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.

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.

Evaluating the efficacy of fieldwork codes of conduct

Seeking your feedback on the impact of codes of conduct in enabling courageous responses to harm and harassment…

Teaching and Learning in Archaeology 25th March 2020It’s International Women’s Day today and the moment seems appropriate to seek your advice in relation to matters of prevention of, protection from, and institutional action around, harm and harassment in field-based projects.

Several years ago, after a series of challenging experiences overseeing fieldwork teams on local and international projects, I drafted a code of conduct – or Six Fieldwork Expectations – to use with my collaborators. The Expectations were inspired by various other contemporary initiatives (e.g., Dig Ventures’ Learning Agreement), and focus on creating respectful, safe, secure and non-threatening working and living environments for all project contributors.

Since publishing the Fieldwork Expectations document, it has been adapted and elaborated by different individuals, institutions and projects in various parts of the world. Some have instigated evaluations of its effectiveness through surveys and other assessment methods. These data are critical, especially as I’ve been asked several times about what proof I have that codes of conduct make a difference to safety and dignity in the field.

Seeking your help to evaluate effects

Right now I’m gathering and collating this evidence to present in a variety of contexts over the next six months (data anonymised, as requested by all contributors so far). I will discuss at least four case studies of the Code of Conduct in action in different projects/institutions, and I am keen to solicit further data from those who’ve used the Six Fieldwork Expectations document or created their own specific codes of conduct. 

My interest is in speaking empirically about the efficacy of these codes of conduct. What do I mean by ‘efficacy’?

I have been looking recently into how an organisation or project responds ‘courageously’ to instances of harm and harassment. Per Jennifer Freyd, this includes: 

  • sensitively reacting to victim disclosures
  • being accountable and apologising
  • encouraging whistleblowing
  • educating your leaders
  • being transparent about policies
  • self-reflecting and self-evaluating

I’m thus seeking evidence of successes and failures in applying codes of conduct, especially data that testify to whether such codes actually enable or otherwise hinder ‘courageous’ behaviours.

Adapting the code of conduct to enable courageous responses

Like most people I know who have adapted the Fieldwork Expectations document, my own teams have changed it over time and buttressed it with different support mechanisms. For instance, inspired by an amazing scholar who approached me a couple of years ago about her experiences, my teams now take turns reading parts of the code aloud before a project begins in an effort to create a common bond between the group. We’ve also created a simplified version of the code to use with collaborators whose language and reading needs mean that speaking aloud the key ideas and providing common verbal acknowledgements are more meaningful than reading then signing the document.

I also know from my own applications of the code that it can be

  1. overly wordy and too intellectualised
  2. needs translation and adaptation for different contexts
  3. is only meaningful when supported by other initiatives to encourage openness and education
  4. is currently not very effective in relation to minimising harm through social media, especially use of WhatsApp or FB Messenger among team members

I would be very grateful for your help in identifying case studies where empirical evaluation of the Fieldwork Expectations document has been undertaken. If you could spread the word or contact me directly with information, I’ll be incredibly appreciative.

I’ll be presenting my preliminary findings first in Manchester (see poster above), hosted by the incredible Hannah Cobb. But if you are not in a position to travel, I’ll keep you posted as I continue to gather evidence. All feedback and data are very much appreciated!