Tag Archives: Theory

The Digital, Archaeology and Digital Archaeology

“Mesh of Stones” A digital reconstruction of standing stones at newgrange, England.

Costopoulos discusses the normalization of Digital Archeology over the last number of years, its significant application and sums up the aims of publishing in Frontiers in Digital Archeology: “I want to stop talking about digital archaeology. I want to continue doing archaeology digitally.” What he is talking about here seems deliberately provocative – though his argument that the digital tools enhance the research in the field of Archaeology still stands true, even if such contributions are left out of conversations about digital archaeology. The tools are not unique to Archaeology and the definition of “Digital Archaeology” may still be developing, but realistically Archaeologists have been using technology to assist their work for a long time. He is an outspoken writer on the subject, but this article attracts criticism by Jeremy Huggett in aptly titled post “Let’s Talk about Digital Archeology”, stating that: “A superficial reading of the article suggests a degree of weariness and cynicism here. But it seems to me that the article potentially questions the very legitimacy of what I understand by digital archaeology.” His point is that while Archaeologists invariably use computers at some point in this age, but Digital Archaeologists have specific skills. Huggett questions the logic behind Costopoulos not wanting to categorise these skills and talk about their application – pointing out that to do so would be to leave an entire field of archeology out of the conversation: “Questions surrounding the introduction, development, and implications of new technologies within the subject go far beyond questions of standardisation, ethics etc. in addressing the very fundamental stuff of archaeology and its interpretation – or, at least, they should do.”
“In a Manifesto for Introspective Digital Archeology” Hugget brings up ‘New Aesthetic’ in relation to digital archeology, discussing trends in theory since the 1950’s which have transformed the field of archeology. Specifically, the challenge addressed in this piece of writing is how technology has affected how archeological knowledge is created, and how the subject is viewed. The people working in the field and scholars have been changed by this as previously there were computer scientists and Archeologists, but from the mid-80’s onwards people began to specialize in this themselves. While traditional archeologists and historians still exist, the digital archeologist and their status in the field is contested – largely from conservatism. However, the influence of Digital Archeology on how the subject is approached and researched should not be underestimated, having transformed the scholar in the Digital Age. Hugget argues that “Digital archaeologists are arguably the best positioned amongst digital humanists to investigate and understand the implications, transformations, and repercussions of digital technologies.” (“A Manifesto for an Introspective Digital Archeology, 87). New technology has of course provided incredibly useful tools, and this has changed how Archeologists approach their work – but an understanding of theory is still necessary. “Yet with few exceptions, that preoccupation has not been turned towards the consideration of the digital technologies used within archaeology other than in a superficial way. The belief that computers increasingly facilitate all these theoretical concepts is commonplace – much less so is the recognition that, all too often, they in fact restrict and subvert these very ideals and frequently disguise that they do so through a combination of technological sleight of hand and the law of unintended consequences.”(“ A Manifesto for an Introspective Digital Archaeology.” (89)

Works Cited

Costopoulos, Andre. Digital Archeology Is Here (and Has Been for a While) Specialty Grand Challenge ARTICLE Web. Front. Digit. Humanit.,Date of Publication: 16 March 2016. Date of Access: 02 Dec. 2016. http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fdigh.2016.00004
Huggett, Jeremy. “A Manifesto for an Introspective Digital Archaeology.” Open Archaeology 2015; 1: 86–95. Date of Access: 02. Dec. 2016
Huggett, Jeremy. “Let’s talk about Digital Archaeology” WordPress. Web. Date of publication; May 10, 2016 Date of Access: 02 Dec. 2016.
“Mesh of Stones” Archeological Heritage. Published: 2012. http://www.archeritage.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Mesh-of-Stones-470×280.jpg

Images on Social Media

Social media is increasingly playing a prominent role in everyday life, especially in the western world.  Large multinational companies are beginning to monopolise particular services “free” to the user like Google search engine, or Facebook, who owns Instagram and has tried to buy Snapchat. They may be free to use, but that is because their product is the user reach that they have for advertisers and business. These profiles are becoming increasingly important as online identity and there has been rising demand in the past number of years for services to be provided on the internet. Images have a prominent position, being eyecatching, identifiable and are generated from a variety of sources.

