One of the issues I’ve struggled with in my research is how to combat the inherent bias involved in media critique, especially when the media critique so heavily involves play, which is an inherently personal thing. It’s been an issue in every step of the process.
- How do I select games that adequately cover representations of archaeologists?
- What constitutes a representation?
- Do I just analyze games where the protagonist explicitly calls themselves an archaeologist?
- What about games where someone else calls them an archaeologist?
- What about games where they aren’t called an archaeologist but they’re clearly taking on a role that involves heritage management, or mismanagement?
- Do I privilege games for analysis by time period, by content, or by hardware?
- What about games that appear on multiple generations of hardware, or at multiple times?
- Should whether or not the game has an active community play a role in its selection?
- What constitutes an active community?
The answer to any of those questions cannot be any variation on, “Because I’m the researcher, it’s my project, and I know best.” That isn’t good enough in any sort of scientific endeavor, and it’s an easy crutch to lean on when working with “popular” media that leads to bad analysis. I’ve struggled with how to handle this concern.
For my part, I’m working within a system of radical transparency. As defined by Morgan and Eve, radical transparency is, “…revealing the process of the construction of knowledge and thereby decentralising the power inherent in interpretation.”
My practical interpretation of radical transparency means that each of the questions above needs to be answered in a way that shows how that answer was reached, in venues that allow for input, critique, and consultation on the process. It’s my dissertation, and ultimately I have to be responsible for the final product, but the process of how I get there should be visible along the way, as well as within the final product itself.
So watch this space. This is going to be messy.
Morgan, C. and Eve, S., 2012. DIY and digital archaeology: what are you doing to participate?. World Archaeology, 44(4), pp.521-537.