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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Developing an Archaeologically Literate Citizenry through Public Archaeology: Assessing Archaeology Websites
by Catto, Lisa Marie, M.S., Portland State University, 2020, 107; 28149978
Abstract (Summary)

Assessment has been a growing focus of public archaeology in recent years, however, most assessment has focused on in-person activities with little on digital public archaeology. With the pervasive popularity of digital media, such as websites, among global public audiences and the popularity of websites as a communication tool for archaeologists, it is critical that archaeologists focus on evaluating websites to make this public-facing communications tool as effective as possible. My thesis addressed this gap in assessment by using Qualitative Content Analysis (QCA) to assess the messaging on the most popular archaeology websites, defined based on Google ranking. My specific goals were to determine if QCA was an effective tool for such assessment and to learn what messages are both prominent and lacking on these websites.

To develop an assessment approach using QCA, I began by selecting Franklin and Moe’s (2012) five themes as a content framework to evaluate archaeology messages on websites. The themes are: Access to Archaeology, Archaeological Content, Fundamental Concepts of Archaeology, Stewardship and Preservation, and Uses of Archaeology. These themes represent commonly held ideas archaeologists have suggested the public should know about. According to Franklin and Moe, understanding these themes will create an archaeologically literate public.

I selected the 15 most popular websites for the study by searching “archaeology” in Google and choosing the first 15 organizations that met established criteria. I categorized the websites by organizational focus: higher education, media outlet, professional organization, and publicly accessible space. My sampling approach was to use the “top navigation” of the websites for consistency. I prepared the records so I had a static version of each webpage to code, imported them into ATLAS.ti, and then systematically coded the webpages for website organization, Franklin and Moe theme, and webpage element (e.g., body text, photo, headline). I also re-coded the first 10 webpages to assess intracoder reliability (which was relatively high). I analyzed a total of 103 pages, which took approximately 27 hours (including preparing the records and coding the pages).

A total of 1,151 distinct messages were tallied from the 15 webpages. Fundamental Concepts of Archaeology and Archaeological Content dominated the messages with frequencies of 437 and 304, respectively. Stewardship and Preservation and Uses of Archaeology were rarely represented, with frequencies of 96 and 95, respectively. Seven of the 15 websites studied lacked references to one or both of these themes completely. Given the importance of Stewardship and Uses (which establishes the relevance of archaeology to our everyday lives) to the growth and development of our discipline, and the web’s importance for the public to learn about archaeology, my results highlight much needed website re-tooling.

Overall, QCA proved to be a useful tool for assessing archaeology websites. It allowed me to understand the extent and presence of the Franklin and Moe themes by providing a systematic way to evaluate all webpage content. I also determined the themes were a good framework for QCA, as all content I wanted to code on the webpages could be assigned to those themes. Procedurally, the sampling methodology I used produced a robust sample of websites and a consistent sample of webpages among them, my record creation process produced usable static documents for coding, and ATLAS.ti software enabled effective coding and analysis for this project.

My thesis shows that archaeologists have to do better in communicating messages about conserving the archaeological record and demonstrating how archaeology can be used to address contemporary problems such as racism, social justice, and immigration. Websites will continue to grow as an important way for archaeologists to engage the public. Given their prominence and the importance of assessment in general, website assessment clearly deserves more scholarship. Not only do we need to critically evaluate what we are communicating through websites (and social media platforms), we need methods for conducting such assessment. Supporting this work could involve analysis of ways other fields use QCA as well as other website assessment options to identify the most effective approaches for archaeologists.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Butler, Virginia L.
Commitee: Anderson, Shelby L., Ketcheson, Kathi A.
School: Portland State University
Department: Anthropology
School Location: United States -- Oregon
Source: MAI 82/7(E), Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: Archaeology, Web Studies
Keywords: Archaeology websites, Digital archaeology, Digital public archaeology, Public archaeology, Public archaeology assessment, Website assessment
Publication Number: 28149978
ISBN: 9798569912759
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