I was invited to prepare an article about our work on the Archaeology Audience Network (AAN) for the Council for British Archaeology Yorkshire’s journal FORUM. The article was published recently, and the journal’s editors were kind enough to allow me to post an open copy to my blog (thank you for your support Deborah!). If you’re interested in the AAN, the challenges we’ve faced, and some reflections on what it all means for contract (development-led) archaeology in the UK, please check it out here.
The Heritage Fund has kindly granted an extension to our work, meaning that we will be running a few more activities across the coming months. Please keep your eyes peeled for information on these activities, and the resources we will be publishing in the Autumn.
More information about the IAA funding from the AHRC and these grants is available on MOLA’s webpages, so I won’t repeat the details here. Note that by the terms of the funders, these grants support our staff to work in paid partnership with UK-based individuals, groups, organisations and small/medium sized enterprises (outside of higher education institutions) to extend the impact of our archaeological research across different audiences in unusual ways.
I just wanted to pause to reflect briefly on what the IAA means to me. I don’t think it’s an understatement to say that, with likeminded colleagues, I’ve invested years of hard work in highlighting the potential for archaeology to inspire countless forms of innovation, creative exploits, business development and playful inspiration. Examples of such playful innovation abound, from nail art…
…to comedy and so much more…
But so much of this work is driven by the passion of individuals, often working for free in their spare hours. Or these efforts are tacked-on to big research projects rather than being recognised as critical ventures in themselves that have the potential to spawn new research, new forms of business, new developments for society and the environment.
Having the opportunity to not only explore these creative potentials, but to fund external partners to collaborate with us in doing so is, for me, the fulfilment of a lifelong ambition. I am grateful to the AHRC for making this possible, and to Dr Emma Dwyer and my colleagues at MOLA who are amongst the most hardworking and inspirational people I’ve ever met.
I hope you might consider joining us in this work, referring others to it, or sharing our outputs and experiences with your networks. Keep your eyes peeled for another 4 grant opportunities and repeat calls of all of these grant offerings over the next 2.5 years! Read more here and contact email@example.com to register your interest.
If you have an interest in the use and reuse of archaeological data, including critiques, concerns, case studies, examples of challenges and good practices, provocations, and blue-sky thinking for the future of archaeology and heritage data, this conference session is for you! You may wish to engage with the themes of TETRARCHs or stretch beyond them.
The abstract for our session is presented below, and you can submit your proposals via registering on the CAA conference platform. The CAA recommends that you are guided by these instructions in preparing your abstract for a ‘standard paper’, although please note we are open to different styles of presenting your ideas that do not necessarily require strict adherence to the ‘extended abstract’ format – get in touch if you have questions. If you have troubles navigating the online conference platform, read these guidelines or please just email myself or Holly Wright.
The deadline for submissions is rapidly approaching – 17 October 2022 – so please apply & spread the word!
CAA Session #29
S29. How do we ensure archaeological data are usable and Reusable, and for whom?Putting the R in FAIR for archaeological data
The last decade has seen extensive efforts to make digital assets more accessible and dynamic through experimentation with interoperability in cultural heritage aggregation infrastructures (e.g., the Europeana or ARIADNE portals). Such infrastructures allow static resources to be updated and cross-searched, but to do so, the metadata for these assets must be mapped in a centralised and controlled way. This can take the shape of mapping to a controlled vocabulary, thesaurus or ontology, which invariably reflects the types of terminology and relationships defined by those who are charged with curating the data (domain specialists), not those who might use the data in new and innovative ways.
Digital data curation for cultural heritage has therefore reached a critical impasse. A central tension exists between the need to preserve cultural resources, and the dynamic potential for their use and reuse in democratic, just and compelling ways. At the same time, the introduction of the tetrarchy of FAIR Guiding Principles (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Reusable) for scientific data management and stewardship (Wilkinson et al. 2016) has set an important challenge: that each of the four principles is of equivalent importance and must therefore be engaged with equally. Within archaeology, much work has been done over the last 20 years to make data Findable, Accessible and Interoperable, but very little is understood about whether data are Reusable–and by whom (Wright and Richards 2018). The impact of this gap in knowledge is profound, as cultural heritage data are increasingly drawn into divisive debates, dangerous speech, cross-border misinformation-sharing and xenophobia, therein compromising human solidarity and social cohesion (e.g., Bonacchi and Krzyzanska 2021).
