I am critiquing an article from an academic journal titled, “A New Digital Dark Age? Collaborative Web Tools, Social Media and Long-Term Preservation,” by Stuart Jeffrey. This article looks to discuss ways of how digital media and the archiving of data using forms of digital media could potentially help the field of archeology. While this seems to be the focus in the abstract and introduction of the article, the focus generally is put upon digital media and its temporary dark ages. Very light references back to digital media’s help to the archaeological world are touched upon briefly in various sections discussing digital media storage and sharing abilities. It becomes clear to see that the author is using the official style as a way to strengthen his argument for the digitization of archeological records by intentionally creating his points with an overly wordy, professional sounding backing. He then uses the official style in a way that pinpoints current archeological operations as the wrong choice by simply diving into the thesaurus for negative words that undermine the current methods of excavating and saving artifacts in archeology as villainous without having to saying it in a straightforward way. Why would Jeffrey use the official style as a device to dismiss the current practices of archeology? Because he is involved in the field of archeology and might not want to be held accountable as a single person for exposing some of the flaws in the current system while still being able to bring up his own ideas for new for new methods under the cover of a collective which is generally how the official style reads to the average person.
As the article begins, its introduction begins with the line, “Archeology is a discipline whose practice is often predicated on the idea that the information being generated by its practitioners will be available in the long term for reuse and reanalysis.” This first sentence describing archeology contains four “is” verbs and three prepositional phrases. It’s really a long way of saying that archeology is a field where found information is shared and reused frequently, at least that's how it appears at first glance. A deeper reading will reveal that Jeffrey has already shown that the current practice of data findings for reuse is an unfit system. Using passive voice and starting with “Archeology is,” Jeffrey is trying to create a definition for archeology. He is using the official style to exert power over the field of archeology in this sentence, especially with the prepositional phrase, “on the idea that.” This is a device used to make a point that the idea that this practice in archeology doesn't always hold up to “the idea.” Already the sense of abstraction is well above the seventh grade reading level. The second sentence in the introduction provides the impactful blow to archeology that the first sentence was hinting at. Jeffrey writes, “While this can be said to be true of most academic endeavors, it is a particularly potent notion in archaeology due to the intrinsically destructive nature of the excavation process.” “While this can be said to be true of,” is an extremely unneeded phrase. This writing style and use of the official style can clearly be seen as showing extreme finesse work trying to impress the reader while building up to the meat of the argument. By using words combinations such as “potent notion” and “intrinsically destructive,” he artfully sets a negative charge to archeology while explaining why archeology practices the reuse of found data as he stated in the first sentence.
The author goes on to mention how older digital medias that once helped share and save archeological data are no longer safe to use to make the data last on a long scale. It seems that he is not trying to use the official style to exert the power here, but he uses vagueness by switching activity systems to explain how technology in the past has not always been the best option for sharing archeological samples. While talking about the digital dark age, he uses a sentence that demonstrates this point by saying, “The potential that significant volumes of important work have been generated using software packages or stored on physical media that will become unreadable and inaccessible is a serious one.” This sentence contains technological jargon that might be assumed as common knowledge. By placing the words “unreadable” and “inaccessible” next to each other, the author has intended for this to create alarm. He finishes this example by pointing out an example of when this happened, but does not explain it. This is where I would like to see many examples pointed out or a few explained in slight detail for the point to come across without the official style. By simply saying, “(for a good example, see Dunning 2001)” at the end of the thought concerning how data has been lost in the past forces the reader to believe what the author is saying. It creates a belief that this problem is extremely common although there is only one example given in parentheses.
He follows this with new and improved ways of securing archeological data using digital media. When I read through this section, I kept wondering why these new methods wouldn’t eventually become obsolete like the old methods that Jeffrey has mentioned to be problems. This is where he uses the official style to really sound intelligent. When listing one of the ways of new archiving, Jeffrey writes “One of the most widely acknowledged approaches to the practical matter of preserving digital data for the long term is the Open Archival Information System (OAIS) reference model (CCSDS 2002). OAIS comprises hundreds of pages of guidance and good practice and makes clear the importance of open file formats, data migration, robust and distributed hardware infrastructure and the necessity of discovery, access and delivery systems. It does not, however, detail the specifics of day-to-day practice. Actual digital preservation based on OAIS can be enormously complex.” This contains many terms that people without knowledge of computer storage wouldn’t be able to understand. While offering this as one of a few suggestions for new digital archival methods, he doesn’t offer solutions seen as permanent in the way of not becoming obsolete. With technology progressing greatly on a yearly basis, this article offers up new ideas using the official style as insurance to the reader that new ways of digital archiving will be around forever.
The official style when used in legal documents is often used to confuse. In academic documents such as this one that I have critiqued, it is used more artfully to set tones of arguments and to sound intelligent to readers to lead them in the direction that the author feels is right. Jeffrey constantly uses words to strike emotions throughout the text that would be able to make readers feel a certain way about a topic without fully understanding everything being discussed through the use of the official style. This paper could have been summed up without the official style, but would have lost the vague negativity placed upon archaeological archival systems and the technology of yesterday. It wouldn’t have been able to persuade me to think that the new technologies discussed could be sustainable and unable to become obsolete as quickly as the old technologies. Overall, he used the official style to author an intelligent suggestion in the field of technology that readers might not understand, but would potentially be supportive of because of its professional nature.
By S.P. Michael