Thursday, 7 February 2013

Let’s work for free! An internship anyone?

After a trip to a workshop in Groningen, I am back to write about an important contemporary issue that effects not just landscape archaeology but all archaeology. I will return to the themes I have been thinking about even before the workshop, namely computing, later during the month.

There are clear signs that the professional archaeology is stepping back in time – just as apparently the whole education system is taking a leap back to the 1950s. The highly laudable effort that is DigVentures when it is resurrecting the excavations of Flag Fen is now advertising for an intern. Similarly to the political internships this one does not mention any salary nor does it mention any expenses either, even if much of the early meetings will take place in London. The internship requires two months commitment and basically this person will take care of the social networking and web side of the interaction by DigVentures – or should I say advertisement.

Harsh times require new remedies, but making budding archaeologists to work for free without tying the scheme to any of the existing MA/MSc programmes that require periods of practical work embedded in the year of study is problematic. This work experience could have fitted nicely to the computing or media courses there have been in places like Bristol, London and Southampton. Failing to make sure that the unpaid work would 'pay' in this way suggests that the not-so-laudable practices are creeping into archaeology. Naturally, small companies wish to keep themselves afloat and nothing is more economic than a free employee.

The ethical dilemma in this case lies squarely on the fact that this intern will be essential in keeping the company afloat. The interaction and web presence will engage people and get them to part from their money. Bluntly put this person working for free will help the certain number of archaeologists be paid through their payroll in DigVentures. This is OK, if the person 'interned' will get a tangible outcome out of the experience. The work experience may be enough, if the person is a student and the internship will count towards his/hers degree. Perhaps DigVentures will pay this person in the future for his/hers services. In any case they have to make him/her feel valuable and compensate for the fact that that person will help them to get their salaries.

I for one have never been in the position to rely on my relatives for my income; thus, archaeology or something else has to pay. This is the situation with most of the people who have entered archaeology during the eighties, nineties and noughties. Paying for work is the only way to keep people in archaeology and make sure that our interpretations take into account the experiences of the widest possible width of population. Otherwise we are back in the situation where archaeology will become an ivory tower of independently wealthy again.

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