(Department of ALM, Uppsala University and Information Studies, Åbo Akademi University, Sweden)
Keywords: authenticity, archaeological information, socio-technical approach, systems thinking
Authenticity of contemporary archaeological archiving is a complex issue that pertains to the entire archaeological information process and spans from the past human activity to the deposition processes, field archaeology, documentation, archiving and interpretation of archaeological data. In contrast to the rather prevalent polarism of technological (e.g., digital preservation standards, technical authenticity of digital repositories) and social approaches (e.g., institutional and individual trust, authenticity certifications, truststworthiness of interpretations) to authenticity research in archival and digital preservation studies, the present study discusses a combined approach.
On the basis of an interview study in which a group of 25 archaeologists were asked to discuss the authenticity and significant properties of archaeological objects and information with a specific reference to a ballpoint pen as a hypothetical archaeological object, a wiki-based framework for capturing, expressing and debating social and scholarly authenticity of digital archaeological data together with technical authenticity information was developed. The framework was evaluated using a test collection of excavation data.
The use of hypothetical archaeological object in the process helped the informants to anchor their discussion of archaeological authenticity on its general properties instead of confering the often highly context specific situational factors of individual materials and projects. The analysis of the interview transcripts showed clearly that a digital representation of a non-digital object could be provide authentic information, but not function as an authentic object per se, and need to be discussed in parallel to rather than as a projection of each other as a part of a (records) continuum (in terms of Upward and McKemmish) of archaeological records. The developed approach helps to highlight the processual, parallel and dual, socio-technical nature of authenticity of digital archaeological information and materials.