Sunday, 4 March 2018

Bangor Bloggers versus the Preservationists

Raimund Karl together with Katharina Möller (the latter at Bangor too) has published on the first author's new blog a text on: 'Per capita numbers of metal detectorists in a British-German comparison'  which is the 2016 (?) version of a text published in German [Karl, R., Möller, K. 2016. Empirische Untersuchung des Verhältnisses der Anzahl von MetallsucherInnen im deutsch-britischen Vergleich. Oder: wie wenig Einfluss die Gesetzeslage hat. Archäologische Informationen 39, 215-226.]. Their motivation for doing so is pretty interesting: 
This is the English version of a paper we originally published in German in 2016 [...]. While the English version was written at the time, we never submitted it to a publisher. Since the German version has since been picked up and its methodology seriously misused in a widely reported paper by Samuel A. Hardy (2017), we have decided to make this version available via Archäologische Denkmalpflege after all.
I think Sam Hardy is best qualified to judge the accusation of the Bangor academics, what the reader will notice however is that Karl and Möller claim to be the first to evolve a 'methodology'  of using social media as a source of information about the scale of Collection-Driven exploitation of the archaeological record (really?) which they accuse others of pinching, and secondly in no place do they actually show in what way Hardy has 'seriously misused' (sic) "their"(sic) methodology.... So that's a bit of an empty claim. Anyhow, I am more interested in the idea behind the German authors' text in the first place:
One of the key issues in the debate about how the archaeological profession should deal with the ‘problem’ of non-professional metal detecting is whether a restrictive or liberal approach should be taken towards its regulation. Arguments frequently can get quite heated, particularly on blogs, where self-appointed guardians of heritage and defenders of ‘the hobby’ mainly seem to trade insults rather than discussing data to determine which approach would seem more sensible.
First of all, let us call a spade a spade, no pussy footing about with euphemisms ('non-professional metal detecting'). What we are discussing doctors Karl and Möller is Collection-Driven Exploitation of the archaeological record. This is a very real problem all over the world, so your scare quotes really are disingenuous. Secondly, the whole idea of denkmalpflege in general is that instead of unregulated bulldozing, quarrying, flooding, concreting and general destruction of the historical heritage, there *is*  some form of restrictions and regulation (as in nature conservation). This is an environmental issue, not one of 'ownership'. Karl and Möller set out to provide those data for the bloggers. They start by outlining the problem
'Testing the hypothesis of the deterrent effect
In this paper, we present and examine some data which (sic) allows (sic) to empirically assess the key prognosis underlying any argument for a restrictive (legislative) approach to metal detecting.
One would have expected better. This key prognosis turns out to be a straw man argument:
This argument can be summarised as: Anything short of prohibiting metal detecting ‘advertises’ it as a normal and socially as well as archaeologically acceptable ‘hobby’. Thus, members of the public are encouraged to take up this activity by any liberal approach. Adopting one thus, necessarily, cause a rise in the total numbers of metal detectorists. This, naturally, also increases the total damage done by them. This leaves only restrictive approaches as archaeologically responsible solutions to ‘the metal detecting problem’ because of their deterrent effect. A maximally restrictive approach deters all and thus ensures that the archaeology will be preserved in situ.[2]
[2] Although the last part of the argument seems convincing at first glance, it is actually based on a serious logical flaw. For the issues with the idea that not extracting a find ex situ necessarily leads to its preservation see ‘Against retention in situ’.
Sadly, Karl and Möller seem not to see what the actual issue is, probably because they dismiss the 'bloggers' out of hand. Instead of a 'maximally restrictive approach', what is being proposed by this blogger at least (and I'd like to see Karl and Möller actually substantiate that in the anglophone world at least there are any other bloggers on the issue who actually say what they assert they do) is regulation, both of the activity of artefact hunting, proper documentation of assignment of ownership of finds and regulation of the movement of artefacts on the collectors' market. That is not a ban, it is bringing responsibility, transparency and accountability to artefact hunting and artefact collecting.  

So, actually, the whole of the rest of this 'paper' (actually, more 'bloggers' blogging) is a bit pointless. Everybody knows that even in countries where artefact hunting (and even possessing artefacts) are forbidden, it happens illegally. Like drink-driving, wife-beating, child abuse, animal cruelty and prostitution. I really do not see at all the logic of making things legal, so there can be no illegality and we can all be one happy family of 'partners'. That's just bonkers. What we need is a way to clearly define and regulate what is acceptable and what is not and then use those regulations to react when abuse is discovered. Having no regulations allows abuses to continue and leaves us powerless even when they occur under our noses. Where is the lack of logic in that? 

I say that Collection-Driven Exploitation of the archaeological record should lose the mantle of social acceptability that it has which is the first step to accepting that we really do need to do something about it. That is what my blog is about. Doctors Karl and Möller may disagree with that and consider that it should continue to be socially acceptable until the accessible parts of the archaeological record have all gone, but that is their problem, not mine...


Anonymous said...

This bit from Sam Hardy's paper amused me:

"Based on forum membership, it has been estimated that there are at least 7,331 detectorists in the UK (as of 2nd March 2015, cited by Karl & Möller, 2016, p. 3 – Table 1), which would imply 6,520 in England and Wales."

I think Karl & Möller need to update their estimate (and review their whole standpoint) in view of the fact this metal detecting Facebook Group, , one of many, has 22,854 members!

Junk in, junk out, eh?

Paul Barford said...

Yes, I am going to do another post assessing their arguments and this was precisely one of the points I was going to raise. Also odd that they do not mention Robbins' text on the PAS (Guide for researchers... August 2014) which was out well before they started collecting material... and the PAS estimate is higher than theirs

Raimund Karl said...

Our response can be found here:

Paul Barford said...

Thanks for that, I see you have gone for the 'misunderstood/playing the victim' mode that always seems to be activated the moment that anyone actually tries to engage with the 'let's work with collectors' arguments:

"Just claiming our results are wrong just because he doesn’t like them, and try to explain our data away, without even having bothered to properly understand what we are actually saying, will not".

That's a bit pathetic really.

Perhaps you just did not explain yourself in a way that makes it possible to accommodate your views alongside those of others approaching the issues from another angle and point of view.

I'll respond just as soon as I get my head above water with an overdue editing project delayed by my illness.

Paul Barford said...

"Not that we believe it will help Paul Barford, since it is our feeling that he has long dug himself into too deep a hole to be able to get out again; or even see the need to stop shovelling".

Pompous gits, both of you. Maybe you both might like to consider whether we are digging holes with different tools and aims. Do you both really think your hole is better than mine, without even looking properly at it?

If you think my hole is the wrong hole, explain why - but first of all try and work out what it actually is, rather than what you imagine it to be. Is that not what academics do? Analyse ideas? Put them in context of other ideas rather than just shout down the opposition?

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