In fact, it is a barrage of images and information as part of a platform for users to communicate, with significant cultural influence both in terms of user generated culture and the transmission of existing human expression and knowledge. For this reason it also as a place for forming cultural identity, as evidenced by the use of particular sites by subcultures e.g graffiti artist profiles on flickr etc. Groups form and the image can be representative of a unification – a logo if you will. The capability is there for online communities to form and post images, interact with one another and take things away into their daily lives – regardless of the type of image. Associations with images can be made by users online e.g. Evil Kermit and indulging oneself. Furthermore, these “cultures” spreads rapidly amongst a large pool of uses worldwide online through ideas and the image.

Interaction begins to take place in a “third space”, with ideas shared between cultures . Though extensively criticised for his use of dense language, Homi K. Bhabha provides a framework for understanding the clashing and merging of cultures and appropriation of different elements resulting in “hybridity” and “mimicry”. E.g American hip-hop culture, the “gangster” image – and the appropriation of Box hats and baggy trousers. The role that social media plays in trend setting, commercial sales and creating a personal image hasn’t been concretely defined and researched yet but there are undoubtedly links. “Selfies” as a form of image have become incredibly power online, common amongst Facebook, Snapchat and other social media users and the profile photo functions as a form of representation of identity. The potential for the social media to be capitalised on is recognised by advertising, branding and marketing companies who increasingly make efforts to engage audiences onlineOr comic book culture, and its popularisation alongside the release of multiple high budget commercial cinema films merging the Marvel and DC “universes”. they certainly take advantage of hashtags

This third wave post-structuralist theory is adaptable, and can be applied to Social media sees user generated content in the form of profile photos and posting, videos etc. Different platforms see different use: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram all have different uses but the image has significant power in all of them. Construction of identity

Photos have a significant amount the information attached to them like user generated tags, location, captions etc. separate from the codified construction of the image itself. Who are the audience for posted photos? How are they taken symbolically, and what systems are the for “reading them”

Of course this space is shared by Events, businesses, promoters, and advertised who all generate images. Information security and privacy issues aside, how information is disseminated has changed greatly, seeing a blurring of the lines between social or personal communication and media communication.

Postmodernist concerns seem useful for criticism, reality has become increasingly mediated by social media. Memes, “facts” . Even “fake news” has come to the attention of the public, with speculation of its role in the American presidential election – all grab out attention with images. Hyper-reality with connotations of illegitimacy in a Baudrillian sense seems apt, and the simulacrum seems applicable to the social world online. It’s a question of information as well as images. Images can be stolen, manipulated, framed in different manners. “Catfish”is a documentary about uncovering the false information given by an online “friend” who had falsified an entire family history supported with images and addresses. Connotations of illegitimacy and uncertainty mark the image online. Especially considering photoshop and other photo modifying software, but the information attached to an image is equally if not more important


Works Cited

Baudrillard, Jean. Simulacra and Simulation. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1994. Print.

Bhabha, Homi. The Location of Culture. London: Routledge, 1994. Print.

“Evil Kermit meme seeks to seduce us all to the dark side (23 Photos)” By Bob. Date of Publication: 17 Nov. 2016. http://thechive.com/2016/11/17/evil-kermit-meme-seeks-to-seduce-us-all-to-the-dark-side-23-photos/


“Catfish” 2011 Universial Pictures: C.A.Ariel Schulman; Henry Joost; Ryan Kavanaugh; Brett Ratner; Tucker Tooley; Andrew Jarecki; Marc Smerling; Zac Stuart-Pontier; Mark Mothersbaugh; Yaniv Schulman; Angela Wesselman;

