It is my great pleasure to announce the launch of the Digital Archaeology Commons (DAC). Growing out of the NEH funded Institute for Digital Archaeology Method and Practice (pictured above) organized by Michigan State University’s Department of Anthropology and MATRIX: The Center for Digital Humanities and Social Sciences, the DAC is designed to support work and community building around digital methods and practice in archaeology and closely related fields.  We also hope that the DAC will encourage the permeability of the boundaries between digital work in the various streams of archaeological practice (anthropological archaeology, humanist archaeology, etc).  We also hope that the DAC will encourage discussion around digital archaeology topics between archaeologists and closely related fields (museum studies, art history, history, etc). Joining is easy – just click on the Account Signup button in the main page.

Based on the wonderful Commons in a Box platform developed by the CUNY Grad Center under the umbrella of the GC Digital Initiatives, the DAC (as it stands now) has three major features:

Groups – Groups are gatherings of likeminded members around a certain topic or theme.   Groups can be open (anyone can join), private (only members approved by a group administrator can join), or hidden (only visible to members).  Groups can be thematic (digital public archaeology, mobile heritage, web-mapping, open archaeological data, digital archaeological ethics, etc), by geography/culture (ancient Egypt, the Maya, Mississippians, Indus Valley, Nabatean, etc), project-based, by institution (university, heritage institution, museum, CRM firm, etc), or by any other conceivable logic.  Groups include a centralized activity stream for all members, as well as other user generated content (such as group documents).   It is our sincere hope that groups will open up new vistas for communication, collaboration, and camaraderie among archaeologists interested in digital method and practice who might be separated by space, sub-discipline, or professional location.  There is no limit to the number of groups you can create or join.  We also encourage students (graduate or undergraduate) to create groups and grow groups. Creating a group is easy – just login to your DAC account and then go to the Create a Group page.

The DAC is launching with a series of thematic groups, including Teaching Digital Archaeology, Archaeogaming, GIS, Space, and Open Web Mapping, Digital Public Archaeology, Digital Data Collection, and Digital Labor & Archaeology. We’re also launching with several groups for existing digital archaeology projects/platforms/tools, including the Digital Index of North American Archaeology (DINAA), MicroPasts, the Federated Archaeological Information Management System (FAIMS), PeriodO, and the Institute for Digital Archaeology Method and Practice.

Discussion Forums – Discussion Forums are exactly what they sound like – forums for threaded discussions among site and group members.   Organizationally, forums exist under groups.  This means that whenever someone created a group, they can also elect to create a discussion forum for that group.  The visibility and accessibility of that discussion forum depends on the visibility and accessibility of the group itself.

Sites – anyone who signs up to be a member of the Digital Archaeology Commons can request a website.  The websites will always have a Digital Archaeology Commons URL (commons.digitalarchaeology.msu.edu/something), and are all powered by WordPress.  Because the sites are WordPress powered, they can have any number of authors, editors, and administrators.  As such, they will provide an easy way for individuals and groups to quickly create and easily manage a website for their research or project. Because all of the sites are indexed on the main Digital Archaeology Commons website (here), we’ll start to grow an ecosystem of sorts that will facilitate the discovery of exciting projects, interesting work, and provocative digital archaeological thought.  We will also occasionally highlight interesting sites on the main page of the Digital Archaeology Commons.

These are just the first (baby) steps of the Digital Archaeology Commons. Our hope that as the community groups, so will the Digital Archaeology Commons.  Please feel free to drop us a line (via email, twitter, or in the comments below) with thoughts,  suggestions, or even problems.

Super Important Addendum – when we were getting the site ready for a soft launch, we ran into some mysterious technical problems that caused no end of frustration.  The Commons in a Box team (specifically Matt GoldChristian WachRaymond Hoh, and Boone B Gorges) swooped in to help – offering time, effort, and energy to get things fixed and functioning (even after I had been unnecessarily and unfairly grumpy about the whole situation on Twitter).  So, my enormous thanks go out to Matt, Christian, Ray, and Boone for take the time to get the Digital Archaeology Commons functioning in a healthy and happy way.