EJA EmboDIYing Disruption: New Publication

Cook, K. (n.d.). EmboDIYing Disruption: Queer, Feminist and Inclusive Digital Archaeologies. European Journal of Archaeology, 1-17. doi:10.1017/eaa.2019.23

This article is part of special issue of the European Journal of Archaeology“Human, Transhuman, Posthuman Digital Archaeologies”, organized and edited by Marta Díaz-Guardamino, Colleen Morgan and Catherine J. Frieman, following an inspiring and moving session at the annual meetings of the European Archaeology Association in Barcelona in 2019. The challenge set forth to us by the session organizers was to discuss:

the ways digital archaeology is affecting, disrupting and/or enhancing archaeological fieldwork, public archaeology, education and the publication/dissemination of archaeological data. Of particular interest are papers that engage with creativity and making, digital post/transhumanism, query analog methods through digital media, and feminist, indigenous or queer digital archaeologies.

In a break from a lot of what I had been writing and speaking about at the time, I took this as an opportunity to reflect upon my position as a queer feminist archaeologist engaged in digital making for public archaeology applications. Perhaps inspired by one too many late night viewings of comedian Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette (which should be considered required viewing) and echoes I was hearing across my academic circles of individuals who were burning out, exhausted, broken by systems of discrimination, I wanted to consider a question that, although not new, is gaining volume in many spheres of feminist, queer, trans, indigenous, black, etc. voices: what is the cost of using our voices? and is it worth it? While recognizing the digital opportunities for shifting power and who is heard, I also wanted the opportunity to point out one of the flaws in transhumance and postman philosophies: that these technologies were not created equal, and are not equitable for those who use them. They have rather created new channels for abuse, new fissures, new challenges.

Presentation Slide with Text: From Do-It-Yourself to Do-It-Collectively to address current crisis of scholarship: recognize embodiment of risk, new standards and protections, more space-making initiatives, and critical reflection on mandating public digital work today.
Presentation slide outlining ways to address current crisis of scholarship with/through digital archaeology platforms and projects.

Following the EAAs, we were given the opportunity to submit articles to the EJA as part of a special issue showcasing current perspectives on digital archaeology. The issue, which was recently released, includes powerful contributions by Colleen Morgan, Ruth Tringham, and William Caraher, and more. My article, EmboDIYing Disruption: Queer, Feminist and Inclusive Digital Archaeologies, is available here (let me know if you need access to the article).

ABSTRACT: Inclusive approaches to archaeology (including queer, feminist, black, indigenous, etc. perspectives) have increasingly intersected with coding, maker, and hacker cultures to develop a uniquely ‘Do-It-Yourself’ style of disruption and activism. Digital technology provides opportunities to challenge conventional representations of people past and present in creative ways, but at what cost? As a critical appraisal of transhumanism and the era of digital scholarship, this article outlines compelling applications in inclusive digital practice but also the pervasive structures of privilege, inequity, inaccessibility, and abuse that are facilitated by open, web-based heritage projects. In particular, it evaluates possible means of creating a balance between individual-focused translational storytelling and public profiles, and the personal and professional risks that accompany these approaches, with efforts to foster, support, and protect traditionally marginalized archaeologists and communities.

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Presentation slide highlighting some of the projects and case studies examined in the article.

This was by far the most difficult paper I have written to date, due in part to the weightiness of the subject of discrimination, harassment, abuse and violence within and beyond academia (including my personal experiences but also more broadly), but also the complex (and perhaps overly ambitious) task of representing extremely diverse identities, experiences and voices that have emerged and transformed over time in connection to archaeological research and digital practice.

The result is wholly imperfect but I am starting to come to terms with publications being mere punctuation marks in a much longer process of developing and sharing ideas, knowledge, and perspectives.

Nevertheless, I would like to acknowledge and correct a glaring error in the text. Precise and thoughtful word use in this space is incredibly important, and beyond muddling/confusing the message, misuse of words are damaging to individuals and communities. Unfortunately in revising the text at some stage, the removal of a large block of text lead to the inclusion of “transsexuality” where it should have been “trans identities”. Somewhat ironically, this is an “artefact” of sorts from a previous version of this paragraph that was speaking more broadly of the transformation of accepted vs. disused/problematic words, identities, and understandings over time, that unfortunately had to be cut due to the paper being far longer than the maximum word length.

