At TAG2014 I attended an excellent session framed as a debate on instrumentalism in archaeology. The idea of a debate is an important part of the intellectual culture of Britain (and of course many other countries) but I was increasingly frustrated by the way that many debates became panel discussions and disagreements were saved for the pub – often with opposing sides talking about, rather than to each other. Debate and Dissent in UK Heritage
So for TAG2015 I proposed a formal debate with a fixed structure I described the proposal here
It was difficult to find speakers prepared to propose that archaeological resources were finite and non-renewable, despite that being the position that underpins much of our legislation. Since the proposition, or government, side is more difficult, I flipped the proposal and was able to find excellent speakers for all sides, Cornelius Holtorf (@) and myself for the proposition, Mike Nevell (@) and Harald Fredheim (@) for the opposition. We also had a great ‘Speaker of the House’ Paul Belford (@).
We had some technical difficulties as JANET, the UK’s educational network, suffered a DDoS attack and Cornelius as our first speaker had planned to Skype in from Sweden – relying on mobile phones took away from some of the impact of his presentation, but not his arguments.
We also had really great audience participation by way of speeches from the floor encouraged by our Speaker of the House. Honourable mention should go to the undergraduate students from Chester who took the plunge and brought some very interesting points to the discussion.
The wonderful openaccessarchaeology.org were filming sessions at TAG this year and have just released the video of the debate. It was a close thing, but I’ll leave the result of the division (or vote) at the end of the debate as surprise for when you watch it.
What do you think? Feel free to continue the debate in the comments.
Cornelius’ argument also underpins his guest post on destruction