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The recent “digital turn” in archaeology has driven methodological advances and opened new research avenues, with wide ranging impacts at multiple scales. The proliferation of methods such as 3D imaging, remote sensing, laser scanning and photogrammetry has led to the datafication of archaeology [Caraher 2016: 467, Mayer-Schönberger et al. 2013: 73]. This process is most evident in research on digital surveying, data visualization, digital archiving, mapping, and image processing, which prioritize the creation and manipulation of large digital datasets. These research avenues often generate more intellectual traffic than “slow archaeology” routes [Caraher 2016], which adopt a reflexive approach to knowledge production, embrace the inherent complexity of digital datasets, emphasize craft modes of archaeological documentation [Perry 2015], and “highlight the value of small and properly contextualized data” [Kansa 2016: 466]. Confronting the growing tension between big data and slow archaeology will be an iterative process. It will evolve as researchers and other stakeholder groups assess the value of digital approaches to preserving, communicating, and interpreting the past as it relates to the present. This special issue of Studies in Digital Heritage is the outcome of a symposium at the 2018 Society for American Archaeology (SAA) conference in Washington, D.C., entitled “Digital Heritage Technologies, Applications, and Impacts.” The articles within contribute to this dialogue by critically assessing the challenges and successes of recent digital heritage projects in museums, teaching and fieldwork contexts.
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