University of Southampton OCS (beta), CAA 2012

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Principles of human-computer interaction in fieldwork software. Study of the archaeologist as a user and its implications
Patricia Martín-Rodilla

Last modified: 2011-12-20


Current trends in the study and application of interaction human-computer principles are based on a user-centered design (Zhang, Dong; 2009). Studies with parameters like age, sex or the user’s level of technical knowledge are common.


On the other hand, the modern archaeology works produce a lot of information and the sector demands the use of digital techniques in the fieldwork. There are studies in the state of the art (Warwick, Fisher; 2009) that analyze the use of different technologies in these contexts. Besides, archaeologists use IT (Information Technologies) since 80's (Laflin 1982), with continuous reviews over the years. Actually, the use of IT to manipulate and to visualize the information about an excavation is common (Lock, 2003).

However, the main focus in these studies are centered in the way of use (Warwick, Fisher; 2009), and is not centered in the main characteristics of the fieldworks and of the user.


There are other software contexts (Rosinki and Squire, 2009, Edmondson and Beale 2010) and ergonomic designs of prototypes (Blackler, 2010) with a methodology to study the user of the system from a cognitive perspective, observing the user’s reactions and impressions to handle a fieldwork tool and the interaction and characteristics of the discipline.


Current archaeologist is in a mess of systems and software tools to process and derive information, trying to get value to his research. However, there are not literature about a deep study of fieldwork methodologies and possibilities of extraction of knowledge in these contexts. This procedure allows adapting the software designs to the individual and discipline’s characteristics.


This paper analyses the different software functions in the fieldwork context and the principles of interaction human-computer that follows. The paper identifies a group of unresolved questions about the real adaptation of these systems to the user and defends a study of mental maps and forms of information organization of archaeologists as users. Answering these questions will allow to refine and to apply the principles to the design of software systems both in the fieldwork and in other contexts in archaeology, improving the adaptability of the systems and the quality and satisfaction.

Blackler,A; Popovic,V. ”Investigating users” intuitive interaction with complex artifacts”. Applied Ergonomics 41 (2010) 72–92.

Rosinki,P; Squire,M. “Strange Bedfellows: Human-Computer Interaction, Interface Design, and Composition Pedagogy”. Computers and Composition 26 (2009) 149–163

Edmondson, W; Rusell, B. “Projected Cognition – extending Distributed Cognition for the study of human interaction with computers” Interacting with Computers 20 (2008) 128–140.

Laflin, S. “Computer Applications in Archaeology”. University of Birmingham: Centre for Computing & Computer Science. (1982).

Lock, G. Using Computers in Archaeology. London: Routledge. (2003).

Warwick,C.; Fisher, C. et al. “iTrench: A Study of User Reactions to the use of Information Technology in Field Archaeology”. Lit Linguist Computing 24 (2) (2009). 211-223.

Zhang T.; Dong H. “Human-centered design: an emergent conceptual model.” Royal College of Art, (2009) April 8-10. London. ISBN: 978-1-905000-80-7.


fieldwork software, HCI, adaptative systems, user, archaeologist, archaeological context