Sunday 26 March 2023

Academics Represent Artefact Hunting as "Citizen Science" and Looting as "Citizen Participation"

Arguments for the Finlandisation of archaeological heritage exploitation continue to be presented:

Anna Wessman, Suzie Thomas, Pieterjan Deckers, Andres S. Dobat, Stijn Heeren and Michael Lewis (2023): Hobby Metal-detecting as Citizen Science. Background, Challenges and Opportunities of Collaborative Archeological Finds Recording Schemes, Heritage and Society, DOI: 10.1080/2159032X.2022.2098654

This paper discusses five digital archeological finds recording schemes from England and Wales, Denmark, Finland, Flanders (Belgium), and the Netherlands; countries and areas where members of the public can search for archeological material, usually by metal-detecting. These schemes are a part of the European Public Finds Recording Network. The authors argue that citizen science approaches to recording discoveries made by the public present important opportunities for enriching both research and possibilities for widening participation with archeological heritage. These schemes work within specific legal and social frameworks, and the paper scrutinizes each scheme in the context of citizen participation. The paper also discusses the challenges concerning sharing open data connected to crowdsourced archeological information, and the limitations and prospects offered by the different national and regional frameworks within which the schemes operate. 

Representing: University of Helsinki, Finland; University of Bergen, Norway; Aarhus Universitet, Denmark; Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Netherlands; British Museum, London, UK. 

Note the repeated spelling of the word archaeology here. 

There is nothing much new here, the authors are largely just regurgitating information already published by them elsewhere, with a few shallow buzzwords thrown in ("Caring means sharing").

When it comes to the specifics, much is made for example of the verification of PAS records, but anyone who's actually gone through a large number of their records (I have) will know that this is in reality by now dead in the water, and a lot of descriptions and inconsistencies that should have been picked up by those 'verifiers' have slipped through and form part of the public record, thus reducing their value as 'data' - still less 'scientific data'.

Also with regard to the article's title and subject matter, the PAS is no longer as "collaborative" as it was, a lot of it is being compiled by (anonymous) karaoke recorders and the PAS FLO staff are also now anonymised in the public record to obscure who is responsible for what.

The record instead exploits artefact hunters who bring in material to bulk it out, and get no individual public recognition of their contribution. This is a colonial model of science where 'natives' are exploited to serve an academic elite who in turn then act as gatekeepers (see the content and mood of the social media output of PAS staff members). [see also - PACHI 16 July 2022, ' Fish-in-Barrel "Archaeology", Metal Detecting as Imagined "Citizen Science" in the Czech Republic' - a 'collaborative' European recording scheme that funnily enough is not mentioned here].

Allegedly: "the paper scrutinizes each scheme in the context of citizen participation". This promise however is not met. In the UK there are an estimated (by PAS) 40 000 artefact hunting metal detectorists actively stripping the archaeological record of collectable artefacts and therefore information. In this paper however there is not only no mention of this figure, but no mention of the degree of participation of these heritage strippers to the academics' pet "citizen science" project. That aspect - of mitigating the damage done to science by artefact hunting with metal detectorists under the noses of these academics - is completely ignored. In fact, participation is very low in the metal detecting communities of England and Wales (despite the definition in the Code of Best Practice of "responsible detecting" that is automatically, but falsely,  applied to "the majority" of them). 

Anyway, the authors have their grant money extended, their nice offices and conference fees paid, and as long as they can spin a nice story with the right buzzwords about "participation" of a pars-pro-toto minority (and attack colleagues like Sam Hardy that raise some issues they'd rather not talk about), the stripping goes on unchecked - and indeed unrecorded.

Artefact hunting and artefact collecting are not "citizen science", they are knowledge theft, they are erosion of the archaeological record. Academics who, regardless, write about it as anything else are just living parasitically on the results of this destruction.

Vignette: Not "citizen science", just the tip of the iceberg of selfish exploitation, note undeclared "silver" finds right under the PAS noses while their staff write such academic verbiage.

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