These asymmetrical relationship between homosexuality and heterosexuality only really represent the most visible tip of a much wider set of entangled identities and related issues, including bisexuality’s problems of bierasure, biphobia, and lack of representation, asexuality’s lack of recognition, or transgender identities and the transsexuality’s challenges of gender-sex-sexuality conflation and very particular modes of transphobia (Weismantel, 2013).

A correction has been submitted to the EJA but I also wanted to acknowledge it here with sincere apologies for the error and any discomfort or offense it may cause.

More broadly, as acknowledged in the article itself, the discussion “comes from a queer, feminist, cis-female, white, settler perspective”, which has its particular set of privileges, limitations and experiences. At times, I fear it does not fully represent the true diversity of identities, voices and experiences that shape digital disruption in archaeology, partly as a result of the above mentioned word limit but also because I cannot speak from those perspectives but rather point to them. Hopefully this is a starting point for developing more complex discussions of the intersections but also the ways in which these diverse perspectives diverge and even conflict at times in digital practice (I would genuinely be honoured to co-create something on these lines if that is of interest to you).

So I will end with one last quote from the paper, as a call to arms, in the hopes of stimulating further action and transformation in archaeology:

The future will be digital, but it will only be diverse and inclusive if, together, we make it so.

So put aside your fears that your efforts will be incomplete, flawed, imperfect (they will be – the nature of ever-evolving, complicated issues), and let’s collectively make archaeology (and life in general) more inclusive.



See also: Queering Archaeological Knowledge Maps.

Queering archaeological knowledge maps

This short and sweet presentation was given (over skype) as part of the Roundtable “Our knowledge is all over the place!” organized by Paul Reilly, Stephen Stead and John Pouncett for the CAA (Computer Applications and Quantitative Methods in Archaeology) meetings in Poland (April 2019). Since my participation was entirely online, I may as well circulate the paper here and have it all come full circle

Section from roundtable abstract (by Reilly, Stead and Pouncett):

During CAA2018 Huggett et al (2018) issued a grand disciplinary challenge to produce a con- sensus-based, end-to-end, digital archaeology knowledge map with which to locate evolving archaeological practices without sti ing digitally creative disruptive developments. In a hugely complex and expanding knowledgescape, digitally-enabled knowledge maps will give practi- tioners a better chance to share our collective disciplinary knowledge (both by giving and receiv- ing), while avoiding unnecessary duplication, exposing gaps, and fostering greater resilience in our knowledge sharing practices and knowledge bases. ey are intended to digitally enhance questions of the generic form: “what do we already know about … where does it reside, and how can I gain access to this knowledge/tool/method/ insight/expertise/etc?”

is round-table seeks to seed a pan-archaeology forum to produce a preliminary high-level model of digitally-enabled archaeological knowledge practices (explicit and tacit) and capabil- ities and begin the process of mapping our assets, resources, communities, best practices, and gaps. Maps are not static entities and can be rendered in many di erent projections. ey are contingent on need.

We were tasked with using a single slide and only 5 minutes to respond to this challenge, along a particular theme or branch of theory and practice. Mine was queer archaeology, and while 5 minutes is a short period to even introduce this topic let alone create a knowledge map, this is my attempt to do so (but read with the recognition that this is very much a starting place and leaves out a lot of the complexity of these topics and issues).

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I want to start by thanking the organizers of this session for not only facilitating my virtual participation, but for inviting me in the first place to take on the challenge of queering knowledge maps of digital archaeology.

For whom Queer archaeology is foreign territory, I only have a few minutes so I am going to set you some homework of reading the diverse literature already available (this is important – take the time), but a swift definition care of the Concise Oxford Dictionary of Archaeology is approaches that,

actively and explicitly challenges the heteronormativity of scientific practiceby seeking to take the perspective of anyone who feels marginalized sexually, intellectually or culturally.”

