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Friday, April 1 • 08:30 - 08:55
S10-01 Theorising the digital turn in archaeology

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Theorising the Digital Turn in Archaeology

Sara Perry, James Taylor

“We are all digital archaeologists” is an increasingly common refrain amongst practitioners today. However, this ubiquity of computational approaches in archaeology seems hardly understood. Debates about the philosophical or cultural dimensions of digital technologies in the discipline have a deep legacy, yet the technical capacities of these tools still tend to eclipse meaningful critique of their implications. Problematically, it is usually the *applications* of computers that become the overwhelming focus of digital archaeological discussions at our conferences, in our written work, and often in our classrooms too.

This trend to value the technical above the theoretical is one that is seen across many fields — and it is made worse by the fact that it tends to betray itself again and again as any new piece of gear is added to disciplinary toolkits. The Computer Applications and Quantitative Methods in Archaeology enterprise itself hints at the predicament, for applied methodology is foregrounded in the organisation’s very name, with richer qualitative analyses of the digital seemingly consigned to the backstage. As an introduction to digiTAG, then, this paper makes a case for the necessity of reversing this situation, prioritizing critical engagement above practical exposition. To do so, we review the history of – and tensions between – digital methods in archaeology and the intellectual and social systems that shape (and are shaped by) them.

Ultimately, we aim here to broach a range of issues that habitually go unspoken: How do computer applications in archaeology intersect with local and global socio-politico-economic complexes? How do they perpetuate or challenge structural inequalities? How do they contribute to wider patterns of consumption, excess, loss and waste? How are they folded into the institutional status quo? And how do they shape not only our thinking and doing of archaeology, but so too our more intimate ways of being-in-the-world?


Dr. Sara Perry

University of York
University of York Twitter: @archaeologistsp Personal Page: http://saraperry.wordpress.com


Friday April 1, 2016 08:30 - 08:55 CEST
Domus Media, Auditorium 13