RT6 Thinking between the lines: conceptualising the future of archaeological databases

Siena, Italy. 30 March – 3 April, 2015

Alan Greene, Ian Johnson

This session combines 5 minute lightning talks – appropriate for describing specific database examples, solutions, or methodological approaches – with a concluding round-table discussion that pulls together the threads of a more reflective approach to the conceptual structure of archaeological databases and the ways in which databases influence our thinking through constraints and facilitation.


Thinking differentially and downstream about archaeological data

Presenter Michael Ashley (Center for Digital Archaeology)

Archaeological research projects rarely occur in vacuums, but are situated in often-complex circles of interested parties – the stewards and stakeholders who have rightful claims to the archaeological places and knowledge being withdrawn from them. As archaeologists, we are afforded a powerful position of deciding what is knowledge, what is data, who gets access, under what circumstances, if at all.

Even now as we are firmly rooted in the digital age, we tend to move from facts to interpretations, interpretations to reports, reports to public engagement, and sometimes, albeit rarely, to storytelling. And yet, for the communities who rely on us for the archaeological data, it is through stories, discussion and debate that often everything begins. In this lightning talk, we will look at where we’re failing and succeeding to connect with stakeholder priorities for differential access to cultural content and archaeological data, and what this means for all of us in developing informed exchanges for digital archaeology.

We’ll explore Mukurtu CMS, an open source platform designed specifically to address some of these challenges.. We will take a look at two contrasting examples of how our archaeological data is resituated – the land and research management plans of two first nations in North America, and the research agenda for a ‘total history’ of the Jezreel Valley Regional Project in Israel – to spark discussion about how our databases and the digital products we produce are used downstream in ways that we may not have imagined during our excavations and surveys.

Michael Ashley – Chief Executive Officer

Dr. Michael Ashley is Chief Executive Officer at the Center for Digital Archaeology (CoDA), a non-profit company affiliated with UC Berkeley that creates and leverages data management technologies for the preservation and sharing of cultural heritage. He is developing Codifi, an innovative mobile solution for turning buried content into discoverable, data-driven stories. Michael is the Director of Development of Mukurtu CMS, an open source content management solution for Indigenous communities to share, license and curate their digital heritage. He received his Ph.D. at UC Berkeley in 2004, where he went on as faculty and staff to co-found several initiatives, including the award winning Open Knowledge and the Public Interest (OKAPI), and the Media Vault Program, a digital preservation and access framework for the university’s museums and archives. An archaeological photographer by training, Michael was the Media Team lead for the Çatalhöyük Research Project for 7 years. 

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