Archaeology’s Audiences: The first public event of the Archaeology Audience Network (AAN)

Join us Thursday 11 November 2021 for our first AAN training session

Screenshot of MOLA webpage advertising the first Archaeology Audience Network event on 11 November 2021. The image shows a group of 6 people surrounding an archaeological handling kit.
https://www.mola.org.uk/archaeology-audience-network-training-session-1

I hope you might join us Thursday, 11 November, 2021 at either 16:00-18:00 GMT or 18:00-20:00 GMT for the first Archaeology Audience Network (AAN) training session. This free event is for all of you interested in audiences and public engagement with archaeology, which I imagine would be everyone working in, studying, and otherwise keen on the discipline – as well as those involved in the wider heritage sector. More information on the session and some of the underpinning evidence for it is available on MOLA’s website. We are running it twice to accommodate demand

The AAN is a collaboration between archaeological organisations in England working to bring together, learn from, and improve our use of data about audiences in order to achieve more meaningful impacts. Collaborators include MOLAthe Archaeology Data Servicethe Council for British ArchaeologyDigVenturesOxford ArchaeologyWessex Archaeology, and York Archaeological Trust, alongside a series of supporters from different professional and academic bodies. The Network will grow over time and we aim for it to be self-sustaining by the end of its formal two years of funding. This essential funding comes from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) and The National Lottery through The Heritage Fund’s Digital Skills for Heritage initiative.

It’s hard for me to express how much and for how long I’ve been keen to see this type of collaboration realised. My MOLA colleague Magnus Copps (Head of Programming and Partnerships) and I began to work on the proposal as soon as the funding opportunity was announced last year. We reached out to our close working partners and affiliates who we believed would be equally enthusiastic (they were!), and from there the Network was born. The funding from DCMS and The National Lottery has been pivotal to making it possible – it allows us to collate existing data, use lessons learned (both from the categories of data being collected and from the data themselves) to formulate and test out new approaches to engagement with different citizens, and create new models for good practice around audience data, building on the long-standing good practice work of the ADS.

Our first outward-facing event associated with the Network is next week’s introductory training session on Archaeology’s Audiences. We’ve had to re-jig the schedule for the event a couple of times already, both because this is a learning experience for us, and because this first session is important for us in ensuring we fully lay out the foundations for the Network, present its context, highlight its evolving nature (which is designed to be responsive to themes and trends as they emerge), and gauge interest and reactions from different individuals and groups.

Per above, we are running the same session twice on the same day (11 Nov, 16:00-18:00 GMT and 18:00-20:00 GMT), and recording the first (less interactive) part of the session for wider dissemination afterwards. The demand we’ve witnessed for this event perhaps further reinforces not just how much interest there is in the subject matter, but also how much need exists for amalgamation of existing/past work, and alignment of future thinking and practice on matters of audience data and audience evaluation in archaeology.

As we mentioned in our Digital Skills for Heritage application, public archaeology as it is practiced within the context of the UK planning process forms a significant avenue for audiences to access ‘live’ archaeological investigations and contribute hands-on insights into UK heritage. It has access to relatively substantial sources of funding outside of the usual research and charitable grant streams. It takes place around and under the living and working spaces of all demographics in the UK. And it tends to be grounded in activities that can generate short and long-term human outcomes but that lack the enduring physical presence that comes from capital investment in buildings, restoration, or static interpretation. In other words, it is a very special field of practice, with much insight about audience engagement to share—and with tremendous potential to shape archaeological and heritage research and practice in all its manifestations.

We hope you’ll follow along with the work of the Network (email: aan@mola.org.uk, hashtag: #archaeoAN) and join us for the first session on 11 November 2021.

Digital Code of Conduct

MOLA’s community rules for safe and constructive online interactions

MOLA’s Digital Code of Conduct – our community rules for safe engagement on our digital channels (launched 9 September 2021) https://www.mola.org.uk/digital-code-of-conduct

I am very proud to say that this week at MOLA we launched our Digital Code of Conduct.

The code presents our public-facing community rules for audiences who engage with us on social media, on our apps and elsewhere. It has taken more than a year to develop, including 14 iterations and feedback from dozens of team members across MOLA. You can read more about the context for it on this blog post, including links to the many people and organisations who have inspired it.

This Code of Conduct grows directly out of requests and feedback from my colleagues and others who interact with us online, and the current version has seen many additions after multiple rounds of consultation. Some of you will know my own experiences of many years of persistent and extreme sexual harassment through web/social media, which left me feeling quite helpless as I was expected to act in a public-facing role without tools to manage the associated problems that come with such visibility.

I have published on my personal experience, done collaborative research on the extent to which others in the profession have been subject to such harassment, taught on multiple massive open online courses focused on safe digital engagements (e.g., Becoming a Digital Citizen), and follow along with the work of others who continue to decry the lack of safeguards around archaeology’s digital social practices and who advocate for change (e.g., Chris WakefieldLorna RichardsonMeghan Dennis). I’ve developed field-based codes of conduct, and have been profoundly influenced by the work of others doing the same in their contexts of work (e.g., Ben Marwick, DigVentures).

