Although there have been concerns and questions (Booth 1994; Aldenderfer in press), it seems clear that archaeologists have not remained aloof from the information age, and have embraced it as fervently and as wholly as they did the changes wrought by the New Archaeology some three decades ago. And while limited funding and a lack of expertise generally have slowed our perceived progress in terms of useful digital products compared to many other disciplines, ranging from physics to the law, there is no question that most archaeologists have in great part accepted a digital future for the discipline.

Accepting such a future is one thing, but knowing what we have accepted is quite another. In retrospect, one of the most obnoxious features of the New Archaeology was the propensity by which its advocates produced polemics and position papers. We are in the midst of a similar flurry of hortatory pronouncements about the benefits of the Information Age and how it will revolutionise archaeology as we know it, and most of the papers in this volume of Internet Archaeology are good representatives of that trend. Such papers fill an important role, for they outline a vision of the future and, in so doing, they provide opportunities for action, reaction, and even inaction. And while these papers age poorly, they work in today's world. Unlike the polemics of the 1960s, however, which aged relatively slowly, ours on computing have half-lives measured in months, or at best only a few years.

This paper is a polemic about digital publishing, and I'm aiming for a half-life longer than most. To do that, I will keep discussion of specific technologies to a minimum since they change so rapidly, and will focus most of my attention on the contours of the field as they are being shaped by that technology. My goal, really, is to get us to think about what is implied by our ready and willing acceptance of technology, and how that acceptance will, for better or worse, substantially change what we do, who we do it for, and how we get it done.


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Last updated: Thu Jul 15 1999