Curating Archaeological Knowledge in the Digital Continuum: from Practice to Infrastructure

Costis Dallas 1 , 2 , 3
  • 1 Faculty of Information, University of Toronto, 140 St George St., Toronto, ON M5S 2G6, Canada
  • 2 Department of Communication, Media and Culture, Panteion University, Syngrou 136, Athens 176 71, Greece
  • 3 Digital Curation Unit, IMIS–Athena Research Centre, Artemidos 6 & Epidavrou, Maroussi 151 25, Greece

Abstract

As a “grand challenge” for digital archaeology, I propose the adoption of programmatic research to meet the challenges of archaeological curation in the digital continuum, contingent on curation-enabled global digital infrastructures, and on contested regimes of archaeological knowledge production and meaning making. My motivation stems from an interest in the sociotechnical practices of archaeology, viewed as purposeful activities centred on material traces of past human presence. This is exemplified in contemporary practices of interpretation “at the trowel’s edge”, in epistemological reflexivity and in pluralization of archaeological knowledge. Adopting a practice-centred approach, I examine how the archaeological record is constructed and curated through archaeological activity “from the field to the screen” in a variety of archaeological situations. I call attention to Çatalhöyük as a salient case study illustrating the ubiquity of digital curation practices in experimental, well-resourced and purposefully theorized archaeological fieldwork, and I propose a conceptualization of digital curation as a pervasive, epistemic-pragmatic activity extending across the lifecycle of archaeological work. To address these challenges, I introduce a medium-term research agenda that speaks both to epistemic questions of theory in archaeology and information science, and to pragmatic concerns of digital curation, its methods, and application in archaeology. The agenda I propose calls for multidisciplinary, multi-team, multiyear research of a programmatic nature, aiming to re-examine archaeological ontology, to conduct focused research on pervasive archaeological research practices and methods, and to design and develop curation functionalities coupled with existing pervasive digital infrastructures used by archaeologists. It has a potential value in helping to establish an epistemologically coherent framework for the interdisciplinary field of archaeological curation, in aligning archaeological ontologies work with practice-based, agencyoriented and participatory theorizations of material culture, and in matching the specification and design of archaeological digital infrastructures with the increasingly globalized, ubiquitous and pervasive digital information environment and the multiple contexts of contemporary meaning-making in archaeology.

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