For this Digital Data Stories (DDS) Series on Series entry, we’re exploring our Creative Series. Creative endeavors rarely enter into discussions of archaeological data literacy. And yet, the complex skills required to create art make them perfect for the palimpsest of narrative that is archaeology. Due to this, we thought leveraging creativity would be a great kind of Data Story.
While archaeologists study art and artistic skills in the past, we rarely apply this to our pedagogy. Sometimes, we even use art to communicate our conclusions and then forget to acknowledge it as an important way to engage with, or generate, data! On occassion, we’ll even draw artifacts, or hire archaeological illustrators, for some tasks. And then consider other skills, like photography or graphic design, tasks anyone can do.
To acknowledge that illustration, photography, and many other creative media are important to archaeology, Creative Series Data Stories provide non-traditional, intellectually rigorous, exercises in working with open archaeological data. These engage users in classroom and non-classroom settings through artistic expression and introspection.
In the Creative Series, we teach data literacy skills through experiential learning connected with available open data. One way we did this was by selecting one archaeological data set and generating words associated with it. We ordered these into a prompt calendar to get folks to explore themes from the data set and encourage them to think creatively about the words.
We chose data-driven prompts, in that the themes we picked come from a data set, to focus creative energy towards exercising literacy skills in an atypical but important way. Art is a craft and anything along that spectrum requires dedication to create. So, something like a consistent prompt list encourages people to cultivate that craft. To combine that with specific content, such as archaeological data, allows participants to focus–in the short term–on a specific kind of creative project.
These Data Stories focus on reading, working, analyzing, arguing, and communicating with data through a creative lens. They do this by leveraging existing literacies in creative crafts to re-examining how we read, work with, analyze, argue, and communicate with archaeological data, seeing creative modes, such as haiku, as another way to communicate the narrative of archaeology. This approach engages a different kind of learner and acknowledges how creativity is an important part of humanizing the past.
In addition, Creative Series Data Stories draw from existing practices that inspire people to create and engage with material. We also incorporate best practices by pointing to additional resources. These include the search tutorial and our tips on safely sharing content, to make sure people share their work ethically and in ways that protect their creative rights.
Furthermore, we wrote these Data Stories so that anyone can adapt them! They’re ready to reuse for different archaeological data sets, in various educational settings, and engage diverse archaeological audiences. We can all work to improve our archaeological data literacy by letting our minds play and enjoy making something archaeology inspired. We hope you feel the same and are excited to incorporate such practices into your own pedagogy!