Computing Panel at European Association of Archaeologists

May 24th, 2007 by Gabriel Bodard

A Call for Proposals from Geoff Carver (seen on Antiquist). Send abstracts or suggestions to gjcarver@t-online.de.

I still need a few abstracts for a session I’ve organised for the European Association of Archaeologists conference, to be held in Zadar, Croatia in September; I’ve included my session abstract, and if you have any more questions, let me know.

Is Invention the Mother of Necessity?

Sometimes it seems like all the recent developments in computer applications for archaeology are technology-driven: increasingly realistic graphics, higher resolution cameras and scanners, new uses for existing software, etc.

At its worst, this approach can result in technology for its own sake: cool innovations that might impress the “geeks” and “nerds,” but don’t seem to take the real needs of archaeologists into consideration.

This session aims to turn things around by discussing not just what we can do with computers in archaeology, but what we would like to do, if the technology should someday become available. We want to discuss why we use computers – our aims and goals – and why some of us feel threatened not just by the machines we use, but also by the jargon that surrounds them.

Ultimately, the goal is to begin addressing the apparent paradox that – although in some ways archaeologists escape the modern world by retreating into the past – we still study the past largely in terms of technological changes (stone, bronze, iron ages, etc.), without necessarily understanding the relationships between technology and modern archaeology.

This is a valuable discussion which touches on the perennial question Digital Humanists face about whether the “digital” or the “humanities” drives our research. On the one hand we must never lose touch with the fact that we are scholars in a humanistic discipline (be that Classics, Archaeology, History, or whatever), and that the history and expectation of scholarship in that discipline must be at the forefront of our endeavors. On the other hand, it is generally not the classicists or archaeologists who invent new technologies, but either disciplines with better funding than us, or science, medicine, and industry. It would be irresponsible of us not to borrow and build upon these technologies as they become available, so it is inevitable that digital technology (and the expertise of information scientists) will to some extent drive developments in humanistic scholarship also. Where we allow the balance to be drawn will decide the future of our disciplines.

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