5.3.5 Discussion of Question 3 responses

Question 3 was devised (with Question 4) in order to address objective 4: evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of the approach. Response Type A primarily indicated valuable new paths for future study by highlighting areas that could be further elaborated on, based on the further information participants would have liked to have seen included. These comments tended to reflect characteristics that cross-cut religious identities; for example, the role of gender, class, age or nationality.

For those outside academia, responding with Type A and Type D answers, the value of the project was seen to be in making the material accessible and facilitating new thought processes, though with a small number noting limitations due to a residual element of 'academic language barrier'. Recurrently throughout these responses, participants talked about how the experience gave them 'insight'. No respondent discussed the experience as one of 'learning' or 'teaching' in the conventional sense. They also often discussed an emotional connection and response to the past, both in relation to this and other questions, for example describing the material as 'chilling'. Together, responses that indicate 'insight' and emotional connections suggest that participants experienced a closer and more immediate connection with the early modern people studied: a successful 'bridging of the gap'. Furthermore, these responses, when taken together, indicate that readers participated in a different form of learning — one in which they experienced both agency and immediacy — resulting in knowledge emerging as emotions and 'insight'.

From academics, in addition to responses mirroring those discussed above, their responses indicated the potential of this type of study to facilitate useful exchange between archaeology and other disciplines. For example, several participants indicated the value of this type of participation in forcing those normally engaged in research that deals primarily with subjects one researcher described as 'intellectual-orientated' to engage with the immediate, messy, physical nature of the world. Another, discussing the poetry of Robert Burns, elaborated on this further, indicating that over the course of years of study on the subject, he had never given either the material of discipline or the disciplined body much thought. These responses generally commended the experience as providing them with a solid starting point from which to embrace these new facets of their studies and, crucially, the confidence and desire to do so.

Building upon this point, response Types B, C and D overwhelmingly indicated the potential for this type of article to attract interdisciplinary audiences and for the methodology to serve as a blueprint for facilitating productive interdisciplinary exchanges. While it was predicted that all academic respondents would make some statement to the effect that 'interdisciplinary is good', given that they had elected to participate in the experiment, the strength of participant responses was not anticipated. Several non-archaeologist academic participants entered into extensive discussions during the interview stage about how they might incorporate the same technique or elements of it into their own research. They also responded both at the written and interview stages, with extensive discussion of the meaning, purpose and limitations of interdisciplinary research to date. Sentiments such as 'it's high time we stopped trying to hide our research findings from the outside world' and 'the hegemony of jargon-loaded impenetrable papers doesn't make sense in an interdisciplinary world' were commonly expressed. These convictions provided a basis for opening channels for discussion about what interdisciplinary studies should and should not be, and how to achieve such co-operation, perhaps the most significant and long-reaching success of the projects so far.


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