1.2 Discussion of definitions and additional terms

The definitions in section 1.1 are those given to the original participants verbatim. In formulating the exact nature of the definition section for the experiment it was necessary to make considerable compromises on the level of detail and discussion included. After consulting extensively with the initial group of participants, it became clear that the two specific tasks the definitions section had to achieve were being hindered, as opposed to aided, by extended academic detail.

  1. The definitions had to provide all participants, regardless of their level of education, with enough information to be able to follow the methodology and to evaluate its usefulness. This meant that they had to be kept simple and clear.
  2. To engage participants and have them complete the full series of reading, writing and interview tasks, the definitions provided had to be short and to the point.

In order to meet the criteria outlined by the participants (simplicity and brevity) and still convey sufficiently the core concepts being presented, it was thus necessary to use language familiar to a non-specialist audience and to develop those terms. The terms are presented here as they were used, warts and all, as the purpose of this article is to discuss the responses of the participants to the methodology as a whole, not to introduce a series of new terms into archaeological discourse. However, for the sake of completeness the rationale behind the terms selected and the relationship established between them in interview with the participants are outlined briefly below. It should also be noted that the same issues and reasoning mean that some theoretical decisions taken in the experiment paper were not fully un-packed and remain thus (since the text provided to participants is reproduced in full). For example, the methodology does not expand upon why an experience-orientated approach was considered the most appropriate, but simply states that this was considered the case. This was to avoid an extended and unnecessary discussion of the merits and flaws of phenomenology for the sake of participants.

Experience-orientated approach (not explicitly discussed in the experiment paper). On occasion the methodological approach adopted is referred to as experience-orientated. This term was used to communicate the fact that the primary research into the post-Reformation Kirk environment focused on experience in the past; for example considering the sensory impacts of the performance and material culture of discipline, the ergonomics of objects, and the embodied nature of emotions. This decision was taken with due consideration for the downfalls of phenomenological approaches, such as the privileging of the idea of a universally experienced body (cf. Hicks 2010, 71-3). The focus of the project on exploring participants' individual engagements with the past, and the analogy made between these and the range of possible early modern experiences, was considered sufficient to temper this tendency, allowing participants to adopt a more nuanced understanding of the past and of how it is (re)constructed through archaeological discourse.

Translation. Discussion of translation theory was intentionally omitted from the article, as deliberation over different translation decisions was considered irrelevant to the overall purpose of communicating the idea that the past is something that must be interpreted and reconstituted with the necessary social and physical referents, but which also accounts for the deficit in understanding that results from their unfamiliarity. The definition arrived at reflects the author's own academic background in language studies and discussion with working translators.

Performance is utilised here, not only as outlined in section 1.1, but for additional reasons. Repeated performances such as this, whether official or unofficial, written or oral, have several specific qualities which compliment the other terms selected for the experiment. They have some form of script, stage directions and predetermined actions (though elements may vary) which the participants could readily conceptualise as elements which might be translated. They also include bodies and objects — elements which in any performance convey packed, multi-layered cultural messages. Bodies and objects therefore both communicate information which might be translated, and represent a mode of communication in themselves.

User-led (not discussed in the experiment paper) is used here in the context of engagement or interpretation. It refers to a type of participation in which the user engages in individual decision making, forming a uniquely constituted series of relationships between elements provided in the experiment. It is not intended to suggest that user responses are truly unique, inherently creative, or even unambiguously transparent: if this were the case there would be no concern over the bias introduced if the discussion were read before the participant article. Rather, it is used to express a situation in which a) both author and audience members are acknowledged as active agents in the interpretative process and b) this agency (as with all agency) is contingent upon pre-existing socio-cultural factors, such that while participants are free to be creative in their responses, that creativity is socially constructed and limited.

In fact, this latter issue is a crucial link in relating the concepts of translation and user-led interpretation with the subject of the study: the performance of social discipline. The perception of this performance by early modern Scottish people was not independently creative, but defined by their cultural context and experiences of community and self, and this is reflected in how they reconstituted it both internally and materially. In effect, this approach provides the modern audience with the necessary cultural context for them likewise to assemble, interiorise, and ultimately interpret it. However, as with the early modern audience of the performance, the participant's interpretations are affected by other factors: not only the information provided and the format in which it is provided, but the sum total of their engagements with the modern world. The participant audience do not, therefore, mirror the past audience. To suggest so would not be theoretically robust. However, participation demonstrably offered participants an experience of deeper understanding and connection with the past. Their ability to communicate these experiences back into the project allowed the exploration of previously unanticipated potential responses to this performance at the time it was current. It is the translation approach that makes this possible, communicating those early modern culturally-defined elements necessary for users to participate in interpreting the performance.

Collage-making again employs a familiar idea in order to capitalise on the framework of theory and engagement already familiar to all participants, from high school age to old age, regardless of their level of education. It is used here to describe an ongoing process of exploring new juxtapositions and connections between different elements in order to create, identify and/or interpret meaning. It is this performed, creative and ongoing act of interpretation by making connections that is discussed and referred to throughout, rather than to a collage in itself, in which the pieces are all permanently placed. The term is not employed in reference exclusively to the use of images, but as a process, into which any concept, material or media might be incorporated. Early participants involved in shaping the final experiment supported the use of this term and the process which it represents: as one participant put it:

'it led directly to participation and interpretation without feeling like you were struggling with new skills and theories. The idea of the collage-making gave you something familiar to work with, and it also gave you the sense that you could be playful, that there wasn't just one right answer'.

As this comment inadvertently reveals, aside from being a useful and familiar term for engaging participants in the interpretative process, the concept of collage-making was also central to the translation of the archaeologist's experience. In order for an archaeological audience to understand not only what particular objects and practices meant in the past, and how they were experienced, their meanings actively constituted (and therefore subject to constant revision), but also how archaeologists arrive at an understanding of this; they too need to be provided with the opportunity to reconstitute the past. This underlies the provision of the short chapters, images and other materials.


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