So… I’m interested in the potential for eBay to be of use to public archaeology research as a database of objects that can give some level of access to information about how people relate to objects. There are also the sellers themselves. What I wanted to do with this mini-project, after a bit of a play with the data I collected, was speak to eBay sellers about their use of eBay. I’m not directly interested in the issue of ‘illicit antiquities’ this month, largely because it is a well-covered topic and also partly because I think that debate can be a bit of a barrier. I’ll post on the subject this week. What I am more interested in for PA2015 is how much people know about where the things they are selling came from, whether they’re interested in knowing more about where they go and how active they are.
It was my first intention to send a survey link out to all of the sellers whose data I had collected back in November, but I decided against sending about 750 unsolicited emails through eBay. Instead, I wrote to two sellers for each of my artefact types asking if I could send them a survey link. I had four replies. Three of them said no. One said yes, but didn’t go on to complete the survey. So, precisely zero public engagement.
I was not hoping to collect statistics with this exercise, at least not after I gave up on the mass mailing. What I hoped to do was engage a couple of regular eBay sellers who I could work with to understand better how people relate to objects within the eBay context and to become (eventually)’ eBay archaeologists’, using their normal eBay interactions to develop and spread knowledge about the people-object networks created and enacted by the forum.
Although this failed for PA2015, it is not an end. I’m hopeful of still being able to speak to some eBay sellers at some point and I think the idea of eBay archaeologists is interesting and useful. Also, the kind of archaeology going into the idea is, as far as I am aware, quite unusual for public archaeology contexts.
What I would like in response to this post is to hear other stories of public archaeology ‘failures’. It’s not something we hear about enough and a few other people I have been chatting too have been very interested in the subject. Please add comments below and gather them together into a post at some point this month.