4.3 Information policy and knowledge production

Information policy places considerable emphasis on the aspects of quality and evaluation of archaeological information. Nevertheless, the information production advocated by the policy is only indirectly guided by principled aims of why, and for what purposes, documentation (analogue and digital alike) is produced. Studies of archaeological information work (e.g. Huvila 2006) and documentation practices (e.g. Huvila 2012) show that formal guidelines, regulations of form (i.e. the standard layout of a report), formalised notions of quality (what makes a report good), and the propensity to prefer 'safe' arguments to avoid anything that may be questioned by colleagues, have a stronger impact on the outcomes of documentation than considerations of usefulness, readability, usability, and considerations of purpose or audiences. The perspective provided by the international comparisons confirms that differences in policy-based expectations on documentation affect the documentation. Examples of effective regulatory undertakings are the setting of determined timeframes for reporting (e.g. in France, Vander Linden and Webley 2012), and the regulation of archival practices as (e.g. in the Netherlands where DANS has been given the responsibility to archive digital archaeological records). From this perspective, the most prominent impact of information policy as articulated in specific digitisation strategies (e.g. the DH strategy) risks being the instigation of formal requirements of developing strategies (documents), producing guidelines (documents), and initiating 'digitisation' activities, rather than focusing on the creation of new knowledge. However, this also indicates that unambiguous statements of the principled aims of information production given in regulations have the potential to be effective.

A further aspect of general digitisation policies is that they are linked to other activities and priorities in society. The broader policies, including the DH strategy, function in a heritage and digitisation policy sphere with a large number of a priori assumptions that are underpinned by a set of concerns external to archaeology. Instead of foregrounding archaeological knowledge, they incorporate considerations of the intrinsic value of transparency originating from the Freedom of Press Act (SFS 1949:105), the increasing demand for economic and social utility (with its roots in wider governmental policy ideologies, including New Public Management) (Demoule 2009), and international heritage politics agreements and collaborations.