I was staring at a blank screen when my colleague David came into my office. I semi-jokingly asked him for a blog topic.
“I have one for you,” he replied. “Content Archaeology. Discuss.” And with that he left my office.
People know that I trained as an archaeologist and did fieldwork in multiple locations. I still think of myself as a social scientist. This phrase resonates with me, and is a concept that I have discussed with others, more often under the rubric of “digital archaeology.” There is also the practice of using digital tools in archaeology, but that’s for another post.
In researching this, I did a bit of content archaeology myself. In the writing this morphed into a bit of a “Before You Were Born” post as well. This is a VERY truncated list of what one might consider digital archaeology.
- There was a very interesting article on digital archaeology in Wired in 1993. Yes, that’s really 1993.
- I read a very interesting article in the journal Social Semiotics by Gordon Fletcher and Anita Greenhill from 1996 entitled The Social Construction of Electronic Space that explicitly calls out digital archaeology as a methodology for research into virtual communities.
- There’s a UKOLN report titled Digital Archaeology: Rescuing Neglected and Damaged Data Resources by Seamus Ross and Ann Gow from 1999.
- I found a very illuminating paper from 2003 on what it took to reconstruct a set of UK education datasets known as The Schools Census.
- The digital archaeology story that is perhaps the most well-known to the public is the story from 2011 of the recovery of the Domesday Project, and its rebirth online.
- There is the Digital Archaeology project, aiming to recover disruptive moments in design and interactivity on the web. We interviewed Jim Boulton of Story Worldwide on The Signal in 2011.
- Mick Morrison at Flinders University posted an outline for a hands-on workshop on Digital Archaeology in 2011.
- Doug Reside of the New York Public Library wrote on Digital Archaeology: Recovering Your Digital History in 2012.
- I found a great 2013 case study from the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in a blog post entitled Digital Archaeology — Uncovering a Website.
- In 2013 the New Museum launched a great experiment called XFR STN to help artists recover and migrate their digital art.
There is some holy grail content that the greater community would love to be found so digital archaeology and preservation actions could be taken, such as the full set of Apollo moon landing 11 tapes or the lost Dr. Who episodes.
How do you define “Content Archaeology” or Digital Archaeology”? What lost content would you like to see recovered?