Last month I noticed a very flattering note on the Eachtra website
about myself and this site. It invites comment from me but unfortunately I can't see anywhere to comment on their website so I decided I might just waffle away here as usual.
The title of the Eachtra post was "Brian Dolan + Web 2.0 = www.seandlaiocht.com
". While being aware of the concept of Web 2.0 I had never previously thought about it in relation to myself or to archaeology.So what is Web 2.0?
Well, its difficult to say and I'm not going into the details, that's what wikipedia
is for, but basically its a way of describing a theoretical 'new version' of the internet. To me at least, its talking about an internet that isn't just consumed by everybody but can be easily created and changed without esoteric knowledge about Java, C++, html or any number of other scary abbreviations that are almost meaningless to the majority of the non Star Trek loving population of the planet (not that I have any problem with Star Trek).
Essentially it's sites like YouTube
and and Flickr
which allow you to interact with the web, create your own space and interact with other people online. Sites like Weebly
(the service I use to publish this blog) and Google Apps
allow web publication without ANY programming knowledge. Basically if you can use a word processor you can now have a presence on the net.
So what has Web 2.0 got to do with archaeology? Well, so much and at the same time so little. Its all about potential and a few sites (including Eachtra's with its excellent online journal
, nominated for an Irish Web Award
in 2009 btw) have begun to embrace it and change the way people interact with archaeological information, data and research.
Web 2.0 has huge potential to change the way archaeology is viewed in Ireland. Dissemination has been one of the buzzwords in the discipline for the last five years but I have heard little talk about how the internet can transform how we disseminate to the public. The potential to reach out to the public, to inform and, excitingly, to interact is gigantic.
Irish archaeology's response to the internet has been mixed. Some interesting and useful steps have been taken with online bibliographies, databases and mapping (e.g. Archaeology.ie
) but these are generally aimed at those already interested and they aren't exactly user friendly. Many commercial sites provide summaries of excavations, some make reports available and one even has a blog
(not that it is much used). However there are plenty of very basic commercial sites out there and some of the archaeology pages on the internet I most use (Thadeus Breen's
and Conor McDermott's
sites) are still decidedly web 1.0.. Academia has done little more and the University webpages are nothing if not boring. Where are the academic blogs? The rich video and audio content or the electronic publications?
In reality it has been left to enthusiast sites such as Megalithomania
and Mythical Ireland
to 'give the people what they want'; including detailed maps of sites, basic information (sometimes not as accurate or up to date as it could be but where are the professionals providing info?), videos, photos and lots of other content.
Hopefully I'm not coming over too preachy and I am aware that this site and its subdomains (smelt.seandalaiocht.com
) are by no means perfect but they do show some of what is possible with no programming knowledge, practically no money and a bit of time. Future plans for the site include a database of Irish iron sites based on my PhD research, an interactive map of the same and more articles, presentations, videos and photos. There is nothing stopping any other archaeologist starting a site and sharing a little of what they know and are interested in with the public who ultimately pay their wages (or, more likely these days, their dole!).
The move to better websites in Irish archaeology is already noticeable with the trend for almost every INSTAR project to have a website (for a list see here
) and the recently updated Discovery Programme
pages. However we can do more. Sites like Scribd
make it free to publish online; Google
's mapping services offer the potential to create accessible geospatial data at no cost; and Youtube
do the same for the distribution of video and audio.
Lectures and books are not the only way to tell people about archaeology. We don't need to make it more interesting, we all know its already fascinating, but it would do no harm to make it all a little bit easier for the man on the street. Call it benevolent self-interest: the more people get interested in archaeology and value it, the more chance they'll be happy to fund it.