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Public Archaeology in a Digital Age

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posted on 2014-07-31, 12:50 authored by Lorna RichardsonLorna Richardson

This thesis examines the impact of the democratic promises of Internet communication technologies, social, and participatory media on the practice of public archaeology. It is focused on work within archaeological organisations in the UK working in commercial archaeology, higher education, local authority planning departments and community settings, as well the voluntary archaeology sector. This work has taken an innovative approach to the subject matter through its use of a Grounded Theory method for data collection and analysis, and the use of a combination of online surveys, case studies and email questionnaires in order to address the following issues: the provision of authoritative archaeological information online; barriers to participation; policy and organisational approaches to evaluating success and archiving; community formation and activism, and the impact of digital inequalities and literacies.

This thesis is the first overarching study into the use of participatory media in archaeology. It is an important exploration of where and how the profession is creating and managing digital platforms, and the expanding opportunities for networking and sharing information within the discipline, against a backdrop of rapid advancement in the use of Internet technologies within society. This work has made significant contributions to debates on the practice and impact of public archaeology. It has shown that archaeologists do not yet fully understand the complexities of Internet use and issues of digital literacy, the impact of audience demographics or disposition towards participation in online projects.

It has shown that whilst recognition of democratic participation is not, on the whole, undertaken through a process of actively acknowledging responses to archaeological information, there remains potential for participatory media to support and accommodate these ideals.

This work documents a period of great change within the practice of archaeology in the UK, and concludes with the observation that it is vital that the discipline undertake research into online audiences for archaeological information if we are to create sustainable digital public archaeologies.


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