A Response to Huggett’s Manifesto.

Upon reading Jeremy Huggett’s article, A Manifesto for an Introspective Digital Archaeology, one is struck by the way in which Huggett’s analysis of modern methods of digital archaeology are in a way, very far advanced. He understands digital archaeology and it’s processes as tools which are necessary to archaeological study, not an optional aside to it. Heavily focussing on the idea of the ‘New Aesthetic’ and digital culture studies, Huggett defines some of the benefits of digital archaeological methods, while also taking the few faults of it into account, without dismissing the methods.

Much like Huggett, we can see how the idea of the ‘New Aesthetic’ is arbitrary. It mainly focusses on the surface appearance and takes very little account of any meaningful dialogue, meaning that the importance of the artefact is lost in the aesthetic purpose of ‘seeing like a digital device’. Such issues regarding the New Aesthetic often implicate the digital archaeologists, who, as was mentioned in our class discussion, are often regarded as the ‘technical analyst’, thus demeaning the importance of the work of the digital archaeologist. Digital archaeologists are like the man in the middle; computer scientists don’t want them because they are only skilled in a certain area of computer science, and archaeologists don’t want them because they are not traditional archaeologists. However, Huggett makes a very valid argument which supports the idea of a digital archaeologist as a legitimate member of the body of archaeological research; as archaeologists are often extremely self-aware and involved in a highly interdisciplinary field, the concept of digital archaeology should not seem so alien to the traditionalists. However, as is common knowledge, people tend to dismiss that which they do not understand. Unlike traditionalists who wish to study the artefact, it’s history and it’s context, the digital archaeologist studies the digital tool which assess the artefact, and as these tools are still treated with superstition among traditionalists, it’s difficult for the digital archaeologist not to be implicated in the field.

In our class discussion, the topic regarding the position of the digital archaeology, and of digital humanities as a whole, came into play. Because of the aforementioned problems regarding perception of digital research tools, I think that the field of digital humanities will fade into wider humanities fields in the coming years. Even now, in the highly advanced technological sphere, traditional humanities fields still treat digital humanities as an alien concept. However, in twenty years, the field of digital humanities will no longer exist, as traditional humanities disciplines will begin to adopt the digital tools used in the digital humanities filed, and the digital humanities, which is currently a field in it’s own right, will become a set of tools which accompany traditional researchers, and have the digital humanities theory which will allow the field to be enveloped in the humanities, rather than being an aside feature of them. Therefore, I think that while Huggett’s arguments regarding digital archaeology may seem somewhat radical now, it is only a matter of time before they become commonplace within not just digital humanities, but within the wider spectrum of humanities research.

Works Cited
#dariahTeach, ‘My Digital Humanities: Part 1, #dariahTeach (YouTube channel), 2016.
Jeremy Huggett, A Manifesto for an Introspective Digital Archaeology in ‘Open Archaeology’ 1 (2015) p 86–95.

One thought on “A Response to Huggett’s Manifesto.

  1. I agree with the argument that individuals who venture beyond one, set discipline are often looked down on with suspicion or have to constantly defend themselves from the notion of being less qualified than someone solely focused on one set of skills. However, I can understand the fear of Digital Archaeologists being enchanted by the novelty of technology and falling into the trap of neglecting, in a sense, the materiality and social meaning of studied site/object, in order to explore the possibilities presented by the advancement of technology. That being said, I do think that a good scholar will be able to keep the balance between the analogue and the digital. Thanks to that, such individual could contribute to the overall research possibly in a grater way than someone desperately clinging to traditional methods. As a species we cannot help but constantly progress – Digital Archaeology seems to be just a natural step forward.

    As for class discussion, I wouldn’t use the word ‘fade’ which suggests a dissolvement of Digital Humanities as a discipline. Instead, I would propose the term ‘naturalization’. One can oppose using technology in Humanities, yet if we take the human factor into consideration, ‘laziness’ can be considered positive influence of ‘accepting’ DH as useful resource – where would we be without JSTOR? How much faster could we conduct intertextual analysis if we could use digital data sets and software that could help us find common features? Following this thought, Digital Humanities might be looked upon with certain dose of suspicion, due to its strive to discover new research tools and technologies (which I believe still will be the main drive behind the discipline), but it will also gain more and more recognition for their innovative solutions.

Please tell me what you think!