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11. 'Information at the Trowel's Edge' and the 'Deep Integration' of Knowledge

Within the framework of the recursive reflexive feedback loop outlined in Figure 1, the tablet takes on an interesting role and can be seen as a hub for the 'deep integration' of knowledge on site –central to the whole knowledge production. As noted above, the tablet can be used to draw together old data and interpretations, pooling it through the GIS with new data and interpretations, on the fly, in the field, as it is being generated. Crucially, the ability to combine these highly visual spatial technologies such as intra-site GIS and 3D models alongside other data (such as conventional photography, ortho-photography, scanned plans from previous seasons and different areas, sketches, etc.), allows the archaeologist, as the agent wielding these tools, to conceive of both the site and the recording process in a more profound and 'visual' way. It is critical to stress the importance of the intra-site GIS as the primary integration tool. In effect (at least in terms of the workflows developed by the ÇRP), the tablet, undoubtedly a very effective portable piece of hardware, is primarily useful as a way of taking the GIS to the site. The GIS is the environment where the digitised attributes of the sites and their related visual data (3D models or 2D pictures) are integrated.

In contrast with the more abstract single-context paper plans, the integrated visual technologies brought together within the GIS and employed on site present a more intuitive and accessible representation of the archaeology. As the representation is more closely analogous to the tangible archaeology, the excavator can recognize his or herself more readily in the process of knowledge production. As noted above, a conceivable flaw in a traditional analogue single-context approach (particularly at a stratigraphically deep and complex site such as Çatalhöyük) is that it atomises the graphical data, fracturing the way we conceive of the site spatially (see discussion in Taylor 2016, 187–8). Almost as important to the overall interpretative process is making sure that the excavators and on-site specialists are also able to engage with and comprehend the complexities of the sequence, as it is being excavated and our understanding of it begins to emerge. Being able to access and contextualise so much of our graphical data on the tablets in this way (as 'information at the trowel's edge') is proving to be an effective way of thinking about the archaeology holistically again, without having to wait until the post-excavation phase. This has inevitably had an impact upon the way in which we understand and interpret the site, even as we excavate, and this ultimately is a boon to a truly reflexive approach. It enables the excavator to make and simultaneously document well-informed interpretations, normally done during post-excavation, whilst in the field. If we refer once more to Figure 1, it is worth noting that the power of the tablet-based GIS does not just lie in the way in which it affects our recording. As we continue to explore the way in which record plans might be produced directly on the tablets and incorporated into the GIS on-site, and the integration of 3D GIS and other visual media upon the tablets, the holistic visualization that it offers of the site as we excavate and record may allow us to begin 'rethinking the site' on a more profound level.

Ultimately, the goal of the project is to offer continued access to this integrated data for future research through the way in which it is archived and made available outside of the project. These systems have always been designed with open access in mind, the database is now fully implemented and has had a fully operational online face, integrated into the main Çatalhöyük website, since 2004. Currently all of the data (apart from the 3D acquisitions) are accessible via website frontends, either through the main project website or via a Flash/Java-based application which allows users to browse the digital images. Protocols have been developed for the storage of 3D models and their underlying raw data as digital 'work packets' which are bundled up and can be accessed through the same portal as the images. More recently the aim has been to incorporate the spatial dataset. Furthermore, the project has ongoing plans for long-term open-access deposition of the data (which amounts to a huge volume of diverse digital material) in a suitable repository, and has been exploring the potential of creating a dynamic online research platform for all its data (referred to as 'The Living Archive'). The hope is that researchers can constantly reassess and re-evaluate our very perception of the site as the primary repository of data.


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