Dr. Web-Love: Or, How I Learnt to Stop Worrying & Love Social Media

A CASPAR-associated session

Organisers Lorna Richardson (University College London), Patrick Hadley (University of York) and Don Henson (Director of CASPAR)
Emails L.Richardson@ucl.ac.uk, DonHenson@Britarch.ac.uk
Chair Don Henson (Director of CASPAR)

It seems ironic that the discipline dedicated to the study of humanity’s interfaces between society and technology should not take time to reflect on its own use (and non-use) of explicitly social technologies.

Social media are tools that facilitate information sharing, interaction and community-forming over the internet. For archaeology, they can and are contributing to all of these in both the professional and voluntary sectors of archaeology and heritage, and when used as a public engagement tool.

Archaeology, like many academic disciplines, frequently invests resources in the development of new data-generation tools (eg, scientific techniques) or data-management tools (eg, digital preservation) but rarely considers (methodologically or theoretically) its data-sharing tools, let alone the social factors entangled with these.

Social media forms have been termed ‘architectures of participation’ (O’Reilly 2004). As such they are often most rapidly embraced by those lacking traditional infrastructures to mediate their interests. Therefore, archaeologists, as a group with a number of well-established infrastructures (universities, units, publishing, conferences and so on) have been slower to make use of them than other sectors of society. The facility of social media to decentralise the power structures of these infrastructures has rarely been explicitly discussed within archaeology.

However, other thinkers have claimed that the change brought by social media (let alone the rest of the digital universe) is an order of magnitude more significant than the invention of the printing press (Shirky 2008). The geo-political effects of that piece of technology have been well documented but were only visible with hindsight. We would like to make a call-to-arms for archaeologists to be proactive and reflexive about the current revolution rather than allowing it to pass them by.

The session will draw on theoretical perspectives from Public Archaeology, big-data approaches and research into the interface between society and technology. We will then build on the theory with methodology and practice to help archaeologists from all backgrounds (especially technophobes!) understand how social media might affect their work.

The importance of developing and sustaining audiences, and measuring the impact of the use of social media as a tool for public engagement will be especially highlighted.

Morning papers will be followed by a short afternoon practical session led by experienced digital archaeologists. These sessions, held in either a computer cluster room or on participant’s laptops, will provide a chance to explore social media tools in an archaeological context, and consult digitally-minded archaeologists about the ways in which to apply the theory to practice, through web-based tools can help with their work.

O’Reilly 2004. The Architecture of Participation. O’Reilly Media Newsletter (available on-line: http://oreilly.com/pub/a/oreilly/tim/articles/architecture_of_participation.html, accessed 19 May 2011).
Shirky Clay. 2008. Here comes everybody : the power of organizing without organizations.New York: Penguin Press.

I should be Tweeting? Poking? Blogging? What do those words even mean? Exploring the complexities of social media & archaeology.

Speaker: Doug Rocks-Macqueen (University of Edinburgh)
Email: J.D.Rocks-Macqueen@sms.ed.ac.uk

While many archaeologists, organizations, or university departments are told they should be on Facebook, join Twitter or start a blog, very few understand the time commitment involved or what this even means. Moreover, very few people know how individuals interact with social media, an aspect that is too often over simplified, and how that can affect an archaeologists or their organization. Once these complexities are discussed this paper will then tackle the question, What does social media mean for the future of archaeology? This paper will explore these issues through a series of case studies including:
• Archaeologists getting fired for blogging
• American Anthropology Association blog censorship/moderation choices
• Using social media as academic publication

We’re All in This Together: Can social media be used to promote cohesion & shared advocacy among the various communities within archaeology?

Speaker: Andy Brockman (Mortimer)
Email: andywbrockman@gmail.com

The web site and Facebook Group “Mortimer” [www.savearchaeology.co.uk ] were launched in July this year to provide a fresh, independant campaigning voice for archaeologists and people who care about archaeology and heritage. This paper explores how the team behind “Mortimer” have drawn inspiration from campaigning sites such as 38 Degrees, in attempting to use the Worldwide Web and Social Media to identify issues and bring together a broad constituency of voices to act as campaigners and advocates, for the archaeological and heritage sector, working as part of the wider environmental movement. It asks the questions such as: What are the practical considerations facing such a project? How can audiences and issues be identified? When it comes to campaigning
are dedicated websites already yesterdays solution? Does the use of social media enable a wider conversation within archaeology and society or do they simply move existing interests and conversations to a new forum while excluding some interested parties through the use of technology which is still not universal?

Why Archaeologists should ‘Like’ Facebook: the case study of Love Archaeology

Speakers: Morgana McCabe (University of Glasgow), Jennifer Novotny (University of Glasgow) & Rebecca Younger (University of Glasgow)
Email: m.mccabe.1@research.gla.ac.uk

Reflecting upon a year of running the Facebook page ‘Love Archaeology at Glasgow University’, this paper explores how a proactive but small departmental social page went global, generating merchandise and creating an international community unique to online space. We reflect upon that community, and how and when it mobilises, exploring both the successes and frictions which emerged from the destabilisation of the normal real world power structures behind the Facebook group. We discuss in practical terms how such communities are created and maintained, both through intentional practices and those that emerge unexpectedly from social interactions. By comparison with our less successful Twitter page, we demonstrate how successes and failures can informed our understanding of Love Archaeology’s audience needs. It is this kind of reflexivity which is essential to creating and maintaining meaningful levels of participation in social networking endeavours. These online spaces are ever changing and require unique management and administration. Their collaborative and decentralised nature also gives rise to equally  unique problems. To assist others treading the same ground, we seek to unpack our experiences, exploring the kind of data Facebook can collect for its users, and to highlight how archaeologists can use such data to improve future forays into the social networking revolution.