Many Queer archaeology publications and groups also tie this to considering the position of queer researchers in archaeology today, much in the same way that feminist archaeology considers the position of women both past and present. It often includes trans archaeology, though this can also be seen as a sphere of scholarship and experiences in its own right.

As “an alternative to normative archaeological discourse”, queer archaeology has contributed greatly to the “creative disruptive developments” in contemporary archaeology that the organizers of this session and many of us more broadly seek to celebrate and encourage in digital archaeology. The ways in which it draws on creative media to push the boundaries in how we imagine people in the past and present, but also in more subtle disruptions – the ways in which digital communications are used to amplify diverse voices, share codes of conduct, inclusivity policies, or even facilitate the whisper network that keeps people safe.

In this sense I can imagine a wonderfully complex and detailed and queered knowledge map but there is also a hitch. Knowledge maps, in themselves, in seeking to illuminate “where knowledge resides” (as described in the session overview) do in fact maintain heteronormative scientific practice because they work on the principal that everyone and everyone’s knowledge is equal: equally safe, equally celebrated, equally accessible. This ignores that even today, unfortunately, being queer, or even being associated with a whiff of queerness through the reference to queer approaches is not only a risk but in many contexts, it is incredibly dangerous.

And this is where queer knowledge maps perhaps deviate from others that are often entangled with queer theory, for instance feminist and indigenous scholarship. Queer identities, in the ways in which they are or can be invisible – largely from the perspective of not necessarily being physically identifiable (though this in reality is much more complex and could be a whole other discussion) and are often not treated as a ‘visible minority’ in diversity work – they can become cloaked in suspicion, which alone is enough to trigger threats, aggression, and harassment from within and beyond the discipline. But even the experience of visibility is incredibly diverse across queer identities, where the experience of some is incredibly visible, but to the point of constant exposure and risk, while others are invisible, “straight passing” but having to come out over and over, while being invisible even to members of one’s own community. And this visibility/invisibility, like so many things is a spectrum, and this is not to say that any one point on that spectrum is more or less difficult, or that this is worse than experiences of racism, sexism, ableism, transphobia, etc. (this list is never ending) but in the words of a Canadian author, Ivan Coyote, ‘it is not more difficult, it is just different.’ And I think that is what queered archaeology offers most – an understanding of these experiences of difference and marginalization, but also the complexity and even beauty that lies manages to lie within.

So what does all this have to do with knowledge maps?

I can tell you that there is an incredible world of passionate, committed, scientific, theoretical, exceptional scholarship that exists within a closet. For me, this is also a Narnia of sorts – I have found a sense of heritage and in many ways my own voice in looking back on the ways in which queer archaeologists have queered computational and digital archaeologies from the beginning and continue to do so today. There are easter eggs left in their work – a nod to others out there, and I answer in return, “I see you.”

But so many times, when I reference queer legacies in archaeology, I am asked for evidence and can provide none – the honour code of “Thou shall not out another”.

To create knowledge maps without queer archaeology, or even only with archaeologists who are “out” using queer approaches already (whether being themselves queer or allies), still upholds inequities, contributes to erasure, and continues to privilege those who are already the most privileged and the most secure. So instead, I cannot really offer you much in the way of a knowledge map.

If you find this unsatisfying – science without evidence, knowledge maps without citations – and I do hope that you find this deeply, deeply unsatisfying, I can offer one suggestion:

First, find ways to make it safe for everyone and for everyone’s knowledge.

Then we can talk about truly inclusive, queered knowledge maps.

ULaval Historical Sciences in Public Spheres

In February, I had the sincere pleasure to visit Laval University to take part in their 19th Artefact student conference (19e colloque étudiant Artefact). The programme was ambitious, diverse and very inspiring.
As part of the CELAT and Archeometry research group lecture series February 21st, I presented « Une archéologie publique canadienne? Redéfinir la recherche à l’ère

de la décolonisation » (A Canadian public archaeology? Redefining research in the era of decolonization). This paper sought to examine the complexity but also the contributions of digital public archaeology to decolonizing archaeology in Canada. Overall, it was argued that Canadian archaeology today is neither post-colonial nor reconciliatory, but demands changes in language, spirit, and structure to truly change processes of connecting with the past.


