1. Introduction

In recent years, there has been an emerging trend to interpret the past using 'performance studies' of one type or another, and opinions vary whether or not the non-evident properties and hidden meanings of props, sets and actors are archaeologically accessible (Pearson and Shanks 2001, 56; Inomata and Coben 2006a; Mitchell 2006). Far from neutral objects, it is becoming increasingly evident that the paraphernalia of any 'performance' in the past constitutes an incomplete schematic assemblage, one which requires culture-specific knowledge and embodied experience to interpret it (Keane 2006; Tilley 2006). Archaeologists are increasingly successful in their attempts to identify relationships between the elements of performance in the past (cf. Inomata and Coben 2006a). However, it is argued here that without comparable access to the capacity to identify interactions between audiences, actors and their props and sets, the archaeologist's audience will never fully appreciate these relationships: they are lost in translation. In an international academic climate increasingly preoccupied with interdisciplinarity, this loss is a challenge to be overcome.

Loss in translation is here attributed to the perpetuation of a culture in which certain types of 'facts' are seen as the most legitimate route to knowledge. This mode of communication privileges the modern experience of self as inward and intellectual (Mellor and Shilling 1997). Therefore, the possibility of incorporating the body and senses and their interactions with the interior, outwardly illogical, worlds of imagination, emotion and religion, into our understandings of the past are diminished. Using a body of new research into the material culture of the Scottish Reformation Church as a case study, this article represents an attempt at two complimentary things: to translate aspects of early modern engagements with the performance of church discipline, and to translate something of the archaeologist's engagements with this past. The purpose is to facilitate audience participation on multiple levels, firstly with aspects of past culture and with the archaeological practice through which the past culture becomes known. Throughout the experiment the audience are encouraged to participate by engaging in a performative, interpretative process of collage-making. Ultimately, this process is aimed at promoting user mobilisation of the cultural capital gained through participation in ways which reflect elements of both early modern and archaeological embodied engagements with specific aspects of the material world.

To this end, the outcomes of rigorous research into the material culture of discipline were presented in the 'Ye Devill Among Ym' project to 25 participants as part of an experimental article constituted by variable media. These consisted of a hyperlinked series of flow charts; narrative; short, interchangeable chapters; text extracts and colour images. This format was designed to allow the reader to create unique collages, either to illustrate the text or to relate to it in a variety of ways. In anthropological circles, research demonstrates that the use of multimedia resources to convey ethnographic research not only promotes understanding but helps readers to assess the veracity of material presented to them (cf. Atkinson 1990). The use of hypermedia, it has been more recently suggested, may offer the additional benefit of allowing additional sources to be presented in conjunction with scholarly texts (Dicks and Hurdley 2009). Ultimately, the aim was to experiment with hyperlinked media presenting not ethnographic but archaeological data, to determine whether this had similar potential to close the gaps between audience, researcher and subject. It was hoped that the format would facilitate audience participation which evoked both the experiences of participating in the performance of social discipline and of archaeological practice, thereby giving rise to the articulation of responses demonstrating a degree of embodied engagement and interpretation.

The following article discusses the responses provided by participants to the experimental paper, presenting and discussing conclusions drawn from their collective responses and feedback. In this, it aims to explore the potential for creative archaeology to facilitate the translation and communication of human experiences. To allow for full exploration of the methodology, to facilitate discussion of the results and to encourage audience participation on the part of Internet Archaeology readers themselves, the experimental article 'Ye Devill Among Ym' is also made available here.


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