Kathryn Chew
(UCLA, Los Angeles, USA)

Keywords: archaeology, analytics, social media, tf-idf, facebook

Among the various academic disciplines, archaeology is one which has held a particular romantic sway over the public imagination. Such fictional archaeologists as Indiana Jones and Lara Croft have long occupied the attention of the Western media consumer, representing archetypes of adventurers, mavericks, romantic and sexual ideals, and the relatable side of intellectualism. Myriad documentaries and fictitious works about archaeology and archaeological inquiries attest to this public preoccupation. Yet, despite this disproportionate share of the general public’s attention, it is unclear how much of this attention is focused on the fruits of academic research rather than the fruits of entertainment media. By extension, the degree to which the public understands either the discipline of archaeology as it is actually practiced or the data produced through archaeological research is uncertain. I seek to shed light on the apparent disconnect between the public discourse on archaeology and the understanding of it as held by participants in the field by examining the public discourse where it happens: in social media. Utilizing targeted data streams harvested from the Facebook API and applying TF-IDF textual analysis, I attempt to discern what differences can be found between the public discourse and that of professional archaeologists. By identifying the trends embedded in this divergence, I provide a framework within which the relationship between the academy and the outside world can be contextualized in order to more clearly assess the effectiveness of public outreach efforts and better target educational resources in the future.