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Since 2010, a range of mobile and internet-connected tablet computing devices (e.g., iPads) have been integrated into archaeological practice, with projects experimenting with new approaches to documenting, interpreting, and publishing material culture. The rapid pace of this change has led to a tension in the discipline as archaeologists have begun to realize how creating and manipulating born-digital data could fundamentally alter archaeological knowledge production. We are thus at a critical time for archaeology as it moves from a paper-based discipline to an increasingly digital one. There is a growing sense that the change is good, but that it must be critically and reflexively embraced to prevent the discipline from losing what has made it so vital to social discourse: its ability to shed light on the human past. This contribution outlines the debates surrounding digital archaeologies while laying the groundwork for their reflexive and ethical application. As the introductory chapter to Mobilizing the Past for a Digital Future, it draws on over twenty studies of contemporary digital archaeological practices to suggest that the transition to paperless workflows is an ongoing process that has the potential to improve archaeological interpretations. This review of current practices engages with the collection, manipulation, interpretation, and dissemination of archaeological data as it passes through the digital filter from trench side to the digital repository and examines what is being gained, lost, or changed through such processes. This overview not only presents a concise and informative introduction to the timely themes explored in the volume, but also offers a cumulative, informed, and critical perspective on how digital technologies are transforming archaeology and what it can tell us about the past.

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The Digital Press @ University of North Dakota


Grand Forks, North Dakota


archaeology, digital archaeology, archaeological theory, archaeological method, digital humanities, mobile computing, tablet computing, iPad, data recording, digital culture, paperless archaeology, born-digital data


Classical Archaeology and Art History

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

0.2. Mobile Computing in Archaeology: Exploring and Interpreting Current Practices