4.2 'Value' and success

Digital projects offer defined statistics such as registered users (our 'digital archaeologists' who contribute digital data to our project), which we can employ to address 'engagement'; however, these statistics do not provide us with any absolute means of negotiating the long-held debates about the definition of 'value' in public archaeology. How do we value the thousands of hits we have had from users, who stayed for a relatively short period of time, against the 'value' of the local volunteer archaeologists who are going to excavate with us?

Without entering into an extended discussion of value, we suggest that even relatively 'superficial' engagement with digital resources is an important aspect of doing archaeology, and that a range of digital approaches should feature as an essential point of contact in an increasingly digitally engaged society (Griffiths et al. this issue). For reasons of privacy, we elected not to record the location or other personal details of the users in our web analytics. An indication of some aspects of the digital project reach can be given by our Facebook page for the HeritageTogether project, which (at the time of publication) has over 400 'likes', and demonstrates an international reach even in this sub-set of our audience. The majority of our Facebook fans are based in the UK (n=257), but we have supporters in nine countries (Table 1). A surprising number of our Facebook supporters were not based in the UK, with supporters in America, Australia, north Africa, and across Europe. There were 133 non-UK based Facebook supporters, with 181 supporters using a language that was not UK English. Despite the regional emphasis of our study, only 3% of our supporters used Welsh in their Facebook language.

Table 1: Spatial and linguistic information on the Facebook fan sub-set of our supporters
Location of fan No. of Facebook fans
United Kingdom 257
Austria 37
Germany 12
Australia 11
United States of America 9
Egypt 9
Spain 8
Italy 6
Greece 5
Ireland 4
Language used No. of Facebook fans
UK English 209
USA English 103
German 37
Welsh 10
Italian 6
Spanish 3
Czech 3
Vietnamese 2
Spanish 2
Turkish 2

This can be contrasted with our physical engagement at one of our focus sites, Bryn Celli Ddu. Here an open day for the excavation, an event run by Cadw, attracted over 600 visitors, with total media reach (excluding social media and the project website) for the fieldwork aspect of the project over 500,000. We suggest that the value of the digital engagement needs to be situated within the wider project scope, and emphasise its role as part of a continuum of public archaeology work. In our experience, digital data collection and analysis has worked especially productively when deployed as part of a range of approaches, including talks, open days, and school and local society visits. These undertakings often include an archaeological 'expert voice' to communicate the 3D modelling approach and an understanding of the archaeology.