Monday 23 September 2013

"Practical Provenancing" and Scumbags

ACCG Dealer Dave Welsh suggests that in discussing in critical terms the doings of artefact hunters and no-questions -asked dealers, this blog and its author is in some way "drowning every attempt at balanced discussion" and generating a flood (sic) "of distracting and unnecessary heat".

It would be interesting to hear from Mr Welsh where he currently sees such a "balanced discussion" going on at the moment. In the hallowed hallways of the American Cultural Property Research Institute maybe ? (moribund institution.) On the public forum of the Portable Antiquities Scheme where archaeology and public interest can interact maybe ? (closed down.) On a forum run by the AIA? On a forum run by one of the major dealers' associations? In the ranks of the FMDAC? On the Unidroit-L discussion list maybe, with the involvement of archaeologists, collectors and dealers? Where can Mr Welsh take part in a cool, calm balanced discussion of the many issues connected with the treatment of the archaeological resource as a source of collectables? I think we would all love to hear of such a place where such a discussion is going on.I think we'd all like to acquaint ourselves with the arguments of those taking part, who are they?

I have a bit of experience on moderated forums: such as Britarch (where I first began such discussions with artefact hunters and their supporters),  the BAJR forum, The PAS Forums, Moneta-L, Unidroit-L, several metal detecting forums, and there was a forum associated with the Time Team programmes, all moderated. The same things happened on each. A group of loudmouth artefact hunters (or coin collectors) would gang up on anyone representing a view which they see as potentially threatening the status quo and try various tactics to deflect discussion in different directions and becoming at times quite aggressive. Obviously for forums full of metal detectorists and their "partners", the "trolls" to be fought are the minority element that is trying to discuss elements of practice and policy that it does not suit artefact hunters and their partners to be discussed. The scene is set for any attempt at reasonable and open discussion to descend into pandemonium. Sometimes the moderators stepped in and stopped the naysayers and trouble-makers, mostly they did not.

The general ethos is quite well captured by Dr Roger Pearse, writing of the same thing in another context  here: 
I am now considering ceasing contributing to Wikipedia. My recent experience is that it is becoming counter-productive for those with a bit of education to contribute, while the results of our labour will generally belong to whichever troll is most determined to end up in control of an article. The educated end up acting as research assistants for trolls, which is a role few of us would care to fill. Attempts to fight back are simply met with a storm of harassment [...]. The scumbag can always wear down the person who has something real to offer, and much else to do. As far as I know, I am one of the last online scholars to attempt to contribute. I will no longer do so. In practice, it seems that educated people cannot edit Wikipedia. Until this problem is addressed by the owners of Wikipedia, it is a mistake for us to try. It should be sobering for us all to find, in gatherings online of scholars, that wikipedia is treated as "something we couldn't edit". This humorous page on " "Gaming Wikipedia" outlines precisely what people face if they do.
Dealer Dave Welsh has the idea that somebody here is supposed to "serve" the interests of the coin industry:
Mr. Barford would more effectively advance his cause if he would turn the volume down, and focus on shedding more real light upon the goal of creating a practical provenancing system for ancient artifacts. 
Three points. Firstly, my "cause" is obviously not understood by Mr Welsh. Secondly it is not possible to "provenance" an artefact once it has been hoiked out of the ground and surfaced on some distant foreign market. Thirdly, if we are talking about making a record of coins with known collecting histories (a register of artefacts out of the ground at a certain cut-off date) then I have already attempted several years ago to present just such ideas on his Unidroit-L forum (when challenged by Welsh himself) . He has reorganized the list archives, so it is now extremely difficult (or at least time-consuning) to find the several interlocking threads which this attempt developed into. It really was a bit of a waste of my time, since I was the only person on the list at the time interested in exploring the idea. The rest of the dealers and collectors on the list were adamant on shouting down the very notion as "unworkable" and "too expensive for cheap coins" and instead of compromise attempted to halt the discussion, that unfortunately included a large number of one-sided posts by the list "moderator" himself. Hardly conducive conditions for any kind of balanced discussion and compromise.

Once again we see these people demanding to be handed a solution on a plate, the coin industry, istead of devolping a solution itself, once again demands that somebody else creatres it for them. But even if they did, there is no guarantee in present circumstances that it will be used. For archaeology, the cheapest solution would be to shut down the market, not investing our money and time into legitimising it. Surely then, if coin dealers are to profit from a continuation of the market, they are the ones that should invest in making it more sustainable.

As I have said many times, this blog is here because of my past experience on "moderated' lists of the Unidroit-L ilk, where all the time I am on the losing side, hounded by people that experience shows that the moderators are not going to moderate. I am no longer keen to talk with these people. Been there, done it, heard all they have to offer, got the scars. Others can do talk with them, try to reason with them. The PAS shows there are certain limits beyond which one cannot expect co-operation and understanding. I have my own little bit of the internet, if Mr Welsh or anyone else thinks there is "too much heat" here, then they can stop reading and go elsewhere. Nobody makes them read this stuff.

Readers might like to look at the (many) posts Mr Welsh makes to his own discussion list and blog. There is a reason why US or any other archaeologists are not exactly crowding onto the Unidroit-L discussion list to hear what the members think, could it be the entirely hostile approach of the list moderator to archaeology, archaeologists and preservation issues revealed by his posts? Have a look at Mr Welsh's posts on his own list in the years before I ventured to join it. Who has been putting the "heat" on?

This is the first thread I took part in over on Unidroit-L, it goes downhill from here until, fed up with the unchecked insults of member Farhad Assar, I stopped contributing to the list - which is pretty silent these days. 

Vignette: "Scumbag Steve"

No comments:

Creative Commons License
Ten utwór jest dostępny na licencji Creative Commons Uznanie autorstwa-Bez utworów zależnych 3.0 Unported.