On the 22nd of February, I was part of a round table on « Présence et mise en valeur des sciences historiques dans l’espace public » (Presence and enhancing the value of historical sciences in public spaces), animated by Sevia Pellissier with myself, Katherine Cook (archeologist), Evelyne Ferron (historian), Cassandre Lambert-Pellerin (ethnologist) and Catherine Ferland (historian).
Photos of the roundtable (by Yannick L. Côté)
To say that we enjoyed ourselves is probably an understatement – and as the conversation flowed, so many vital topics were covered. In particular, the importance of mobilizing public engagement and collaboration, finding new spaces to encounter history in our cities, and ensuring there are diverse voices and perspectives represented were are the core of the discussion. There were also (friendly) debates about whether or not every one involved in historical sciences (archaeology, history, ethnology, etc.) need be in public spheres – with recognition that there are particular skills, etc. necessary but also that it is critical to socio-political change (do we have the luxury to not be in public spaces these days?)
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Bad Archaeology: There is no net neutrality

As part of the Carleton University Department of History’s Shannon Lecture Series, the “Bad Archaeology” lecture series was convened by Shawn Graham in Fall 2018. This series set out to explore:

“the ways ‘bad archaeology’ has meaningful consequences for our everyday relationships with each other, especially here in a Canadian context. By understanding ‘bad’ archaeology, maybe we can begin to understand the power of a ‘good’ archaeology for our present day and age.”

It was truly an honour to be part of such a fantastic and diverse line up:

Ancient Art and Modern Crime: How Stolen Antiquities End Up In Our Most Respected Museums” Dr. Donna Yates (School of Social & Political Sciences, University of Glasgow)

#InventedFantasies – Using Social Media to Talk About Pseudoarchaeology” Steph Halmhofer (Bones, Stones, and Books)

“Good Intentions, Bad Archaeology: The uses and abuses of Canadian archaeology against Indigenous people” Dr. Kisha Supernant (Department of Anthropology, University of Alberta)

There is no ‘net neutrality’ in digital archaeology” Dr. Katherine Cook (Department of Anthropology, Université de Montréal)

The Pathways of Pots: The movement of Early Bronze Age vessels from the Dead Sea Plain, Jordan” Dr. Morag M. Kersel (Department of Anthropology, DePaul University)


My presentation, co-presented with the support of the Carleton University Institute for Data Science, took place on November 23, 2018.

ABSTRACT: Colonisation, at its core, is the extraction of resources from those without power. What then gets extracted in digital colonialism and what does this have to do with archaeology in Canada? Considering the critiques, questions, and fallout regarding digital corporations, capitalism, and politics over the course of the past year, we are ever more acutely aware of the much darker underbelly of the digital world. Yet we still act as if digital technology is ‘the answer!’ to solving those ‘Great Challenges’ facing archaeology today, namely the lack of equity, inclusivity, access and the unwavering manifestations of (neo)colonialism. This discussion will consider the realities of digitally disrupting archaeology, the opportunities it presents but also the dangers it poses, to argue that not all data, not all audiences, and not all archaeologists are treated equally in digital practice. Digital archaeology will not save us from bad archaeology, so we must decolonize the digital first.

Access the talk:

Youtube link: 

Podcast version (audio only): or

#archink: a gallery of #inktober2018

For #inktober2018, I decided to solidify the archaeology-themed inking activity that I started whilst teaching at UVic (read the Teaching Culture blog post for more details) under the hashtag #archink.

With a fantastic international community, it was truly an inspiring month (head to twitter and instagram to see some of the work).

The following is a mini gallery of all of my sketches together in one place. My approach was to set time limits (usually 5-15 minutes, and only occasionally up to 45 if I had time and a more intricate idea). Many were completed on the road, on planes, trains and automobiles. But for me inktober was more about building a creative habit, practicing drawing regularly (as I want to improve) and trying to think creatively about communication in archaeology, rather than arriving at a final, perfected image.

