The Past in Bits: Towards an Archaeology of Information Technology?

Jeremy Huggett*


This article argues that archaeologists have shown relatively little concern for the social, cultural, and economic changes in modern society associated with the introduction of new information technologies, despite our interest in such developments in past societies. As a consequence, there has been little discussion of the ways in which the application of information technologies may affect the practice of archaeology itself. Aspects investigated here include the 'scientific' reductionist processual approaches typically associated with the use of computers, the language and community of archaeological computing practitioners, the effects of distance and agents, issues of data recording and retrieval, and the implications of internet delivery of information. In the process, data may be wrenched from context, argument separated from evidence, interpretations transformed into 'facts', explicit knowledge separated from tacit knowledge, and push-button solutions substituted for knowledgeable actions.

Note: The article is presented in essentially the same form as it was pre-circulated prior to the workshop, other than minor corrections. However, in order to reflect on discussions that took place and to clarify some issues that arose, additional sections have been added throughout the text. These are broadly equivalent to footnotes in a traditional publication, but are here embedded in the body of the text and are hidden or revealed by the reader as desired. The reader can therefore see both the original paper as it was pre-circulated prior to the workshop, and the post-workshop version with additional reflections. The intention is thereby to provide a more historical perspective to the development of the ideas and arguments within the paper.

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Jeremy Huggett
Department of Archaeology
University of Glasgow
G12 8QQ, UK.