“NSA flickr account”Anon. Flickr. Date of Access: 29 Nov. 2016. https://www.flickr.com/photos/31086919@N04/with/3768589381



The Limits of Digitisation


Jeffery argues that virtual representation has merit in itself, but he also points out that there are limits and issues surrounding digitisation. “In the digital domain long-standing issues of data integration, discovery and long-term preservation have now begun to be tackled in a meaningful way.” (144) How we understand digitisation is important, and the purpose affects the process itself – depending on why we are digitising (or recording), the data associated may change and even how it is presented and to what standards are adhered to (which affect how it can be accessed and used by programs and people). Though Jeffery is talking specifically about digitisation as an indispensable tool for archaeology and other specific areas – this is a widely applicable point on the digital sciences overall. While computer sciences have come on a long way in a relatively short space of time, further review and development is still needed to resolve longstanding issues around the use of data. Technological limits on digitisation aside, there are still conceptual limits stemming from earlier issues around representation.

Automatic means of production supposed ‘objectivity’ separates this representation from the artistic processes previously required. While advancements in technology have furthered the scope of digitisation, many issues surrounding recording and representation have been discussed previously. “Originality in photography as distinct from originality in painting lies in the essentially objective character of photography.” (Bazin, 7) Due to this ‘objectivity’, there is a credibility implied of the representation of a “real” object. “Photography enjoys a certain advantage in virtue of this transference of reality from its thing to its reproduction” (Bazin, 8) The understanding of photography as storage of data, measurements and recordings of ‘real life’ is often extended to the digital world. However, just as Bazin experimented with manipulating this “reality” in film to display the creative vision of the director– digital technology can be used to manipulate data and representations according to the inputter, the choices they have made and the processes that they have followed to digitise and attach data. Digital technology has reached a point where it can be used to create new and virtual objects of unprecedentedly high quality, while this widens the scope of recording and digitisation it also brings up conceptual difficulties. It is difficult to say which category digitisation falls into as on one hand it connotes authenticity as recording of data, but on the other hand the capacity to for manipulation has ramifications for how we understand this recording or representation.

Semiotics have provided useful critical tools for examining the art and the object, interpreted according to subjectivities – and these concerns are also applicable to digitisation, and the collection of data which is ultimately a representation. One of the key distinctions is between the ‘signifier’ or representation and the ‘signified’- what it represents. “Context other words, is a text itself, and it thus consists of signs that require interpretation” (Bal and Bryson, 175) There are choices made about the information included alongside digitisation. The attachment of metadata to a digital object e.g. a photograph, allows its indexing and aids computer programs use of data attached to a file. Encoding data has its limitations, needing a structure that can be accessed and read. XML as a hierarchal coding language has become the industry standard, and is extendable – providing a basis for other coding languages that attach metadata to photos. It has the capacity to take in different types of data or signifying elements, but this also needs to be read or interpreted to make use of it necessitating standards. How information is attached to a digitised object and how it is presented, as well as how it can be used and accessed by computers and people. Standardised schemas like Dublin Core and VRA core are utilised in order to make metadata accessible and readable but though they are commonly used, these may not be the best schemas for encapsulating data depending on what is being digitised and why. A further consideration is that metadata needs to be attached the original object (or signified), but also the digitised image or scan and surrounding data (signifiers).



Bal, Mieke and Bryson, Norman “Semiotics and Art History”. The Art Bulletin, Vol. 73, No. 2 (1991), pp. 174-208

Bazin, Andre. “The Ontology of the Photographic Image” Trans. Hugh Gray. Film Quarterly, Vol. 13, No. 4 (1960), pp. 4-9
“Film Theorist Andre Bazin” Web. https://adferoafferro.files.wordpress.com/2014/07/film-theorist-andre-bazin.jpg
Jeffrey, Stuart. “Challenging Heritage Visualisation: Beauty, Aura and Democratisation.” Open Archaeology, No. 1: (2015), pp. 144–152