Context-making in archaeological information work

Submitted by Isto Huvila on Sun, 11/02/2014 - 23:00

Context-making in practiceI am participating in the 2014 Association for Information Science and Technology (ASIS&T) Annual Meeting in Seattle, WA. He gave a talk on context making in archaeological work as a part of the SIG-USE (for a special interest group for information seeking and use) research symposium on Saturday.

The talk was focussed on this years theme on studying contexts as a part of information research and explored the issue of how different actors essentially make the contexts of their work as a part of doing what they do. A researcher who makes observations on a subject of research frames what is the main thing and what is something that makes the context of that thing. For instance, when a field archaeologist focuses on a particular archaeological site, all other things including other sites, other findings and the documented features, finds and samples become contextual (sort of meta-information) for the site. In contrast, a finds specialist can have a tendency to focus on a find and see the site and everything else around the object as contextual. This context-making has an impact how things are documented, what kinds of techniques and technologies are chosen and used and in the end, what we know about the past. At the same time, the largely implicit work of context-making can become a hinder for reuse of data as the contextual ideas of the original documenters and secondary users differ from each other.

The things becomes even more complicated when we add additional context-makers to teh picture. When I am as a social science researcher making observations on what people are doing I am making similarly my own judgments about what is the principal work of the people I am studying and whta is contextual to their work. Rather than seeing this as a problem, it might be more useful to be reflective about it, acknowledge the on-going pcontext-makings and consider its implications.

Abstract and slides for the presentation can be found at and a slightly different version of this post published in