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Is the public creating a different archaeology? Analyses of a power shift

Conference of the German Society for Pre- and Protohistory (DGUF) from 14 to 17 May 2015, Tübingen

Although the financial and political base of state-funded archaeological work is becoming weaker everywhere, archaeology continues to be an attractive adventure for many members of society. Mass media enjoy reporting on exciting discoveries, supported by accompanying statements from archaeologists themselves. At the same time, the social communication structures are changing fundamentally in Web 2.0 environments: instead of listening to scientific pieces of wisdom with reverence, people are self-confident and want to actively get involved themselves. Is archaeology prepared for this?

Other groups of people are currently becoming more and more successful in the public arena, e.g. videos of illegal metal detecting are being clicked many thousands of times and are whetting the appetite for treasure hunts people have organised themselves. Driven by technology, it becomes easier to share the data, e. g. the coordinates of find locations. This causes power structures to change, often to the detriment of this kind of research and specialist expertise, which prefers to cut itself off and protect its sovereign right of interpretation.

Fewer and fewer members of society will support a structure for archaeology and its authorities which the public perceives more as an "obstructing institution". Such a loss of power in conjunction with the current economic and political marginalisation of archaeology is giving rise to a new situation. Society is creating the archaeology it desires to have, digital technologies facilitate this. More and more frequently, archaeology is looking on without doing anything, and is thus becoming a side issue of its own subject.

Does an archaeology weakened by staffing and financial cuts have any chance at all of keeping up when the prevailing technological and social conditions are changing and will continue to change as quickly as they are doing? How successful is the discipline of archaeology at communicating its problems, e. g. the cuts to public funding or archives full to overflowing? How great is the pressure in the archaeological authorities to better keep quiet about any difficulties? Is it even possible for members of the public who are only (to be) told about sensational finds to realise that archaeology is in a desperate situation? Would greater public participation, understood as collaboration on an equal footing (Citizen Science) be a good solution? If yes: what does the public expect in return if they get involved and/or make a donation? What do we expect to be the impact of such developments - on archaeology, its results, and on society and policymakers?

The conference examines the facets of a complex and far-reaching process of change which has already begun.

Organisational information about the DGUF conference

Conference venue:
Eberhard-Karls University of Tübingen
Neue Aula, "Großer Senat" and "Kleiner Senat"
D-72074 Tübingen

The conference language is German. Some assistance will be provided for those not fluent in German.

Conference fees
Standard rate: 70 euros
Reduced rate (DGUF members, speakers, students): 40 euros

The conference fee includes refreshments during the coffee breaks and the "Early palaeolithic caves in the Swabian Alb" excursion (whole day).

Conference registration
To participate, please register by sending an email with the subject line "Conference registration Tübingen 2015: Your NAME" to: tagung2015[at]

On receipt of your registration you will be sent confirmation with details of the conference bank account. Participants must register by email (and pay the conference fee) by 11 May.

Urgeschichte, Vorgeschichte und andere Archäologien: Eine Begriffsklärung
Das Fach, um das es der DGUF geht, wird mit unterschiedlichen Begriffen bezeichnet.
Hinter dem bekannten, scheinbar einfachen Begriff "Archäologie" verbergen sich viele unterschiedliche Archäologien. mehr

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