Immediacy and Interaction

The experience of the casual visitor during the summer season must be slightly bizarre. Even those who enjoy a fully structured site tour are bombarded with explanations of the `Neolithic enclosure', the `Bronze Age field systems and houses' and so on. What does this actually mean to our visitors? The operational dynamics dictate that much relevant information is omitted from a physical site tour. Though we are fortunate in having excellent and enthusiastic guides who ask as well as answer questions, it is difficult to give a proper sense of background, context and progression to our work. The nature of our practice - the ways in which ideas and procedures are constantly being reworked, is lost to the one-time visitor. Those who participate in a more direct manner may get a sense of this, particularly since many return again and again. Yet the person who comes once, or for one day of each year, is more often than not expected to take a good deal on trust. The interpretive process and its manifestation in the field remains obscure. What is left is spectacle and rhetoric.

Once again, the website offers the potential to take things further. For schools groups in particular, but also for others, the web offers the chance of multiple visits at different times, and the ability to follow different paths through the project. Simply having each year's interim reports reveals something of the ways in which the project has developed, and in conjunction with other forms of multimedia, it will be possible for people to explore linking arguments, how ideas have changed and the minutiae of specific interpretations. Those who climb the hill each year see different trenches and ongoing work as a series of snapshots. Those who visit only once get the one picture, and that is as far as it goes. Using the web, it is possible to envisage a more diachronic link, one that allows people to follow work over time, to see the addition of new evidence and the development of new concerns in the research itself. It is the immediacy of information dissemination via the Internet that really sets it apart from other publishing media, including its digital counterpart, the CD-ROM.

Last year saw the trial run of site diaries, which aimed to provide a frequently updated pictorial journal reporting on progress in the field. A visitor to the excavation site itself at a given time could then visit by proxy at a later date and witness how work in the field has progressed. As the immediacy of specific images becomes less important, they will be catalogued in a database, which we hope will be searchable via the Internet. Here we hope to exploit the technology to dovetail the mutual goals of presentation with research capability. In principle, it is actually possible to do this live, and there is the scope to establish dialogue between ourselves and schools in real time during the excavations. Such possibilities do, however, rely heavily on technology that can hardly be described as suitable for field conditions - cold camera batteries and appalling weather conspired to cause problems for much of the last season. However, the diary will be extended next year, allowing the possibility of communication and response while work goes on.


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Last updated: Thu May 27 1999