The prompt list I shared was the jumping off point for each drawing:

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The following is the text of my tweets/instagram posts with the image below each one.

DAY 1: Just managed to squeeze in an doodle in comic form tonight, getting my archaeology ‘digs’ in.

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DAY 2: A quick inkless sketch of Barbados leprosarium-turned-, where I spent many a pen-free, over-air-conditioned day during my PhD days feverishly transcribing the island’s burial records.

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DAY 3: From somewhere in the middle of Quebec, I give you: on a train. And I feel this is an accomplishment – it’s hard to draw on a moving vehicle.

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DAY 4: Thinking about ‘Finds’ and what constitutes ‘important finds’ in for .

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DAY 5: Today’s theme is ‘Processes’ so this is a multilayered still life of my in process, but also it is my process of developing my paper on process of teaching and learning public/digital .

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DAY 6: Remember folks, digitization is not preservation! For / theme of ‘destroy’, taking inspiration from old war office posters on preserving food to talk digital preservation.

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DAY 7: Just squeezed in an sketch for ‘Interprets’: interpretive lenses in .

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DAY 8: Holiday edition of ‘Builds’: I was having trouble, then stole my notebook so I give you an architect’s view of ‘builds’ instead. But what is holiday without family + what is without AND ?

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DAY 9: Sometimes it seems like we have to repeat the same message over and over so today’s theme has me thinking of our almost-broken records, so I present this compilation of singles for .

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DAY 10: Speedy airport theme of ‘models’ has me thinking about role models and the state of representation/diversity in . Inequity breeds exclusivity; equity builds a dynamic discipline and stronger view of the past for everyone.

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DAY 11: Replication is *never* neutral. Today’s edition of (theme: replicates) for thinking about politics, practice and of course the arch in .

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DAY 12: My day has been filled with so my represents the FEATURE conversations from today in mind map form as I have been looking for new note taking mechanisms to help make connections between papers + how to highlight feature/frequent themes.

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DAY 13: Catching up on after a weekend in Germany. Thinking about SITES and how they are much more than what is found underground (this time borrowing from ’s wonderful narrative to revisit sites I have worked on)

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DAY 14: For theme ‘cites’: who you cite matters. Amplifying diverse voices makes research (and the world?) better. Take some time to analyse your bibliographies, syllabi.

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DAY 15/16: In the interest of fully catching up – a two part annotating ‘conserves’ with the ‘values’ that inform and shape practice. There is no one way to see the past and so there is no one way to manage it.

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DAY 17: One of the best hidden things in : our data. Thinking about what we ‘hide’ for today and this week with new publication on making my PhD data

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DAY 18: Currently learning all the French vocab for recording artifacts which has me flashing back to when I worked in an archaeological repository. So for : process through which we ´hold’ artifacts, data. Looks so quick and simple here…might need to rework this!
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(scroll down to see part two of this image)
DAY 19: For theme ‘moves’ can’t help but think of a project that moved me recently at + technology can be used move people, including this classroom kit I got to demo with & ().
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DAY 20: Today’s ‘writes’: History is constantly being rewritten, and that’s a good thing! For today’s archaeologist looking to revise old narratives, this writing set is essential (complete with 90s style multipen!)
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DAY 21: For « theorizes » annotated previous « holds » to think about ways in which theory and interpretation is infused in every step of the process, even seemingly straightforward ones, adding value and meaning.
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DAY 22: What does the early career archaeologist covet most? Gold? Fame? Or career stability and a fair wage? Thinking about what I ‘treasure’ for .
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DAY 23: Fitting in at the end gets tough sometimes but for theme of ‘voices’: Sometimes I like to imagine that objects (artifacts) stay up at night swapping stories of their past lives – the glory days, the history they were a part of.
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DAY 24: Two views of ‘colonized’: colonial legacies in narrow the lens through which the past is seen and accessed, it excludes and it harms.
DAY 25: Finally got around to making ’s former paper doll, so for today’s theme ‘decolonizes’ I made an expansion kit for the activist archaeologist. I have some work to do to catch up to Beth’s brilliance (forgot tabs!) but it’s a start!
DAY 26: Spent my day in so my ambitious plan for the theme of « narrates » is being edited down to my adventures in conference ink – narrating the discussions of the past day and a half on , partially in French and partially in English.
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DAY 27: Spent yesterday on the move again – so for theme ‘collects’, I think I collect houses not artifacts. I’ve been very fortunate in academia in many ways, but the nomadism is exhausting!
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DAY 28: For ‘recollects’, one of my favourite oral history projects I worked on with families who had donated death pennies to museum, trying to learn more about these objects, their life history, how they ended up there. They never failed to stimulate storytelling.
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DAY 29: Think outside the exhibit – this message brought to you by and your friendly neighbourhood public archaeologist.
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DAY 30: Penultimate for the year: preserves. Remember, passive data preservation is questionable at best — takes long term commitment, planning and care.
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DAY 31: And to close the season of , one last ‘remains’: time to deal with all the skeletons in our closets – well past time to . People aren’t collectors’ items.
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Can We Make Data Fairer?

