A Little Less Conversation, a Little More Action Please?

In Huggett’s article A Manifesto for an Introspective Digital Archaeology, he quotes Floridi who uses the analogy of a tree when talking about the advancement of the use of technology in the humanities. He states ‘the technology tree which has grown so rapidly that it’s conceptual, ethical and cultural roots have become shallow and weak, threatening the health of the whole.’ (Huggett 88) The analogy I feel perfectly visualizes the many debates which surround both digital archaeology and by association digital humanities. Digital Humanities is interdisciplinary and as a result needs both the methodological approach and the technological aspect to thrive. Traditionally as a subject archaeology has (since the 60s and 70s) always used technology, so the “digital” aspect to the subject is nothing new. Now as there has been such technological advancements so too have we taken it in our stride and adapted to these. It is now used in every aspect of an archaeologists life however what Huggett argues in his article is there isn’t enough conversation around this topic, the impacts that these new tools are having on every stage in the process of ‘knowledge creation’ (Huggett 89) There is the argument here that we need to think beyond the tool and critically look inwards at the subject of Digital Archaeology and they types of tools that are used and the impacts they have on the outcomes of our research. This continuous focus on the tools being used, their construction and operation can sometimes leave less focus on the objects being examined.   There has been perhaps a lack of conversation surrounding the self-criticism of digital archaeology which has left criticism and accusations about digital/ technological fetishism. He argues ‘the objective is to gain a greater understanding and appreciation of these technologies within their disciplinary context, and in the process advance the exercise of Digital Archaeology. (Huggett)

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In contrast to this argument Costopolous argues in Digital Archaeology Is Here (and Has Been for a While) that there is essentially too much talk and not enough action when it comes to digital archaeology. He argues that archaeologists going “digital” is certainly not a new concept and it is now ingrained in the very fabric of the subject. Costopolous even goes so far as to say that he is embarrassed by the amount of “sterile” meetings which he has attended about the digital turn in archaeology and as a result digital humanities with very little result to show for it. He suggests an alternative to all this debate and discussion, action. Many advancements have been made in the field, as we know, but these are advancements are happening outside of this constant debate. Of course with these advancements, as with all academia, there are going to be challenges and difficulties like standardisation, copyright, ethics etc… These are certainly not new challenges and they come part and parcel with both traditional archaeology and the humanities. Costopolous argues that instead of critiquing these constantly we as digital archaeologists need to move forward with our work and not let these discussions impede on the work itself.

Although I agree with both sides of the argument I would like to go back to the analogy that Huggett mentioned of the technology tree. The ‘shallow and weak cultural, conceptional and ethical roots.’(Huggett 88). It is the very nature of the humanities and by association archaeologists to have these self reflecting, critically analysing theoretical conversations, it is probably the grounding characteristics of the subject. To skip over this or to not have these detailed conversations, in essence, takes out one of the core elements of what it means to be a student of the humanities. Perhaps, like Costopolous argues, some of these conversations seem meaningless compared to the practical work that is being done and potential to what could be done? This is also a valid point, however I truly believe that in this field one cannot be done without the other. We need this self reflecting theoretical approach to the digital before we progress.  These conversations, I believe, need to happen as it lays the very groundwork from where digital humanities and archaeology have originated.


Costopoulos, Andre, ‘Digital Archeology Is Here (and Has Been for a While)’ Frontiers in Digital Archaeology 3 (2016). https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fdigh.2016.00004/full December 2017.

Huggett, Jeremy, ‘A manifesto for an introspective digital archaeology’. Open Archaeology, 1/1 (2015): 86-95. https://www.degruyter.com/view/j/opar.2014.1.issue-1/opar-2015-0002/opar-2015-0002.xml December 2017

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