Part 4 Eliding the Digital and the Physical

Digital data overlays the world we live in. Archaeologically, this has been the case since the emergence of computational approaches to archaeology in the 1970s. Practically, this has meant better visualizations, better analyses, better ways to cope with the data. The last twenty years however have seen digital data permeate the physical world in ways hitherto impossible. Perhaps you’ve walked down the street and been curious about a building you’ve seen. A few moments with your smartphone, and the information is there. A notification pops up, telling you about other similar buildings nearby. A bicycle rental stand is nearby - you free one with the app on your phone (which has automatically adjusted the price based on the density of other bicycles nearby that are being used).

It makes no practical difference, these days, to make a hard-and-vast distinction between the digital and the physical. A car crashes into a telephone pole, and internet service goes out for a neighborhood. A bug in the code causes the airline reservation system to go down. In this section we consider some of the ways digital techs of use to archaeologists smear across the digital and physical realms. Once you become familiar with some of the ways these technologies work, you will be better able to judge whether a given use at a site, in a project, in an article, is a valid or useful intervention.