Sunday 14 April 2013

Renewed Focus on Metal Detecting: Jon Adkins, Ethics and the Law [Porn Alert]

I arrived home today after a rather long and tiring journey to and from England. I was not therefore not pleased on arrival to find an alert in my inbox about some of the annoying metal detectorist chatter about my UCS seminar on Wednesday. One account on a tekkie blog purports to be from some (anonymous) metal detectorist who says he attended, but it seems to me he got lost after the first few minutes, his account is not at all what I said or what was discussed by the other participants.  There is however a more disturbing matter -  the subject of this post. My impression  was that the detectorists who had come to contribute to the discussion were not the usual troublemakers that get the hobby its bad reputation. It seems I was wholly mistaken.

As I mentioned here earlier I was interested to meet at the seminar in the UCS buildings UKDFD's Jon Adkins ("Flinty") who lives in Suffolk. John "joined the RAF at seventeen, and worked in the aerospace industry for more than 20 years", and is a relatively prolific finder of both lithics and metal objects.

It turns out somebody had been taking photos at the seminar, as they are now being passed around the tekkie forums. Mr Adkins is at the moment the prime suspect. When the seminar started Adkins was sitting at the back of the room with a large SLR camera with the lens cap off sat pointing forwards on the table in front of him. Rather odd accoutrements for an academic seminar one would have thought. I have just checked with David Gill, who informs me that nobody had applied for nor received any agreement from UCS to make an electronic or other recording of the UCS seminar of April 10th. Neither did I give anyone any permission to make and disseminate any such record. 

Readers of this blog will know that the UK's metal detectorist are the first to cry 'foul' if material about them - taken from the public domain - is used in criticism or comment. Readers may remember the fuss about a photo of a Suffolk archaeologist (who incidentally was at the seminar)  which appeared here illustrating text on a rally.   They will remember the tekkies' attempt to bombard Google with exaggerated and false claims of infringement by the author of this blog of their "rights" - most recently om March 10th (the metal detecting milieu's "National Barford Day" announced [ Tue Feb 19, 2013 5:05 pm ] by the Portable Antiquities Society for March 10th - exactly a month before the date set for the seminar). So what do they then do themselves?

I assume that, whatever branch of the "aerospace" industry he is - or was - in, Mr Adkins (or more importantly his bosses) would not approve of somebody just walking right into his place of work and merrily snapping off and then publishing/disseminating a series of shots without getting clearance first. Why should anyone think they are free to treat the premises of USC any different? What kind of ethics does that reveal?

Quite apart from anything else, the author of this photo is in breach of the law. David Gill informs me this is an infringement of the UK's rather broad-ranging Personal Data Act as well as in breach of university policy. 

One of the photos taken appears in material disseminated in a thread hosted by the Portable Antiquities Society suggesting what they'd like to happen to the seminar's lead speaker. A bit lower down the thread, posted by "chainmail" [link: Porn alert, viewer discretion advisory] - Fri Apr 12, 2013 4:21 pm we see a highly offensive modification of a photo surreptitiously taken on USC premises on 10th April. The skeleton of this image is the photo surreptitiously taken at the beginning of the talk. One the screen, instead of the slide I was showing is inserted a scurrilous composite image that was posted several years back by one of the "partners" of the Portable Antiquities Scheme on its public forum (This is the forum Nigel Swift and I are accused by the British Museum of "trolling" - by "aggressively archaeological" posts - I think we can see here the true trolls, trying to disrupt any discussions of the ethics of collecting by a continual barrage of disruptive posts). Two naked adult and rather podgy males are depicted in a compromising position. One is prone lyingg on his front, the other kneels behind him in intimate proximity. The faces of a younger Barford and Swift in the inserted composite photo were stolen and disseminated from the members only ("Exularch") website by former member Gary Brun, metal detectorist troublemaker, UKDFD staff member  and now would-be TV presenter. They have been crudely pasted onto some commercial gay porn one or other metal detectorist found. 

I think what is shown is a very disappointing abuse of trust and reveals just what crude foul, individuals are happily harboured by the metal detecting community. The people behind this should feel ashamed of themselves, all of them. Apart from this, it is an interesting comment on artefact hunting. The imaginary sexual act shown is not illegal, neither in my country nor the UK. Like metal detecting in the UK, what is depicted is fully within the law and is an act that is willingly engaged in by many people, giving them - I am told - great pleasure. The author of this picture however intends another meaning to be read into it, one connected rather with - especially in the Polish context - morals and standards of behaviour. And it is precisely from that point of view I see artefact hunting ("metal detecting") and those who engage in it irresponsibly, and those who by any means - fair or foul - engage in dirty tactics to defend the right to carry on doing it

In the meantime, until such time as it becomes clearer than it is at present that they understand what kind of behaviour is appropriate in such situations, it is my suggestion that should at a future date there be any future discussions of the archaeological aspects and archaeological response to the effects of current UK policies on artefact hunting, it would save a lot of trouble all round just to exclude metal detectorists from the venue. We are obviously not going to get anywhere discussing the situation with such people who seem only capable of disrupting any attempt at dialogue.

Can you tell I am angered by all this? Even when treated civilly and fairly, and included in the discussion, these people have no compunction about turning round and doing something like this behind your back, and then wonder why one adopts a critical tone when talking of them

Vignette: deceptive bike gear bear.

UPDATE 14.04.13
The offensive photo has (for now) been removed from the thread on the detecting forum and the detecting blog where I downloaded it. Hiding the evidence however does not make the problem of endemic irresponsibility, crassness and aggression towards archaeology and archaeologists in the metal detecting community simply disappear. I would also imagine that even the simplest thicko, surely, could recognize the difference between a photo reproduced from elsewhere in the public domain of the "finds/video/site we are talking about" and one that is supposed to represent me giving an imaginary talk on the "HERITAGE ACTION ANAL EROSION COUNTER" based on a surreptitiously taken photo by a photographer who had no permission to be using a camera at all at my seminar and photo-manipulation. 

TAKE A GOOD LOOK at this, for these are precisely the sort of people the PAS wants to grab more and more millions of public quid to make into the "partners" of the British Museum, archaeological heritage professionals and to whom they want us all to entrust the exploitation of the archaeological record. Take a good look and decide what you think about that as a "policy".  

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