Morgan, C. L. (2012). Emancipatory Digital Archaeology (Summary)

This chapter from Morgan’s dissertation provides a historical background of understanding of digital artifacts in the field of archaeology. As Morgan points out, artifacts in digital form are too often considered to be ephemeral representations of tangible artifacts. This perspective does little to provide a deep understanding of digital artifacts as actual artifacts in their own form. Morgan traces the background of materiality studies, and visual anthropology, and how these relate to the study of digital artifacts. Morgan also discusses the methods that are typically represented when artifacts are studied. These methods are symmetrical archaeology and object biographies. For digital artifacts, Morgan asserts that methods from visual anthropology will also be included. Intangible culture and digital artifacts are not the same. I like the comparisons Morgan makes between photographs and digital artifacts. Both tend to be considered as representations of some other thing. A key concept Morgan mentions is a tactile fallacy, where people will assume that because the objects in a computer screen cannot be touched, they don’t exist. This is important, because those objects are real existing things that relate to culture. It won’t be enough to just digitize collections, we will need to reassess how we present information in new forms. 

Morgan, C. L. (2012). Emancipatory Digital Archaeology (Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley). Retrieved from

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