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The Social Web and Archaeology’s Restructuring: Impact, Exploitation, Disciplinary Change

Sara Perry
  • Department of Archaeology, University of York, York, YO1 7EP, UK
/ Nicole Beale
  • Centre for Digital Heritage, University of York, York, YO1 5DD, UK
Published Online: 2015-05-19 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opar-2015-0009

Abstract

From blogs to crowdfunding, YouTube to LinkedIn, online photo-sharing sites to open-source community-based software projects, the social web has been a meaningful player in the development of archaeological practice for two decades now. Yet despite its myriad applications, it is still often appreciated as little more than a tool for communication, rather than a paradigm-shifting system that also shapes the questions we ask in our research, the nature and spread of our data, and the state of skill and expertise in the profession. We see this failure to critically engage with its dimensions as one of the most profound challenges confronting archaeology today. The social web is bound up in relations of power, control, freedom, labour and exploitation, with consequences that portend real instability for the cultural sector and for social welfare overall. Only a handful of archaeologists, however, are seriously debating these matters, which suggests the discipline is setting itself up to be swept away by our unreflective investment in the cognitive capitalist enterprise that marks much current web-based work. Here we review the state of play of the archaeological social web, and reflect on various conscientious activities aimed both at challenging practitioners’ current online interactions, and at otherwise situating the discipline as a more informed innovator with the social web’s possibilities.

Keywords: social web; archaeology; digital; heritage; social media; skill; labour; heteromation; neoliberalism; cognitive capitalism

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About the article

Received: 2014-12-12

Accepted: 2015-04-14

Published Online: 2015-05-19



Citation Information: Open Archaeology, ISSN (Online) 2300-6560, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opar-2015-0009. Export Citation

© 2015 Sara Perry, Nicole Beale. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 License. (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

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