4.3 Materiality and immateriality; hyper-local sites versus cyber-local users

An emphasis on material culture is often the primary trigger for many people's interest in archaeology. Material culture in the form of artefacts, sites, and records generated as part of archaeological practice serve as tangible points of articulation – situated and sanctioned by our own art-historical and social backgrounds. Digital mediation of these material remains provides both a potential means of engagement with people (including those who are geographically distant from these things), but also creates the perception of another level of remove from the 'things themselves'. The mediation from the physical into digital versions creates things that have unclear ontological statuses (Tringham 2010; Carusi et al. 2011), and distinctly different aesthetic qualities (see above). In some cases, especially in generative crowd-sourced projects, digital mediation may discourage some members of the public who seek a tangible encounter with remains from 'the past'.

The may be tensions between what we have termed the 'hyper-local' archaeological sites of interest, and attempts to generate digital data from what we have termed the 'cyber-local' community. We define 'hyper-local' sites or landscapes as those that are in physical close proximity to a group of members of the public, and which can be explored in their 'authentic' contemporary settings and through digital representations. We differentiated these sites from 'cyber-local' members of the public who are physically remote or for another reason cannot actually access the site or study area, and whose access to a site or landscape is articulated through the Internet. If the primary motivating factor for peoples' interest in archaeology is the tangible, physical nature of portable material culture or the site, then they may not be especially interested in intangible, digital simulacra.

Other digital undertakings that document archaeological sites in 'democratic' ways, for example the Modern Antiquarian or Megalithic Portal websites, may embody a more 'bottom-up' approach to monuments (cf. Richardson 2014; Beale 2015). However, in these examples, the absence of the archaeological expert can be replaced with other interpretations of the past (cf. McDavid 2004; Holtorf 2005), and through self-regulation mechanisms surrounding the nature of 'appropriate' knowledge or content. Many cyber-local groups with 'other' interests in sites may present challenging approaches for archaeologists (Schadla-Hall 2004; cf. Blain and Wallis 2007; Holtorf 2005). Negotiating the line between an expansive and engaging tone, and a more structured narrative or authorship in any digital outreach is critical to both on-site and digital aspects of research projects.

From our experience, differentiation between 'bottom-up' and 'top-down' archaeology projects was not always useful. Aspects of both these approaches came into play at different points in the project lifecycle, and to different degrees. We firmly subscribe to the maxim that 'there is no private archaeology' (McGimsey 1972), and that accountability and openness should be part of any research approach. The many opportunities for 'bottom-up' collaborations that this research has enabled – including both digital data collection, home educator events, fieldwork and excavation, including digital recording aspects – would not have occurred without the initial 'top-down' project design.