Critique of Archaeological Reason
1. Introduction to the website

Authorship and collaboration

Giorgio Buccellati – February 2016

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A personal tone

Websites tend to be informed by a certain degree of anonymity, and not to give as much recognition to authorship as printed materials do. This website gives instead ample space to the role of the individual participation in its construction, and it does so in two ways.

In the first place, I do not shy away from a frankly personal tone. This is apparent in the first place in the use of the first person singular, a stylistic trait that is often absent in websites. Beyond that, there is also room for the expression of feelings. On occasion, these may help to explain important junctures in the argument itself, such as when in the preface I refer to the interaction between the need for complex structuring on the one hand and, on the other, the parallel need for remaining true to the centrality of meaning, with reference to texts that helped focus on this very issue. Analogously, in the section on history I refer to the way in which we had to survive the growth pains that inevitably went hand in hand with a project of this kind.

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Authorship and collaborations

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A second, and more important, reason for emphasizing the explicit recognition of individual authorship relates to the need of assessing the quality of the presentation in relation to the background of the person responsible for it. Thus each item, even if small (such as individual entries in the Notes section), can be traced back to a given author. The section on Authorship gives a complete list of authors and their contributions.

There are three main reasons for such explicitness in identifying authorship.

  1. Attribution. The more apparent reason is to ensure appropriate credit for the work actually done. Instead of a generic mention in an introductory statement, each task is specifically attributed to its author.

  2. Responsibility. The notion of “publishing” entails awareness of how one’s facts and ideas are exposed to public scrutiny. Explicit identification gives the author a heightened sense of commitment to what is being so “published.”

  3. Calibration. The reader’s awareness of who has written any given entry makes it possible to assess the limits of the entry itself, e.g., to calibrate its worth. This is further qualified by the date that accompanies most entries.

For details on individual collaborators see the separate section on Authorship.

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While the website relates to a specific published work CAR, it is meant to serve a broader purpose, which is that of confronting more broadly issues raised and discussed in the book, whether they are parallel or integral to it. As a result, I have sought the collaboration of colleagues, young scholars and students. Since it is planned that the website remain open in the foreseeable future, I am counting on this collaboration to continue and to expand, so as to ensure a wider reach for the website itself. Details of the Critique Research Group will be found in the section on data handling.

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These considerations speak to the significance of a concept that is in disuse, namely that of authority. The objection to an excessive reliance on it is certainly valid if it refers to an uncritical and blind acceptance of what somebody says only because of who this person is. But such freedom from “authority” is often illusory. In point of fact one inevitably establishes one’s own parameters by which a given weight is assigned to an entry; these parameters are then unconsciously accepted as founding an implicit validity of the source where the entry is found. This happens all the more and all the more frequently with information and opinions derived from the web, particularly (and ironically) when the source is anonymous.

The stress I lay on transparent authorship helps in making explicit these parameters and thus in clarifying to what extent one is, in fact, dependent on the “authority” of the writer. For these reasons, I favor the use of the first person in the entries, something that is not common in the often anonymous style of websites.

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