I’m in friendly, if grey, Buffalo, New York this morning at the 12th annual IEMA conference, “Critical Archaeology in the Digital Age.” On Thursday, I posted a draft of my paper, “Collaborative Digital Publishing in Archaeology,” and since then I’ve received some really useful feedback on it. So I’m going to add a coda to my paper.
Here’s that coda (or a draft of it):
There’s a coda to this paper.
My presentation here suggests, in some ways, that workflows – or flow in general – is uni-directional. Flow somehow starts in the field and concludes in publication. I worry that this linear view of workflow suggests that conviviality can serve progress.
This has practical and intellectual implications, of course. We know, for example, that data gains meaning from context and contexts and relationships between data sets constantly change as new data is introduced. Our interest in workflow produces a fluid data that pools but briefly in any one place. Academically, we understand that a book or report is never really the final word on a site or a project, but rather just a stage in the movement of archaeological knowledge. At the same time, we continue to regard the final report as a stable, complete entity and the culmination of the archaeological assembly line.
The linear progress of archaeological work supports the modern and progressive foundations of archaeological knowledge making, but as data and work become increasingly fluid, there is no reason why our idea of publication should not represent the eddying, recursive flow of knowledge. The untethering of work, data, analysis, and meaning from the linear narrative offers new models representing the dividualted and always tentative character of archaeological knowledge.
In this model, the publisher does more than just usher the manuscript through the final stage of the knowledge making process, but works alongside the archaeologist from the very start of a project and continues to share responsibility for the archaeological knowledge that the project continues to produce into the future.
Of course, realizing this kind of collaboration in practice is difficult to imagine and fraught with practical concerns from sustainable economic models to redefining areas of expertise and responsibility in production, dissemination, and curation (not to mention area and subject knowledge). For the dividuated 21st century academic, this process is already taking place with a range of positive and problematic consequences that range from the “uberfication” of academic life to our increasingly connected and dynamic transnational networks. I remain hopeful, however, that a convivial approach to knowledge making remains possible.