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3. The 'Rise of the Machine'

As a versatile and portable hardware hub, the tablet medium has significant implications for the future of digital archaeology in the field. With its longstanding interesting in applied technology in archaeology, and as a project which has adopted digital methods from an analogue benchmark (as opposed to being a 'born digital' project), the Çatalhöyük Research Project may be able provide insights into the impact of the wider disciplinary trend towards 'going digital,' or digital archaeology, which can be traced back to the 1960s and the discipline's adoption of positivist methodologies. This has culminated more recently in an increasingly rapid 'digital turn' in archaeology.

In particular, Pickering's (1995) approach to the study of scientific practice offers a framework (with a focus on human–machine interactions in scientific environments) which might be used in tandem with the project's own reflexive methodologies as a heuristic tool for evaluating the potential role of tablets in the process of knowledge creation, both within the project and in archaeology more generally. Pickering goes beyond the traditional aim of understanding how new knowledge is produced in science by viewing scientific practice as 'the work of cultural extension' (1995, 3). By making a distinction between practice, as a general term that encompasses scientific culture (including skills and social relations, machines and instruments, as well as scientific facts and theories), and practices as distinct sets of scientific processes and methods (such as excavation or recording), Pickering moves beyond considering practices in and of themselves and seeks instead to contextualize them within the wider scientific culture. In this, Pickering and ÇRP have a mutual point of interest in the alteration and transformation of the social and material aspects of science or archaeology.

Pickering's consideration of scientific practice as inclusive of social, material, and temporal relations goes beyond a view of science as a collection or body of knowledge and instead focuses on a performative image of science, where scientists (or human agents) manoeuvre within a field of material, social, and institutional agency. In other words, scientists (actively and intentionally) construct or employ a new machine with certain goals in mind. Scientists then monitor the performance of the machine (taking a passive role) and ask questions such as 'does the machine perform as intended?' According to Pickering, this is when material agency actively manifests itself. Depending on the answer, human agency becomes active once more and revises goals, tinkers with or 'tunes' the machine and thus the process is repeated (Pickering 1995, 21–2). Of course, the scientists' goals, as well as the machine (or material agency), emerge within the existing social, material, and institutional or disciplinary culture or practice, but both can lead to an extension and reconfiguration of this practice due to their unpredictable nature. This is what Pickering refers to as the 'mangle of practice.'

For Pickering, the machine is 'the balance point' between the human and non-human world, as well as the realms of science, technology, and society. Machines are seen as an essential apparatus that allows scientists to cope with material agency by capturing it, manipulating it, recording it, or materializing it in ways that are beyond the naked individual or collective human capacity. They are thus an ideal point of entry into the investigation of these complex relationships and how they transform, and are transformed, by scientific practice.

It should be noted that Pickering's focus on real-time reflexivity and understanding of practice (cf approaches that might be seen as retrospective in nature) is also analogous to ÇRP's methodology, which has maintained a strong focus on 'documenting the documentation process', in pursuance of transparency of practice and opening up the archaeological process to wider scrutiny (Hodder 2003, 61). It is within this framework that this paper considers the adoption, implementation, and effects of digital tablet recording on archaeological practices at Çatalhöyük. Using the tablets creates a new type of entry point which makes the application of reflexive methods easier, faster, and more directly possible. It is therefore important to consider elements of archaeological practice more generally, especially as the proliferation of the incorporation of digital tools into archaeological excavation and recording have prompted many to proclaim the emergence of a 'digital' archaeology (Morgan and Eve 2012). Within this context it is crucial to offer more in discussion than technical, descriptive or comparative accounts of newly incorporated digital methods or practices into archaeology, and to delve into how such practices transform, and are transformed by, more general archaeological practice or culture.

It is therefore possible to argue that by adopting the use of tablets on site, the ÇRP has furthered its reflexive practice in archaeological data collection, integration and interpretation. Despite the fact that both GIS and 3D modelling require additional skill sets and expertise in their utilization (see Section 12 below), it is also possible to argue that the methodology developed at Çatalhöyük has actually democratized the accessibility of primary data and therefore the further interpretation of the datasets in a way that has enabled increased reflexive discussion regarding the archaeological record on the site.


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