Gender and Digital Culture

Blog for the Gender and Digital Culture project, a study exploring the impact of digital media and communications on (gendered) relationships and interactions

International Symposium on Digital Ethics

International Symposium on Digital Ethics, 7 November, Chicago

International Symposium on Digital Ethics, 7 November, Chicago

We are pleased to be presenting today (alongside Anita Sarkeesian and a variety of digital media experts and commentators) at the International Symposium on Digital Ethics at Loyola University, Chicago. This talk will provide a sneak peek at the first full, open access (OA) report of our research to be published in an upcoming issue of Internet Archaeology. An op-ed on the subject was printed in the Times Higher Education earlier this year, and we continue to be overwhelmed by the support, constructive input and activism generated by those of you following our work.

While our Loyola presentation will attend to both our interdisciplinary findings and our discipline-specific findings, the Internet Archaeology article is specific to the experiences of those affiliated with the archaeology and cultural heritage fields. The abstract is below and we’ll look forward to soon providing you with a link to access the full OA paper.

Digital media, power and (in)equality in archaeology and heritage

Sara Perry, (University of York)

Lucy Shipley (University of Southampton)

Jim Osborne (University of Southampton)


Decades of Internet study have arguably done little to shed light on the nature and implications of web-based communications in archaeology. Since the late 1990s, the online world has been lauded by archaeologists for its capacities to engender dialogue, participation, intellectual change and even democratic revolution. Yet the dangers associated with its use have barely been probed. Threats to privacy, equality, access, security of data, and personal safety and well-being are seemingly characteristic of all communication technologies. However, the naive zeal with which many archaeological and heritage organisations are employing online platforms for dissemination, profile-building, ‘impact’ and public accountability is fraught with risk and deserving of interrogation.

This paper explores the effects of digital culture on the professional identities and careers of archaeologists, heritage specialists and museum workers. Through a multi-disciplinary survey of over 400 individuals, nearly one-third of whom self-identified as archaeological or related heritage practitioners (working both inside and outside of the academic sector), we consider the various ways in which online technologies are used to express, promote, facilitate, strengthen and undermine both professionals themselves and professional practices in archaeology. Situating ourselves in the intersectional and feminist literature, we argue that web-based harassment and lack of adequate e-safety mechanisms are rife in the discipline, putting it in jeopardy of fuelling structural inequalities. Our findings suggest that close to one-third of practitioners report victimisation via online communication; the majority know their abusers offline; and, although the prevalence of such abuse is roughly equal amongst men and women, its nature is split along gender lines. Of especial concern, most practitioners choose to ignore their abuse, a decision that may be motivated by the non-existent or victim-harming institutional e-policies rampant in the sector. We call, then, for archaeology and heritage organisations—and their funders—to recognise their incontrovertible duty of care to staff, volunteers, students and communities engaged with their online platforms. As chronicled here, the meaningful public impact, access and empowerment sought by the profession via the social web are not achievable without investment in robust protection and prevention measures.


digital media, social media, gender, impact, harassment, equality, professional practice, archaeology, heritage, museums


About Sara Perry

Director of Digital Heritage and Lecturer in Cultural Heritage Management at the University of York (UK)

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This entry was posted on November 7, 2014 by .


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