Digital Data Collection

This project is derived from a long line of experiments with digital data collection in the field in archaeology. For this introduction, I will highlight a few points.  Please see the subsequent pages for greater detail.

For my dissertation, I collected data digitally using calipers directly connected to my computer; for the first field school I taught I tested forms in HanDBase (an iOS app that interfaces with Microsoft Access) and later Filemaker Pro and Filemaker Go. All of these systems, while intended to make data collection simpler, easier and more accurate, resulted in massive expenditures of time. These experiments were carried out when I was finishing my dissertation, adjuncting and in non-tenure-track academic positions. My inability to design a system that could make data collection beneficial was extremely frustrating and costly both in terms of what little money I had access to and in terms of professional advancement. I nearly gave up. However, now I believe major ethical, professional and pedagogical considerations force me to continue with this endeavor (see Justification page).

This project, therefore, is largely intended to benefit those people in positions like those I experienced- economically and institutionally peripheral. While I am thrilled to be tenure-track faculty at Muhlenberg College and have access to more resources than I did, I continue to want to build a system that would have benefited me while I was in an academic liminal state; neither here nor there. My deepest hope is that this will benefit those who have access to limited academic, economic and political resources. I resist arguing that this will open up archaeology to everyone. It won’t. It may, however, INCREASE accessibility in archaeology. Not only will the discipline benefit from an additional voices; that is we, as archaeologists, have a selfish reason to open archaeology further, but it is ethically imperative (as I interpret the SAA Principles of Archaeological Ethics).

My goals are two. First to design a system for my own use. That’s a selfish goal. Second, I want to share this as broadly as possible. That is purpose of these web pages.

Please, please know that this project and web pages are works in progress and will NEVER be finished. I am trying to make it as easy and convenient for you (and myself) so it should be helpful, but it can never be completely finished and I don’t want it to be.

A few important notes- Citations in this section are limited. It is largely “out of my own head”- of course that means that there are many, many scholars who have influenced me (including those below) and I owe them a great debt. In the future, I will go back and give the credit in detail (ideally in a scholarly, open-source publication, but we will see).

I would like to thank two very important entities for support. First, although the genesis for this project was born long ago, only through the time, knowledge and structure provided by the Institute for Digital Archaeology: Method and Practice, a National Endowment for the Humanities Advanced Institute at Michigan State University held at the LEADR Lab and supported by MATRIX. Special thanks go to Ethan Watrall and Lynne Goldstein, Directors of the Institute, for organizing this incredible experience and to the faculty including Terry Brock, Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Catherine Foley, Brian Geyer, Shawn Graham, Eric Kansa, Daniel Pett and Christine Szuter, for sharing their time and expertise. Second, I thank the Sociology and Anthropology Department, the Provost’s Office, the Dean of Digital Learning at Muhlenberg College, who have provided me with the funds and space to experiment with different technologies. My failures have only lead to greater successes!

Finally, I would also like to thank Tim Clarke, Instructional Technologist at Muhlenberg, whose encouragement and conviction that this project has significant value has kept me forging forward.