Figurations of Digital Practice, Craft, and Agency in Two Mediterranean Fieldwork Projects

Abstract

Archaeological practice is increasingly enacted within pervasive and invisible digital infrastructures, tools, and services that affect how participants engage in learning and fieldwork, and how evidence, knowledge, and expertise are produced. This article discusses the collective imaginings regarding the present and future of digital archaeological practice held by researchers working in two archaeological projects in the Eastern Mediterranean, who have normalized the use of digital tools and the adoption of digital processes in their studies. It is a part of E-CURATORS, a research project investigating how archaeologists in multiple contexts and settings incorporate pervasive digital technologies in their studies. Based on an analysis of qualitative interviews, we interpret the arguments advanced by study participants on aspects of digital work, learning, and expertise. We find that, in their sayings, participants not only characterize digital tools and workflows as having positive instrumental value, but also recognize that they may severely constrain the autonomy and agency of researchers as knowledge workers through the hyper-granularization of data, the erosion of expertise, and the mechanization of work. Participants advance a notion of digital archaeology based on do-it-yourself (DIY) practice and craft to reclaim agency from the algorithmic power of digital technology and to establish fluid, positional distribution of roles and agency, and mutual validation of expertise. Operating within discourses of labour vs efficiency, and technocracy vs agency, sayings, elicited within the archaeological situated practice in the wild, become doings, echoing archaeology s anxiety in the face of pervasive digital technology.

Year of Publication
2021
Journal
Open Archaeology
Volume
7
Number of Pages
1731-1755
Date Published
jan
DOI
10.1515/opar-2020-0217
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