This Post Will Change Your Life!

I’m a digital archaeologist. But I’m also on extended childcare duties at the moment. Lemme tell you, that’s a lot of work. But, hey – you’re “working” from “home” aren’t you? Aren’t you just sitting in your underwear surfing the web?

What if I was? Would I find anything interesting or useful about archaeology?

Maybe. Maybe not. One of the things I’m actually working on right now is a book about big data for history. I’m not a historian, but I am used to the idea of layers, and a ‘big data’ outlook is just one more layer. So – what do you actually see if you start looking at the structure of knowledge about archaeology on the internet?

I’ve submitted an article recently along those lines; here’s the abstract:

“Increasingly, if we wish to make signal in the noise of the internet, we need to understand its emergent structures and its non-human actors. Every world wide web looks different; there is no ‘one’ web. What we see, what we find, what we are exposed to, is a result of the web looking back at us, giving us what we ‘want’. When we blog, we enter into a game of influence and diffusion over various network structures. In this paper, I examine some of the ways we share authority with our algorithms to create an archaeological blog-o-sphere, a universe of archaeological knowledge which intersects yet remains parallel to, other universes of knowledge. I map the effectiveness of our archaeological blog-o-sphere. I conclude by arguing that algorithmic agency, where algorithms interact with other algorithms in unforeseen and undesirable ways, will foster (needs to foster) a return to the human curated web, albeit in partnership with our former servants, the algorithms.”

One thing that I saw in the maps of archaeological knowledge created were the invasive tendrils of advertising and monitoring. The rise of clickbait, as parodied in the tweets yesterday morning (reproduced above) are killing the web, like a creeping vine slowly strangling its host tree. Digital parasitism, decay, and death. Themes I’ll be exploring. (If you’re interested, I spoke earlier this year on all this, slides are at: Shouting into the void by Shawn)

So that’s what I’m doing on this Day of Archaeology, writing about the shape of archaeological knowledge, changing diapers, and if I’m lucky, I’ll be allowed to play in the sandbox with my son.