- Archaeology and Archaeological Information in the Digital Society ed. by Isto Huvila
Archaeology and Archaeological Information in the Digital Society, edited by Isto Huvila, brings together a range of studies by archaeologists and information scientists to examine the implications of digital technologies on archaeological interpretation and how we engage with the past. Digital data collection and the embedding of digital media in interpretation and presentation means that archaeologists are all engaging in some way in "digital society." This volume highlights the various and many ways that we do so, and how digital technologies impact how we interface with archaeology—from field data collection to archiving to public presentation. [End Page 403]
In the volume's introduction, Huvila states, "There is no digital archaeology and no digital society" (p. 1) but rather just archaeology and society, which are both infused with digital technologies in contemporary culture to the point that "digital" represents an inextricable and often unnoticed part of how we work and interact. As Huvila notes, it is not about a "conceptualization of a new paradigm" but rather about "how it changes the very essence of what archaeologists do" (p. 1). The 168-page volume is centered around several broad themes, including how the concept of archaeological information is changing, how digitality (the condition of living in a digital culture) impacts what types of information we value and choose to preserve, and how archaeology can leverage digital approaches to our benefit.
Chapter 1, coauthored by Lisa Börjesson and Isto Huvila, explores expectations for archaeological documentation as digital approaches become ubiquitous in the discipline. Using excerpts from interviews, the authors explore how heritage management policies impact approaches to documentation and archiving. They highlight the tension between "encouraging archaeologists to use new methods, and to create and organise documentation material in such a state that it can be preserved (in a designated archive)" (p. 29). They also emphasize the role of human engagement and decision-making in policy development and documentation practices.
In the second chapter, Daniel Löwenborg discusses the divide between data creation and its reuse for research. He echoes the previous chapter in discussing how the heterogenous nature of archaeological documentation makes reuse in new contexts challenging. Speaking mainly from the perspective of contract archaeology in Sweden (which constitutes the vast majority of new archaeological data there), he discusses how each project will collect different information depending on the size of the project, data management policies, differences in data modeling, data storage, and a host of other factors. These practices are detrimental to data access and reuse, which are needed for reaching beyond single sites in cultural resource management. The chapter provides a helpful discussion of the pros and cons ofstandardization, recommending simple steps to ensure a certain amount of interoperability of data sets to facilitate reuse without forcing standardization so that "the unique character of the documentation is appreciated and accounted for" (p. 49).
In Chapter 3, Nicolò Dell'Unto continues with the thread of data reuse, arguing that we cannot divorce the collection of digital data from the expertise to interpret it. In order to create data sets that support research, we need not just the technology but domain expertise for engagement with the data at different levels. Although 3D models are being collected, archived, and often made available openly, it is not clear whether they are useful for new research. Similar to the preceding chapter, Dell'Unto emphasizes the need for guidelines for data creation and knowledge production in using 3D media.
Chapter 4 by Bodil Petersson (text) and Carolina Larsson (illustrations and technical explanations) moves into the various ways that museums are engaging with visitors through the use of technology. While the growth of "single user" experience with technology takes away from the group experience in museums, the chapter provides examples of different ways that technology is being used for engagement with the past. It stresses the importance of collaboration between archaeologists and exhibit developers so that archaeological perspectives...