Documentation, reports, data and the archiving and management of archeological information

Three new articles from the ARKDIS project have come out in the beginning of the summer discussing respectively the archiving and management of archaeological information in Sweden, the paradox of the how archaeological primary research data is considered highly important but only seldom used and properly archived and how archaeological documentation is changing in the digital society. Abstracts and links to the papers can be found below.

Huvila, I. (2016). 'If we just knew who should do it', or the social organization of the archiving of archaeology in Sweden. Information Research, 21(2). 

Abstract: Introduction. This paper analyses the work practices and perspectives of professionals working with archaeological archives and the social organization of archaeological archiving and information management in Sweden. Method. The paper is based on an interview study of Swedish actors in the field of archaeological archiving (N=16). Analysis. The interviews were recorded and transcribed, then analysed using close reading. Results. We identified eight major work roles of archiving and managing archaeological information. Analysis of the recorded interviews show that there are multiple technical, legislative, conceptual and structural factors that influence and complicate the building, management and use of archaeological archives. Conclusions. Results show that the central challenge of archiving archaeology is the lack of efforts to influence and control the process by the involved actors. A mutual effort to be more explicit about concerns, needs and wishes of all participating organizations would help them to prioritise their work, take other actors concerns into account and develop their work practices to support more effectively the preservation of archaeological information. 

The article is available open access at http://www.informationr.net/ir/21-2/paper713.html

Huvila, I. (2016). Awkwardness of becoming a boundary object: Mangle and materialities of reports, documentation data and the archaeological work. The Information Society, 32(4), 280-297.

Abstract: Information about an archaeological investigation is documented in an archaeological report, which makes it the boundary object par excellence for archaeological information work across stakeholder communities such as field archaeologists, heritage managers, and land developers. The quality of reports has been a subject of debate, and recently it has been argued that more emphasis should be placed on making primary research data at least similarly available. This study explores the changing materialities and reciprocal formation of documents and their users with the advent of digitization, and how documents form and lose their status as boundary objects in these processes. The study posits that in order to be functional, a boundary object needs to provide a disclosure that makes it accessible to cognate communities. Further, it shows how assumptions about the functioning of the human and nonhuman (material artifacts) influence the ways in which archaeologists conceptualize the preservation and archiving of archaeological information and the role and potential of different types of digital and paper-based documents. This article is based on an interview study of Swedish archaeology professionals (N D 16) with theoretical underpinnings in the notions of boundary objects, mangle of practice, and disclosure. 

The full text of the article is available at dx.doi.org/10.1080/01972243.2016.1177763 and a post-print at http://www.istohuvila.se/node/484

Börjesson, L.; Dell'Unto, N.; Huvila, I.; Larsson, C.; Löwenborg, D.; Petersson, B. & Stenborg, P. (2016). A Neo-Documentalist Lens for Exploring the Premises of Disciplinary Knowledge Making. Proceedings from the Document Academy, 3(1).

Abstract: This article applies a neo-documentalist approach to explore disciplinary documentation and document practices, assumed to condition disciplinary knowledge-making. The aim is to show how conceptions and materialities of what counts as documentation and documents are intertwined with changing and persisting disciplinary and sub-disciplinary practices of producing information and knowledge, of knowing, and informing. A collective, multivocal autoethnographic method is used to obtain vignettes from five areas of activity in or related to archaeology. The ongoing digitization of archaeological investigation and documentation methods, and of archaeological materials, is used as a shared departure point in the vignettes, explaining how digitization influences documents in each area of archaeology. The vignettes illustrate a multitude of conceptions and materialities of documentation and reveal frictions, both within and between sub-disciplinary areas. In light of the exploration of documentation practices in archaeology, we posit that a neo-documentalist perspective functions as a useful analytical tool for deconstructing habitual and canonical conceptions of documentation in disciplines and practices. The approach is especially powerful for pinpointing and explicating frictions between conceptions of documentation that can cause problems in information sharing and communication. We discuss the potential of the neo-documentalist approach as a practical tool to plan for and implement change in documentation and document practices.

The article is available open access at http://ideaexchange.uakron.edu/docam/vol3/iss1/5/

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ARKDIS project maps the implications and opportunities of the digitalisation of information and information work in the domain of archaeology and to develop and evaluate conceptual and practical methods and procedures for enhancing archaeological information work in the digitalised environment.

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