Rebecca Bria.

    Archaeologists have long drawn on technological advances from other disciplines to create new ways of visualizing and classifying data. Relational databases in particular have been a cornerstone of archaeological inquiry into material assemblages, whether sets of artifacts and their attributes or constellations of sites across regions. But how have new technologies (e.g., spatial, three-dimensional, mobile, and digitally collaborative platforms) enhanced achaeologists' ability to trace, and...

  • Thinking Differently? How Digital Engagement, Teaching, and Research Have Influenced My Archaeological Knowledge (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Lynne Goldstein.

    Having been a professional archaeologist for a very long time, I have used a variety of different tools. Since 1988, I have actively employed digital tools for archaeological research, teaching, and public engagement. This work has primarily been based in the Midwestern US, and has included both prehistoric and historic sites. In this paper, I highlight three examples and discuss the epistemological implications of the digital tools. The first is a Wisconsin projectile point book prepared almost...

  • Thinking outside the map: Alternative approaches to data visualization (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Lauren Kohut.

    One of the more promising applications of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in archaeology is the potential to incorporate aspects of human perception and experience of the landscape. Visibility analysis has been applied extensively to archaeological contexts, and models of movement, acoustics and other sensory experiences have recently received greater consideration. But despite the promise of moving beyond measurements of geographic space, most applications of experiential modeling continue...

  • Thinking Socially: Digital Archaeology Beyond Technological Fetishism (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Lorna-Jane Richardson.

    As research momentum gathers alongside the adoption of digital technologies into everyday life, the terms ‘virtual reality’, ‘online’, and ‘cyberspace’, increasingly fail to recognize the degree to which the adoption of digital technologies, and the material objects through which the digital is accessed, have been domesticated and made normal. The entanglement of social communication networks in the variety of digital environments provided by archaeological organisations is often seen as...