Session: #153

Theme & Session Format

5. Assembling archaeological theory and the archaeological sciences
Session format:
Regular session

Title & Content

Archaeology in the Digitocene Age: Discussing Critical Approaches, Onto-Ethics, and Policies of Digital Practices
As archaeology experiences an ongoing radical shift from “spade-work” to “screen-work,” technical advances continue to outpace the development of robust interpretive frameworks responding to the “digital ecosystems” which now characterize our field. This lack of balance risks perpetuating a trend of “techno-fetishism” whereby researchers prioritize the utilization of the latest methods to collect more and more data at the expense of keeping their interpretive frameworks breast with new technologies. Furthermore, on outsized emphasis on the technical over the theoretical can lead researchers to “aestheticize” archaeological knowledge, focusing their efforts on the production of data visualizations which enchant and impress, but do not necessarily make meaningful contributions to interpretive dialogues about the past.

Recently, a growing chorus has amplified concerns regarding these issues. Jeremy Huggett, for instance, argues that the influence of digital technologies on the very nature of archaeological practice is “under-theorised, under-represented, and under-valued,” but “is increasingly fundamental to the way in which we arrive at an understanding of the past” (Huggett 2015, 86).

During this session, we seek to answer Huggett’s call for a “meaningful dialogue” about digital technologies and their influence on research outcomes (Huggett 2015, 87), inviting proposals that handle the theoretical, methodological and practice-based problems of digital archaeology in research contexts. Moreover, the increasingly widespread application of digital methods in the context of heritage practice raises the need for a critical examination of these issues beyond the academic field (i.e. public archaeology, indigenous archaeology, rescue archaeology). Therefore, submissions speaking to the influence of digital on the politics of heritage, social impact and global or local values are also highly encouraged.

Huggett, J. 2015. “A Manifesto for an Introspective Digital Archaeology.” Open Archaeology 1, 86-95.
archaeological theory, digital archaeology, digital heritage, cyber-archaeology, critical discourse
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Main organiser:
Kasper Jan Hanus (Poland) 1
Monika Stobiecka (Poland) 2
Tyler Johnson (United States) 3
1. TBD
2. University of Warsaw
3. University of Michigan