Unfortunately having been absent from the group discussion on these papers and the direction the discussion took I will make a note of my own observations on both studies (Huggett 2012 and Costapoulos 2016).
A large portion of our teaching in the MADAH at University College Cork was focused on the need to explore what Digital Humanities (DH) was and what it encompassed and if Huggett’s paper is anything to go by, DH had made little to no progress in 2012 conceptually. I would hope that we have moved on considerably from the state of affairs he had communicated particularly in terms of how we structure the sub-disciplines within DH.
Something Huggett discusses that I myself had not considered was how DH was inextricably linked to the idea of the text and how many academics in defining DH practice come back to this as a common denominator. Huggett felt that this placed archaeological practice at a distance from the principles and applications of DH as archaeological work predates ‘traditional’ concepts of communicative text formats. I find this concept (though not expressly one conceived of by Huggett himself) fundamentally flawed and somewhat reductive. It appears also that while Huggett tries to emancipate the archaeological record he falls within the same narrow view. While DH has in many ways focused on the ‘text’ this to me highlights a deficit in people’s conceptual application of the principles of DH rather than the limitations of the field itself. In this way I don’t believe archaeology is truly at a disconnect from the field but rather people aren’t thinking laterally about how best to engage with it.
Of the two pieces that we reviewed for discussion, I was far more interested in Costapoulos piece as it moves beyond the reductive discourse around the defining of a practice that Huggett explores. His work to me seems more reflective of current attitudes to Digital Archaeology as a discipline (or non discipline as he would rather it) as he highlights that rather than being at the precipice of a digital archaeological movement we have in fact been inhabiting the practice for quite some time and that now we are to move beyond reductive discourse and start doing archaeology digitally. This is again a rather semantic argument however I do see the relevance of it. Applying a title of ‘Digital Archaeology’ to a practice within archaeology may serve as a divisive measure rather than a unifying one. In this way I feel Costapoulos is leaning more towards the ideas put forward by Daly and Evans (2006, 3) who argued that we should be engaging with DA, not as a specialism ‘but an approach – a way of better utilizing computers based on an understanding of the strengths and limits of computers and information technology as a whole”.
In many ways archaeological practices and indeed digital archaeology could benefit from the discourse that surrounds DH in as much as it can learn from its mistakes. Archaeology while having a long history of implementing information technology and tools such as GIS to facilitate site and report synthesis needs to think about the digital turn in a way that helps to broaden the research impact of the field.So instead of spending time arguing about what DH and DA really are, we could spend more time looking at how current research frameworks and methodologies in both fields may be implemented in a way that is mutually beneficial or that will help both disciplines engage in more progressive forms of research.
Huggett, J (2012) Core or periphery? Digital Humanities from an archaeological perspective. Historical Social Research (37), 3, pp. 86-105. http://www.ssoar.info/ssoar/bitstream/handle/document/37833/ssoar-hsr-2012-3-huggett-Core_or_periphery_Digital_Humanities.pdf?sequence=1
Costapoulos, A. (2016) Digital Archeology Is Here (and Has Been for a While). Frontiers in Digital Humanities. http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fdigh.2016.00004/full#B14