Since moving to MOLA, I’ve been learning how to roll out such policies and other initiatives at a much broader scale. So for those of you who are interested in the process of development of something like this, which has organisation-wide implications, not to mention impacts on MOLA’s many followers, we created a very early rough draft last summer. (Note that the Code sits alongside a MOLA internal social media policy.) It went through several versions and then was circulated simultaneously to our leadership team and to representatives of key groups in the organisation (e.g., our Network for Ethnically Diverse Staff, our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Working Group). A new draft was then circulated to the full engagement team (around 25 people), who are at the front lines of our public work. Further edits were made and a final round of feedback was sought from those who had provided extensive input into the process.

The current version of the Code has

  • Revised wording to be clear about what we will not tolerate, and to increase the readability of the code
  • Headings for different sections of the code to make it easier to digest, and to group together common themes
  • A specific section that makes clear who our audiences should contact if they have concerns or want to report matters that we haven’t yet attended to
  • New points about the occasional instances in which we might screenshot and archive posts, when these screenshots would be anonymised (most of the time), and when they would not be anonymised (if documenting threatening or discriminatory behaviour)
  • A point to acknowledge that in commenting on or otherwise engaging with others’ posts, MOLA may draw more attention to individuals. If they experience problems, we ask them to contact us so we can do our best to support them
  • An extension to include other platforms like the CITiZAN app where audiences are contributing content that could be threatening or discriminatory to others or to MOLA’s own team
  • An extended distribution plan to account for suggestions from staff about making better use of pinned posts, profile descriptions, and client networks and professional documents
  • A section in the code that makes it clear what we consider reasonable working hours for those engaged in monitoring our platforms
  • A point about personal privacy to make explicit what would happen if particular forms of personal data are shared

Per the bullets above, we created a distribution plan that also went through several rounds of development and elaboration. With this in mind, we will see the code included in inductions, in our training programmes, in future media skills development sessions, and in documentation for clients and collaborators.

I wanted to give a special shout out to Emily Wilkes, the CITiZAN team, the Thames Discovery Programme team, and our new Head of Communications, Andrew Henderson-Schwartz, who were essential in bringing the code into being. If you have questions, ideas or past experience in embedding such codes into everyday practice, I really welcome your feedback, as do the team at MOLA.

Apply for our fully-funded PhD: Telling Different Stories

Study at Bournemouth and MOLA from Autumn 2021 on innovations with publication, interpretation & archiving of linear archaeological infrastructural projects!

Screenshot of web advert for our Bournemouth Uni – MOLA PhD opportunity – deadline for applications 21 June 2021
https://www.bournemouth.ac.uk/study/courses/phd-studentship-telling-different-stories

I am incredibly excited to announce this fully-funded PhD opportunity (including living stipend), based between Bournemouth University and MOLA (Museum of London Archaeology), focused on innovations with the publication, interpretation and archiving of major linear archaeological infrastructure projects.

Two absolute inspirations to me – Prof Mark Gillings and Prof Kate Welham – will be co-supervising this doctoral studentship alongside myself and my colleague Dr Sorina Spanou (MOLA’s Director of Infrastructure). And Bournemouth has agreed to wave international student fees, meaning that this opportunity is open to anyone! We are also able to consider candidates who come from different backgrounds – meaning that if you have a wealth of professional experience, but your previous educational background doesn’t exactly match the academic requirements, we encourage you to apply.

The project seeks to draw upon recent developments in archaeological theory and the digital humanities in order to engage in a more creative fashion with the vast quantities of archaeological data that are generated by the most ambitious of current commercial fieldwork projects; those focused upon large-scale linear infrastructure. The aim is to develop wholly new ways of approaching, interpreting, presenting and archiving the wealth of archaeological information generated by such projects, and through this, new interpretations of the past.

Specific aims of the PhD include:

  1. To challenge and unsettle existing commercial approaches to the post-excavation, publication and archiving of large-scale infrastructure projects by revealing, critically evaluating and challenging the core assumptions and frameworks that underpin them.
  2. To explore the ways in which new, and potentially radical, developments in archaeological theory, critical cartography and digital storytelling can be used to reveal different pathways into and through the datasets generated.
  3. To examine the ways in which emerging trends in archaeological theory and critical thought can be brought into productive dialogue with the realities and exigencies of large-scale commercial fieldwork, to the benefit of both.
  4. To develop new ways of engaging with the datasets yielded by large-scale infrastructural work; approaches that can help shape future post-excavation and publication practice as well as allow wholly new archaeological narratives and interpretations to emerge.

You can read a fuller project description on the Bournemouth website, and you can apply by clicking on the green ‘Apply now’ button at the top of the advert page and completing the online application form. Alongside covering tuition fees, the studentship includes an annual stipend of £15,450 to cover living costs.

The closing date for applications is 21 June 2021. Interviews will be held 8 July 2021.

Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with myself or any of our supervisory team if you have questions!