In April 2018, at the Society for American Archaeology’s 83rd Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., Sarah Whitcher Kansa, Julian Richards and Willeke Wendrich hosted a forum entitled ‘Making Archaeology Fair’ (see abstract below). The forum responded to a recently published article by Wilkinson et al. outlining FAIR data principles, centred on avenues for making scientific data findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable. Discussants included: Sarah Neusius, Anne Austin, Kitty Emery, Andres Izeta, Katherine Cook, Eric Kansa and Ben Marwick.

My own ruminations on the topic brought me to consider, in particular, what makes data UNfair to begin with, including the equity, inclusivity, barriers and exclusionary practices that are deeply entangled with archaeological/anthropological data and research structures (both digital and analog).

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Coming from the perspective of an archaeologist who dabbles in digital data publishing but is most heavily invested in supporting people using digital data (particularly through education), I think that the principles and protocols outlined by the FAIR framework does not address the full complexity of human (as opposed to computer) challenges remain as barriers to FAIR data practices in science. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how findable, interoperable and freely accessible data is — it will only actually be reused if humans are looking for it and know how to use it when they find it. Digital literacy, disciplinary attitudes and career structures/expectations must be addressed just as much as we consider the practicalities of digital preservation and compatibility.

But the open science and access movement has also complicated an already very messy relationship between archaeologists, data and the communities they represent. While the FAIR principles emphasize as much access as is possible/appropriate, the implication of prioritizing/privileging access has the potential to create further pressures to make sensitive cultural data widely accessible and separations between communities and their heritage. It circles back to a question that I am constantly asking — are we actually using digital technologies to truly tackle and find solutions to long-standing issues in a discipline with colonial and deeply unequal roots, or making these problems more extreme?

If we really want digital data to be fair (or fairer), it will start with an overhaul of research practices to decolonize data (directed by indigenous/descendant community collaboration and consultation), but also a transformation of the ways in which we teach archaeology in higher education and other training platforms.

For more on the topic of data in archaeology, see this special issue of Advances in Archaeological Practice.



Most archaeologists today use computers and other digital technology to document their work. Many develop data management plans, as required by many funders of archaeology in recent years. Still, most archaeologists lack a clear understanding of both how to make their data widely accessible and intelligible for reuse, and why they would want to do so. This forum discusses the FAIR Data Principles, developed to guide data creators and publishers in making data Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable (FAIR). Each forum discussant will select one FAIR principle to discuss in the context of archaeology. How well does archaeology currently address each of these challenges? Since archaeology can be a destructive practice, how much effort should we put into ensuring that our data is findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable? What can we do to ensure that these goals are prioritized at a project’s inception, rather than as an afterthought? How do we ensure that archaeologists collecting data also share algorithms, tools, and workflows that led to that data? Are there additional principles that define a “good” data dissemination in archaeology? Forum attendees can prepare for the discussion by reading “The FAIR Guiding Principles for scientific data management and stewardship”: