Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Breaking Down Communication Barriers Between Archaeologists and Geographic Information System Professionals
by Kirvan, Chad V., M.A., Northern Arizona University, 2017, 176; 10281167
Abstract (Summary)

In this thesis, I examine the relationship between Geographic Information System specialists and professional archaeologists in the process of analysis and curation of spatial archaeological data. Communication between geographic information system (GIS) professionals and archaeologists is, in my experience and as expressed to me by other archaeologists and some GIS professionals, a problematic situation that limits the full use and effective incorporation of GIS analyses in archaeological studies. A key attribute of an archaeologist is the ability to collect and preserve archaeological data, and much of these data are in the form of spatial data documenting the arrangement of elements in the archaeological record. GIS applications are valuable tools for identifying relationships, patterns, and trends in the masses of collected archaeological geospatial data.

Archaeology is a multidisciplinary field in which archaeologists draw upon knowledge from many other disciplines to successfully conduct archaeological studies. Over the years, archaeologists have incorporated GIS software into the archaeological toolset to generate maps and many in the discipline have become proficient in using the software to produce the necessary maps.

GIS software, however, is much more than a tool used for producing maps, and can further analyze geospatial data recovered from archaeological sites, finding relationships, patterns, and trends that archaeologists may not readily recognize in the simple generation of maps, and increasing our understanding of past cultures. GIS professionals regularly use GIS software to analyze spatial data, and I argue that GIS professionals, those formally trained in geospatial data studies and programming, are more capable of performing GIS analyses to the fullest potential of the software through customized programming, ultimately adding value to geospatial data uncovered in the archaeological record.

To improve interactions between GIS professionals and archaeologists, I have carried out this pilot study analyzing specialized vocabularies for each of the two professions. I structured my analysis of communication practices between archaeologists and GIS professionals in the performance of GIS analyses of archaeological data. My research is orientated around a framework of Communities of Practice and interactions across the communities. The study analyzes the two professional groups with a focus on language characteristics shared by members within a community that are distinctive to that community and possibly meaningless to those outside the community. To improve interactions between these two professional groups, I analyzed specialized vocabularies for each of the two professions and reviewed the social entrance of members from one professional group into the other through language socialization.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Smiley, Francis E.
Commitee: Downum, Christian E., Wilce, James M.
School: Northern Arizona University
Department: Department of Anthropology
School Location: United States -- Arizona
Source: MAI 57/01M(E), Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: Archaeology, Geographic information science
Keywords: Archaeologists, Archaeology, Communication, Community, GIS, Spatial
Publication Number: 10281167
ISBN: 978-0-355-40343-5
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