Monday, 20 August 2018

"Beating sites to death"

Policy decisions for protecting archaeological sites need to be informed by carefully argued positions based on data. Dr Sam Hardy has produced an important study, “Metal detecting for cultural objects until ‘there is nothing left’: The potential and limits of digital data, netnographic data and market data for analysis”. Arts 7, 3 (2018) [online]. This builds on Hardy's earlier research.

Readers should note Hardy's conclusion about his findings: "they corroborate the detecting community’s own perception that they are ‘beat[ing these sites] to death’".

Pieterjan Deckers, Andres Dobat, Natasha Ferguson, Stijn Heeren, Michael Lewis, and Suzie Thomas may wish to reflect on whether or not their own position is endangering the finite archaeological record. 

This methodological study assesses the potential for automatically generated data, netnographic data and market data on metal-detecting to advance cultural property criminology. The method comprises the analysis of open sources that have been identified through multilingual searches of Google Scholar, Google Web and Facebook. Results show significant differences between digital data and market data. These demonstrate the limits of restricted quantitative analysis of online forums and the limits of extrapolation of market data with “culture-bound” measures. Regarding the validity of potential quantitative methods, social networks as well as online forums are used differently in different territories. Restricted quantitative analysis, and its foundational assumption of a constant relationship between the size of the largest online forum and the size of the metal-detecting population, are unsound. It is necessary to conduct extensive quantitative analysis, then to make tentative “least worst” estimates. As demonstrated in the sample territories, extensive analyses may provide empirical data, which revise established estimates. In this sample, they corroborate the detecting community’s own perception that they are ‘beat[ing these sites] to death’.

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