Newly-funded through the Transformations: Social and cultural dynamics in the digital age programme of the Collaboration of Humanities and Social Sciences in Europe (CHANSE) Consortium, Transforming Data Re-use in Archaeology (TETRARCHs) argues that the future of digital curation depends upon reconciling this divide between collection and reuse. It aims to demonstrate that data optimised for ethical and emotive storytelling will provide the bridge between those who find or preserve heritage assets, and the diverse cross-European audiences for whom they might generate meaning.
TETRARCHs builds upon international initiatives which seek to improve the accessibility of digital cultural heritage data via interfacing with those data: browsing them, searching them, and retrieving them in more ‘generous’ ways (e.g., (Whitelaw 2015). However, even as such experimentation grows, the assets themselves continue to be bound by relatively narrow classifications imposed by experts. Herein structure and reliability are maintained, but relevance and accessibility to the wider world remain limited (Manzo et al. 2015). The stories that can be told through the data are often narrow and pre-determined, with the vast
majority devoid of affect, sensuality and agency (Krmpotich and Somerville 2016). The urgency of the predicament is heightened by growing interdisciplinary acknowledgement that this rift is directly linked to systemic bias, social inequity and racial injustice in data repositories (Sanderson and Clemens 2020). Efforts to rectify these biases include archival redescription (Pringle 2020), revised ethical metadata standards (Farnel 2018), felt-experience conceptual model extensions (Canning 2018), and alternative ‘fluid ontologies’ (Srinivasan 2018). The imperative for change to data infrastructures is overt.
Yet recognition that such change must begin from the moment the data are conceived (as opposed to the moment they are deposited into a repository) has been slow in coming.
Furthering our argument is the rapid pace of innovation with data acquisition technologies (Morgan et al. 2021), whose workflows still fail to capture important descriptive detail, emotion, human values and multiple viewpoints. Even as community-driven practices grow in popularity, fundamental redesign of our workflows and data to embed communities and justice at their core is still lacking (Dolcetti et al. 2021). Design Justice frameworks enabling such value-led, co-created redesign of digital structures are blossoming (Costanza-Chock 2020), but their systematic use in fields like archaeology is effectively nonexistent.
Through an interdisciplinary team of archaeological specialists, data scientists, and museum practitioners, collaborating with three key user groups – domain experts, creative practitioners, and memory institutions – TETRARCHs will offer those who gather, curate and apply cultural heritage data with critically-aware workflows to prepare their data for enhanced re-use at every point in the data lifecycle (e.g., capture, mapping, lab-based analysis), then scenario-test such re-use through the dissemination of new narrative outputs authored by cross-European creative practitioners. The project embraces three scales of data collection in archaeology – landscape, site and artefact – exploring them via four increasingly ubiquitous technologies for data capture: airborne LiDAR, 3D scanning, digital field drawing and photography. Alongside novel workflows for field, post-excavation and archival practice, TETRARCHs will produce a controlled vocabulary for cultural heritage storytelling, assessments of data reuse effectiveness following ISO Standard 25022: Measurement of Quality in Use, and best practice recommendations for trusted digital repositories to optimise archaeological data for re-use.
This session invites papers on the use and reuse of archaeological data, including case studies, examples of challenges and good practices, provocations and blue-sky thinking for the future of data re/use. Contributors may wish to engage with the themes of TETRARCHs or stretch beyond them. By hosting this session early in the life of TETRARCHs, we hope to foster discussion and collaboration with others who have comparable interests, and ensure that our outcomes are both well-considered and meaningful to the CAA community at large.
TETRARCHs is supported by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council, and the Belgian, Swedish, Slovenian and Lithuanian funding councils under CHANSE ERA-NET Co-fund programme, which has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme, under Grant Agreement no 101004509.