The Megalithic Portal: 10 years & counting as a community of interest & social network

Speaker: Andy Burnham (The Megalithic Portal)

The Megalithic Portal web ‘resource’ is art image gallery, part gazetteer and site database, part news aggregator, part mapping tool, part ideas melting pot. It has been operating as an independent ‘community of interest’ social network since 2001, run by a distributed team of online volunteers predominantly from the UK and Germany. This paper will look at the Megalithic Portal as a case study of public engagement in online archaeology and consider the interaction of archaeology and other communities of interest that have formed on the Internet. The resource that created over the past 10 years has indeed been ’embraced by those lacking traditional infrastructures to mediate their interests.’ (to recklessly paraphrase the session abstract) Whether we would want to ‘decentralise the power structures of these infrastructures’ (or even say it with a straight face) is up for debate.

Wikipedia, its GLAM collaborations, & how archaeologists can use it to disseminate their work to both specialist & popular audiences

Speaker: Andy Mabbett (Wikipedia Outreach Ambassador to ARKive)

Wikipedia is the world’s sixth most visited website but few archaeologists understand the mechanics behind this vast and complex project. Through its (democratically selected) organisation Wikipedia is connecting with Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums (the GLAM project) and having great successes. Using examples from these projects, this paper will explain how archaeologists can use Wikipedia to disseminate their work to both specialist and popular audiences. Archaeology has much to gain from engaging with Wikipedia as one of the most powerful frameworks for organising knowledge yet seen during the beginnings of the Internet age.

Twitter & Archaeology: Creating a community of practice in 140 characters or less

Speaker: Lorna Richardson (University College London)
Email: l.richardson@ucl.ac.uk

This paper discusses the use that the archaeological community makes of Twitter, at present, based on a survey of Archaeological Tweeters conducted by the author in 2011. Such research reveals that this Web-based application is now prevalently an intra-specialist networking tool rather than one of public engagement. Research directions that might help to extend the use of Twitter for communicating with non-specialists are suggested and theoretical issues such as influence, popularity, authority, accuracy, and credibility are discussed in relation to Tweeting, and indicators and modalities for measuring them are proposed. These may be useful, in the future, to evaluate initiatives of public engagement with archaeology supported by the Twitter platform.

Perpetual Beta as an Archaeological Attitude

Speaker: Pat Hadley (University of York)

Perpetual beta is now a common way of producing computer software. At it’s most fundamental it is a philosophy of working that admits that very little is ever truly complete or fixable as a ‘finished product’. It also breaks down the barriers between producers and consumers and makes production a far more social process. This paper explores the pros and cons of this philosophy (in combination with social media tools) as applied to archaeological workflows and modes of production. Using the archetypal archaeological product – the excavation monograph – as an example, I explore whether an attitude of perpetual beta is a crucial stepping-stone to open access production, open data and stronger collaborations in archaeology.

“Excava(c)tion” in Vignale – Archaeology on stage, archaeology on the Web

Speaker: Stefano Costa (Università di Siena) & Francesco Ripanti (Università di Siena)

Email: steko@unisi.it, cioschi@gmail.com

As an orchestra or a rock star, archaeologists have their audience too. This paper wants to highlight an integrated approach between fieldwork, its account and its dissemination to the public in different ways, including social media. This potential integration has come to life in the just finished 2011 excavation of the Roman mansio of Vignale (Italy) and it has been named “Excava(c)tion”. Continuing and increasing the late lamented Richard Hall’s way of telling archaeology, “Excava(c)tion” doesn’t mean a new way of digging but another way of approaching the excavation, an approach integrated toward and with the public, both on site and on the social Web. “Excava(c)tion” conceives the site as a stage and digging as a performance, through a
continuous dialogue between archaeologists and the public. Archaeologists share their work in the form of guided tours (live, theatrical-like performances), communicative diaries and videos (edited, motion-picture performances) and on a blog (www.uominiecoseavignale.it). They receive back comments and oral accounts from the local community about the main themes of common interest.  “Excava(c)tion” means for us engagement both of archaelogists and the public in the pursuit of a global multivocality during archaeological excavation.

Memories & ‘media’; The Personal Histories Project

Speaker: Dr Pamela Jane Smith (University of Cambridge)

Pamela Jane Smith from the student-run, web-based Personal Histories Project
<http://www.personal-histories.co.uk&gt; will present an analysis of how we, in the Project, creates cientific heritage as we record and ‘broadcast’ academic memories and narratives. Pamela will bring two user-friendly, ready-to-go cameras and our trusty edirol audio recorder for participants to experiment with. We will all listen to and film narratives from those in the audience.

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