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.

Designing affect into archaeology

Join me on Tuesday 23 February 2021 at 16:00 GMT for an online talk hosted by Bournemouth University.

Join me for this open public seminar on Zoom at 4pm GMT on Tuesday 23 February – https://t.co/7EpdMj6msq?amp=1

A quick note to say that I have the good fortune of presenting next week as part of the Bournemouth University, Department of Archaeology and Anthropology Research Seminars series (join on Zoom). Per the line-up, I’m in great company this term, and am especially looking forward to speaking as I haven’t given a public presentation in over a year.

Speakers in BU’s Archaeology and Anthropology Research Seminars series, which started this month and runs until the end of May.

I’ve been very appreciative of my colleagues and friends who have reached out to check on where I’ve been over this time. The simple answer is that the transition into my current job has entailed the steepest learning curve of my life. It’s been very hard, and as my presentation will inevitably hint at, it has confronted me full-force with how archaeologists can and must work in allied fashion – within and between teams, organisations, industries and across borders – to grapple with immediate matters of interest to the profession and wider publics, but also to ensure that the decisions we make today – about the past, and about the discipline of archaeology itself – are informed by an expert ability to think, plan and design critically for the future.

How do we do this? I believe part of the answer lies in honing our expertise in grappling with values and affect, and through serious attention to design justice (see Costanza-Chock 2020) as well as strategic foresight approaches and critical & speculative futures work (e.g., see various contributions in Holtorf and Högberg (2021)).

More details on the talk below. It’s free, open to all via Zoom, and starts at 4pm GMT on Tuesday 23 Feb. Hope to see you there!

Title. Designing affect into archaeology: structural and methodological reparations for a more responsive and responsible discipline

Summary. Although many have called for – and attempted to enact – forms of practice that aim to repair or reconfigure our discipline along lines that are just, sustainable and equitable, these efforts often fail to fundamentally alter archaeology’s underlying structures and pernicious rote methodologies. Here, I argue that unless we consciously adopt and consistently apply a framework of design justice (Costanza-Chock 2020), long-standing disciplinary oppressions will persist. I review a number of recent propositions around nurturing care, hope, emotion, and enchantment in archaeology. I then make the case that such seemingly ephemeral concepts can be actualised in our methods, in our programmes, in our training, and across our professional and academic institutions through a purposeful engagement with design justice theory and method, borne in part of the fields of information technology and human-computer interactions. I highlight some simple examples of what a justly-designed archaeology could look like, and I conclude by pointing our eyes towards emerging initiatives that take seriously the design process, and in so doing provide archaeologists with a framework that can truly hold us to account.

Costanza-Chock, Sasha, 2020. Design Justice: Community-Led Practices to Build the Worlds We Need. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Holtorf, Cornelius, and Högberg, Anders (eds.), 2021. Cultural Heritage and the Future. London: Routledge.

Digital Reviews

After 4.5 years, I’m stepping down from my editorship, but the 18 critical reviews published during this time are available open access

https://www.cambridge.org/core/blog/2020/11/16/digital-reviews-editor-transitions/

Just a quick shout-out to the many people who I’ve had the pleasure to work with over the past half-decade in my role as Digital Reviews Editor for the Society for American Archaeology’s journal Advances in Archaeological Practice. My incredible co-editors Sarah Herr, Sjoerd van der Linde and Christina Rieth have published a heart-warming note on Cambridge University Press’ blog about my ‘retirement’, my successor (Peter Cobb, University of Hong Kong), and the 18 open access articles that we ushered into being during my tenure. These articles represent critical reviews of digital media applications for archaeology and heritage – from crowdsourcing tools (by Donna Yates), to chatbots (by Angeliki Tzouganatou), to archaeological news sources (by Adrián Maldonado), to gaming (Minecraft by Eleanor Brooke Styles, Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey by Politopoulos et al., Sid Meier’s Civilization VI by Mol et al.) to the Facebook page of my current employer (by Ingrida Kelpšienė), and many more. The most recent piece, my final as editor, was just published last week: a truly fascinating reflection by Kate Rogers on the i-Doc genre and its possibilities for impactful documentary storytelling.

My co-editors’ tribute to the time I’ve spent in the editorship reminded me of some of the must-haves that we negotiated five years ago: articles must be openly accessible; authors must critically engage with the digital applications they are reviewing (i.e., their articles must feature the detrimental and uncomfortable dimensions of these technologies as much as any positive elements); a more representative demographic of authors must be sought, with a particular focus on early career professionals outside the US. I also managed to negotiate that part of my editorial fee would be reallocated to authors, meaning that I was able to offer a small financial payment for their contribution. To me, this was the biggest success of all given the labour that we know is at the core of any form of publication.

According to Cambridge’s stats, the reviews have been downloaded c.14,000 times, and I regularly refer them to folks who are looking to invest in different types of digital media but who may not be familiar with the consequences of those media. I’m indebted to the more than 18 authors who I’ve had the pleasure to work with – many of whom have become friends and whose careers I’ve seen flourish over the years. Thank you for your work which has inspired me and profoundly influenced my own practice.

I’m excited to carry on as part of the editorial board of the journal – they are still stuck with me for a while yet :) I’d urge you (if you haven’t already) to explore Advances’ many articles on all aspects of professional and academic archaeological practice. Maybe you’ll even consider publishing with us in the future? Don’t hesitate to reach out if you’d like to explore opportunities. And thanks to Sarah, Sjoerd and Christina for everything you’ve done for me.