The Archaeology of Digital Abandonment

There’s a fantastic conference going on at University College London on the 8th and 9th of November, Digital Engagement in Archaeology, which I have co-authored a presentation in with Matt Law about a lovely data set he collected when Geocities closed down. Check out the abstract: 

Title: The Archaeology of Digital Abandonment

Abstract: After fifteen years of hosting millions of user-built webpages, in April 2009 Yahoo announced that they would be shutting down their United States Geocities webpages. Geocities was once the most common hosting service for low-cost personal webpages, including hundreds of public outreach sites about archaeology. Were the webpages moved to another hosting site, archived, or abandoned? We tracked and recorded the fate of 89 of these webpages, eventually sending a survey to the webmasters asking them a range of questions. While we received relatively few responses, the answers to the questions were illuminating. Much of the current digital outreach performed all over the world relies on “free” services such as Twitter, Flickr, WordPress, Google Pages, or Facebook to host their content. What can the fate of archaeological content on Geocities pages tell us about the benefits and risks of using commercial infrastructure for archaeological outreach?  In a conference dedicated to understanding digital public engagement, we sort through the digital wreckage of past outreach efforts to evaluate the fate of the online archaeological presence.

All of the other papers look really interesting, I wish I could be there to check it out. The paper will get developed into a piece of longer length to be published in an Open Access journal.

I must admit, one of the things that I’m the most excited about is the mind-blowing opening slide that Matt made, full of gifs and broken links–truly retro-geocities-fabulous:


So so brilliant.




6 responses to “The Archaeology of Digital Abandonment

  1. The presentations will be recorded and put up online- so everyone can, hopefully (fingers crossed no technical problems), see them.

  2. I assume that you’ve seen The Onion’s take on your topic:

  3. Pingback: #digipubarch Conference Video- The Archaeology of Digital Abandonment « Doug's Archaeology

  4. Brilliant! I suppose you know

    I started discussing this kind of problem (that is, relying on free of charge services like Flickr, Facebook etc) last year. At that time the best I could make to summarise the current situation in our department was where “foto = Flickr”, “video = Youtube” and “bibliografia = Zotero” (replace with any other equivalent service).

    Even worse, I don’t see any discussion of the implications, opportunities and problems of cloud computing in archaeology (e.g. I don’t recall anything about that at CAA 2012, FWIW). Is that too technical perhaps? The thing is, social networks and cloud computing are the Geocities of the 2010s.

  5. Pingback: Friday Varia and Quick Hits « The New Archaeology of the Mediterranean World

  6. FYI We have a paper lined up for CAAUK 2013 on cloud computing and archaeology and its implications…

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