Friday 4 January 2019

More Fluffy Surveys on 'Citizen Archaeology'

Francesca Benetti ('Studies Public Archaeology, Medieval Archaeology, and Heritage Management' at Padua) asks people to fill in her and Bangor's Katharina Moeller's survey titled "Public Participation in Archaeology: The British Archaeologists’ Perspective". It is part of a PhD project that will look at 'public participation' in the UK, Italy and Germany. I took a look. As expected - because reading between the lines it seems to be based around some kind of 'UK model' - there we have Collection-Driven Exploitation (called by them 'metal detecting') of the archaeological record as a form of 'public participation in archaeology'. This is the sad legacy of the PAS 'outreach' that just muddles minds and won't go away.

Surely we need a firmer idea what the author(s) has/have in mind using the noun 'participation' and just what the concept of  'archaeology' is that is being referred to. The unexplained mention of the vague term 'metal detecting' suggests to me the authors have neither. What is this 'metal detecting'? The tool can be used for many things, to find gold in Alaska, meteorites, pipes on building sites and guns in terrorist's pockets at airports. And Treasure hunting. If these authors mean do archaeologists use metal detector owners to take part in surface survey, then that should be clear (and what about drone owners?). I suspect though they have in mind what Bonkers Bloomsbury calls 'citizen archaeology' which the rest of us call looting (Collection-Driven Exploitation of the archaeological record). When I commented, Ms Benetti answered, 'Thank you for your comments. Our survey (mine and @_KMoeller_'s) aims to identify what is perceived as public participation. Therefore, we have included a broad range of possible answers'. That does not help much. So if they have 'metal detecting' why not 'driving over earthworks with 4x4s'? Or 'painting earthworks/standing stones' (or writing poetry about them), or worshipping at ancient mystical sites, following leylines and dowsing? Amateurs I have known have done important aerial photographic work. The range could be widened well beyond the stereotypical options Benetti and Moeller chose [thus actually narrowing the options]. Collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record is not participating in archaeology, it is destroying the arch record for selfish gain. As they intend to do a comparative survey, I wonder whether they'll be asking the Italian archaeologists to what extent they use tombaroli in their work, and the German ones, their raub-grabungers (depending of course which 'Land' they are in). Because if they do not, then the survey results are not comparable.

UPDATE 4th Jan 2019
Just now, 
W odpowiedzi do to @PortantIssues@FLODurhamFLO i jeszcze 4 osób
We are not interested in telling what is right or wrong, as this is not the aim of our research. How about some constructive criticism and debate rather than polemics?
Perhaps a more suitable time for wider debate is before they set up a survey to collect the data they want to use, not after, because that survey already predisposes the kind of responses they will get and what information is not volunteered. In any case, I really do not see the point of a random anonymous online survey like this as a basis for academic research. 

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