In our view, digital archaeology as a field rests upon the creative use of primarily open-source and/or open-access materials to archive, re-use, analyze and communicate archaeological data, and the sharing of digital archaeological data, code and workflows. Our reliance on open-source and open-access is a political stance that emerges in opposition to archaeology’s past complicity in colonial enterprises and scholarship that rested on secrecy and restricted training and prevented access to archaeological data. Digital archaeology resists the (digital) neo-colonialism of Google, Facebook, and similar tech giants that typically promote disciplinary silos and closed code and data repositories. Just like in Hotel California, they aim to keep you on their platform indefinitely. Digital archaeology encourages innovative, reflective, and critical use of open access data and the development of open digital tools that facilitate linkages and analysis across varied digital sources.
With these ideals in mind, the document you are reading is integrated with live open code notebooks that can be re-used, altered, or extended. Part of our inspiration comes from the ‘DHBox’ project from CUNY (City University of New York), (link), a project that is creating a ‘digital humanities laboratory’ in the cloud. While the tools of the digital humanities are congruent with those of digital archaeology, they are typically configured to work with texts rather than material culture in which archaeologists specialise. The second inspiration is the open-access guide ‘The Programming Historian’, which is a series of how-tos and tutorials (link) pitched at historians confronting digital sources for the first time. A key challenge scholars face in carrying out novel digital analysis is how to install or configure software. Each ‘Programming Historian’ tutorial therefore explains in length and in detail how to configure software for particular techniques. The present e-textbook merges the best of both approaches to create a singular experience for instructors and students: a one-click digital laboratory approach, where installation of materials is not an issue, and with carefully designed tutorials and lessons on theory and practice in digital archaeology.
This is not a textbook about learning how to code. Rather, it is about instilling the habits of thought that will enable success when confronted with digital novelty, the habits of thought that will enable you to determine how to work with digital materials, and the habits of thought that permit you to see where and when digital approaches will make the difference in your research. Skills change; techniques evolve; new tools emerge. Habits of thought are hard to cultivate but have staying power!
Through this work, we aim to offer a learners’-perspective-view on digital methods in archaeology, that is, how we might think with, and through, digital sources of information, digital tools and technologies and their relationship with society. We are deeply aware of how rapidly both digital sources and technologies can change, particularly on the Web. We therefore present this e-textbook and open-learning environment as a guide to best practices when working with available digital data and digital tools, what kinds of analysis are possible, how to perform these analytical techniques, and how you might publish your data, making them re-usable for another scholar and the ethical issues and implications in digital archaeology.
We have not elected to try to cover every possible topic (for instance, GIS, its tools and theories, are well covered and widely taught in archaeology; instead we have focussed here on webmapping). By design, this book is meant to grow, branch, and change with time. It is meant to foster uncoverage and be used to supplement or complement an instructor’s own situated approach. Annotate the text using the Hypothes.is. Take it to bits. Use and adapt the parts that make most sense in your own particular learning context.
When you find something that could use expansion, take a copy, edit it, and let us know. Digital archaeology is a community of practice, above all.