Overview of web site: Themes and Structuring Principles

As this work developed, it became apparent that traditional modes of knowledge production ('teaching', 'presenting' and 'displaying') fit more easily into hierarchical, authoritative ways of sharing information (such as museums, talks, classrooms, and site tours) than they do within the associative and aleatory logic of the Net (Taylor and Saarinen 1994, 9). Therefore, we have found it useful to conceive of this project in terms of a different trope: that of a 'conversation' (Rorty 1989) - a disembodied, expanded, fragmented, and multivocal conversation. As archaeologists who take part in this conversation, we do attempt to make our archaeological truth claims forcefully and creatively (Hodder et al. 1995, 28), embracing science as our tool-of-trade, but not scientism - operating within a pragmatic realism that does not lead to relativism or scepticism (Goodman 1995, 4).

In addition to developing this 'conversational' (as opposed to 'presentational' or 'educational') trope we are also employing what has been termed a self-reflexive postprocessual methodology in 'real site' excavation contexts (Hodder 1997). That is, we are attempting to incorporate elements of reflexivity, multivocality, interactivity and contextuality in various phases of the web site's development and delivery. The rest of this paper will be devoted to describing specific strategies we have employed to do this. I should emphasise that the web site does not purport to be reflexive, multivocal and so on, but, rather, to employ some degree of all four elements in varying degrees in different parts of the site. There is certainly material on the site that is decidedly non-reflexive and univocal, although we do attempt to use this material in a reflexive, transparent way.

Before going to the examples, I should first clarify terms. By reflexivity, I mean that we hope to reveal something about our assumptions and 'taken-for-granteds', and that we attempt to be critical of these assumptions as we decide what sorts of content to include. Being reflexive also requires that we be aware of what these assumptions reveal about our own ideologies, and that we be aware how our ideologies come into play as we deal with each other. By multivocality, I mean simply that we want to ensure that a diversity of people have the opportunity to participate in the 'conversation' of the web site - in both content development and online phases of the project. This includes people who do not own and do not intend to use computers, and I will discuss that in more detail. By interactive, I mean that we want to provide ways for people to question our archaeological interpretations, and ways for them to approach the material from a variety of angles - using different disciplines, and different ways of evaluating truth claims. It also means that we must provide ways for us to respond to their questions and challenges. Finally, by being contextual, we want to communicate how this archaeology depends on history, on ethnography, on genealogy, and on the continuities and conflicts between past and present. These four elements, which now operate as structuring principles for the web site, overlap and occasionally merge.

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Last updated: Wed Apr 28 1999