Written by Dr. Inga Merkyte and Søren Albek, Acta Archaeologica
Impact on scholarly publishing
Social, scholarly editing/collaboration
Social media has established many ways of “keeping in touch” with current developments, and any publication today that wishes to stay relevant should adopt a strategy and implement tools that facilitate this. The most important way to gain attention online must be to assure the quality of the published material, including online/on social media. Collaborations should follow the same lines – today most users are accustomed to the online presence of all media – if it is not online, it is like it hardly exists. Online presence also means that long-running publications should make sure that their back issues also are made available online thus combating the trend of recentism ignoring knowledge production before the Digital Era.
It seems that the quality of digital media steadily improves over time, and therefore the highest, presently available digital quality should be attempted.
Online presence also means searchability, via common search services, but also specialised search services can be considered. Keeping track of who uses the online publication services can be beneficial, especially if this leads to the online presence becoming an online resource – for collaboration and reference.
Impact of technology on publishing
Digital copies of data should be made available online – especially for paying visitors. For casual or non-paying visitors, search facilities should be available, and maybe some samples of the data available for subscribers – to convince visitors to subscribe.
An important issue is facilitating permanent links to (already) published materials.
Digital culture is predominately an online culture, without fixed rules and in steady flux. A modern publication should always be aware of trends – not always following the latest, but possibly the most wide-spread trends. But a publication can also be a trend-setter and might benefit from distinguishing itself from other publications, not only by subject but also in (extra) services or online opportunities.
Digital cultural phenomena, such as the Open Source movement can inspire when deciding principles of data transparency but might not apply in other matters; each publication should decide their own digital strategy after careful consideration.
Disciplines and digital humanities
Globalisation of the digital humanities
Rather than the globalisation of the digital humanities, one should not be afraid of mentioning globalisation as a democratising effort – after all, an important part of humanism is to discover, to study, and to exchange, creating a sound basis for critical thought. So, the guiding principle in making the digital humanities accessible globally relies on democratic ideas.
The relationship between the humanities and technology
Archaeology is a human science per tradition and for historical reasons. However, for more than hundred years, archaeology has used natural sciences as part of archaeology. Most notably, geology has played an important role in the development of archaeological science.
In archaeology, digital technologies have been used for more than fifty years. Ground-breaking work, highly inspired by the natural sciences, has made digital technologies an integral part of archaeology. The work was spurred on by the collaboration between geologists and other natural scientists and archaeologists – the natural scientists brought the emerging digital technologies from their fields of study and archaeologists borrowed from them. Today, most archaeologists do not even contemplate an archaeology without digital technology.
With the theoretical development of New Archaeology in the 1960s and 1970s, material studies became very prominent – in some respects to distance itself from earlier “Kulturkrieslehre”, where developments were seen as interactions between different “cultures”. (New) Archaeologists discovered that societal interactions could not be simply described by “cultures”, but, instead, an approach that focused on meticulous analyses of data were developed. Also, heritage protection played an essential role in the development of archaeology – the industrialisation after WW2 increased the number of excavations and therefore, archaeological records. To make meaning of the rising amount of archaeological evidence – and the data derived from it – new methods were needed. The methods introduced the use of digital technologies in archaeology, starting with statistics and databases – often linked to heritage management structures and continued with digital mapping technologies, where many archaeologists today use state-of-the-art digital mapping equipment, such as Totalstations, GPS, etc.
Archaeologists often deal with very large and complicated situations – grave-fields with thousands of graves, cities with thousands of houses, and other structural remains. A casual look might not reveal any significant differences, but a careful data analysis will often reveal discrepancies between each unit that form a basis for making non-trivial conclusions about the site or sites investigated. Many large-scale projects are common in archaeology today, where archaeologists and scientists combine data from large areas, even across borders, very often challenging established cultural ideas of identity and origin.
Digital humanities pedagogy
One of the main tasks for museums and similar archaeological institutions today is the communication of knowledge about the past. In many countries, visits to museums are an important part of school curriculum and excursions. Studies have shown that a digital presentation of a subject is very beneficial to improving the understanding of the subject, before or after visiting.
Preparing visits at museums and sites
Digital technologies are important for communication and visualisation of what is difficult to exhibit in a museum –the research process of a site, the actual conditions during the excavation and finds or structures which can not be preserved, such as post holes (indicating houses), or very brittle finds that easily disintegrate if or when removed.
Furthermore, advances in simulations and digital reconstructions of past environments are very important as tools for the archaeologist, when trying to draw conclusions, but also as teaching tools illustrating how things once were (with a reasonable degree of confidence). VR platforms may even offer a stroll across an excavation site or reconstructed settlement.
The relationship between the Humanities and the Digital Humanities
As mentioned earlier, there is not a real distinction in archaeology between Archaeology and Digital Archaeology; the distinction is rather between more or less digitally based when presenting or formulating archaeological theory. Theory building in archaeology does not have agreed principles of how to approach or use (archaeological) data. In some ways, one could claim that archaeologists are so overwhelmed with data that collecting and processing these data take up an inordinately large part of available resources and leaves very little time for development of theoretical insights.
Who can be a digital humanist?
Most likely, most will become digital humanists. As part of the process towards becoming a digital humanist one should strive to understand what digital means, what are the technical and semantic differences between various kinds of data? How can these data be compared? How should one communicate the data reliably, so future (even just a few years ahead) readers/users of the data can utilise it? And how can these approaches be applied to one’s subject?
Inclusion in the digital humanities
Communication of data means a kind of uniformity (consensus on formalised data structures) is necessary, and there are/have been initiated monumental projects to assure this, especially in heritage management. Very successfully, but more generalised principles for the use of archaeological data in other (humanistic) sciences are not standardised- a field where serious interaction between (digital) humanities is needed.
Methods of Digital Humanities
Textual mining, analysis, and visualisation
Text analysis is rarely used in archaeology, but this could change, especially in (future) studies on the history of archaeological science. Most prevalent in archaeology today is analysis and visualisation of data
The theories, methods, and applications of the digital humanities are in rapid development, also in archaeology, and publications often play an important part.
Future of the Digital Humanities
The current way of translating data and presenting it on a digital device is in continuous development, and digital hybrid formats might be developed. Each new format is equivalent to a new media and might present further considerations relevant to publishing.
Secure data formats, reliability and right of origin
Today security is only used in limited ways, to secure a connection, to protect the privacy of individuals, etc. In the future, the use of security as a way to ensure originality and quality can be foreseen.
Why technology matters: the humanities in the twenty-first century
Data is snowballing; leading to the use of more digital methods, not only for better results but also to lower the cost of analyses.
Technology can open new routes to discover the not-so-obvious and to prove or propose solutions to historical/archaeological problems.
Ideas from, e.g. modern physics might be introduced into archaeology, e.g. quantum mechanics, entropy vs order, the arrow of time –> the seemingly inescapable. (-> means leading to, not equal to, not reversible)