|Vol. VIII, No. 4
Scholarship and Electronic Data
by H. Eiteljorg, II
The computer workshops at the AIA annual meeting were well attended again this year, and the session dealing with electronic publication was especially lively.
Scholars were eager to discuss the pros and cons of publishing electronically. There were, as one would expect in such a fast-changing area, more questions than answers, but the questions and discussion were illuminating.
The most interesting discussions centered around the problems with scholarly uses of the Internet, not the problems of making material available but those of finding, using, citing, and relying upon the material on the net. So much is made available in preliminary reports or in otherwise impermanent forms that, as one scholar put it, every electronic reference must be re-checked at the last minute for accuracy. Even then, the references may become obsolete or inaccurate at any time. How, then, can traditional scholarship be accomplished if the citations are not reliable?
There is, of course, no simple answer to this question. There is no way to be certain that something read on the World Wide Web today will be there tomorrow - or that the document will be the same tomorrow. Nor is there any guarantee that the same document, if available, will be found at the same address. The ease with which documents may be made available on the Web promotes quick publication, but it also promotes frequent alterations and replacements. Similarly, the frequent changes of computer configurations at academic institutions often necessitate changes in computer addresses for access, rendering citations useless.
One aid for those who use information from the Internet is careful labeling of the material published. That can be done for a group of items, articles in an electronic journal, for instance, or for individual items placed on the Web or made available through the Internet. Whether individually or in groups, preliminary reports should be labeled as such; so should final reports. Indeed, much fuller labeling is required. We should indicate whether a document is expected to be revised in the future, whether it has been subjected to peer review, and how it is maintained. Other information would be desirable as well, and a range of such information about any document can and should be made available along with the document itself. Images used with the document(s) should be similarly treated. Here is a suggested list of such information. I hope that readers will respond with further suggestions and comments.
- Computer file name
- Author and author's address for contact (not only the electronic address)
- Revision history, including date of original creation, date of last revision, and plans for future revisions
- Review processes (explicitly including none if that is the case)
- Paper publication history (of the current and/or previous revisions)
- Internet access information, including the institution responsible for maintaining the data and the individual (or his/her title) responsible for the particular files at that institution
- Long-term availability
- Location(s) of prior versions if available
- Citation permissions and copyright information, including specific limits on citation or use
To test these categories, I have considered what should be known by users of two documents made available by CSA, the CAD model of the older propylon from the Athenian Acropolis (files to be downloaded, not directly accessible throught the Web) and my description of the CSA Layer Naming Convention. The following should be known about the CAD model:
- Title: CAD model of the older propylon (Acropolis, Athens, Greece)
- File name: opropmod.dwg (AutoCAD drawing file format) and opropmod.dxf (drawing interchange format)
- Creator: Harrison Eiteljorg, II, c/o Center for the Study of Architecture (CSA), Box 60, Bryn Mawr, PA 19010, (e-mail: user nicke at (@) the domain csanet.org; tel.: 484.612.5862)
- Revision history: This model has been in preparation continuously since 1985. It has been updated and remade more or less constantly during that time. The current version was made available in February, 1996. It includes the CAD model itself and associated database files. All may be downloaded, but none is directly accessible with a Web browser. The document, as opropmod.dwg and/or as opropmod.dxf, may be retrieved via ftp. Although changes in the CAD model are not planned, they are certainly possible. Three database files are associated with the file. One contains information about the individual blocks that remain in situ. A second contains information about the layer names. The third contains notes regarding specific conditions and interpretations; it is still being revised and its format refined. The current versions of the database files also date to February, 1996. Images associated with the file are of two kinds. There are drawings made from the file; they can be reproduced by users with a CAD system, and instructions for producing each drawing are included in the captians. The photographs posted were taken by Harrison Eiteljorg, II. Each is dated in its caption; other information about each photograph is also included in the caption. (Further information about the data files and the image files is available and will be supplied with those files.)
- Review process: This CAD model has not been subjected to peer review. Changes to correct very minor errors may not be noted.
- Paper publication history: Although it is not possible to publish a CAD model on paper, drawings from the model were published in The Entrance to the Acropolis Before Mnesicles by Harrison Eiteljorg, II, Archaeological Institute of America, Boston, MA, 1995.
- Internet access: This CAD model is maintained at csaws.brynmawr.edu by the Center for the Study of Architecture and Harrison Eiteljorg, II. (This site has been replaced by www.csanet.org/archive/csaarchive. - 11 July 2000) Note that there may be changes in computer addresses that are beyond the control of CSA.
- Long-term availability: This document is deemed to be of significant archival value. Although not directly accessible with current technology, it will be permanently archived at CSA; old versions will be maintained if there are changes to the current model. The file will be migrated as necessary to new CAD formats. The technology will permit other scholars to connect their interpretations or suggested corrections to this model without compromising the integrity of the original; such additions, if any, will be noted here. (The database files and the photographs will also be archived; the drawings, since they can be reproduced, will not.)
- Citation permissions and copyright information: The model, database files, drawings, and photographs are copyrighted by the Center for the Study of Architecture. Users should not cite the drawings, since they are not archived and may not always be available for reference. None of the files, illustrations, or drawings may be reproduced without the explicit permission of CSA. However, CSA will readily grant free use of the materials for scholarly purposes.
* * * * *
The following should be known about the CSA Layer Naming Convention:
- Title: "CSA Layer Naming Convention"
- File name: csalnc.html
- Author: Harrison Eiteljorg, II, c/o Center for the Study of Architecture (CSA), Box 60, Bryn Mawr, PA 19010, (e-mail: email@example.com; tel.: 610-526-7925) (Mr. Eilteljorg's email address is currently firstname.lastname@example.org. - 11 July 2000)
- Revision history: This is the first electronic version of this document. It is not deemed to be a preliminary publication, and there are no plans for revisions; should revisions be made, however, this version will remain available at the CSA Web site under the name csalnc.html, or access to it will be provided at that site and under that name; posted February, 1996.
- The only illustrations used in this document should need no revision unless the document is revised. Corrections of typographic errors will not be noted.
- Review process: The document has not been subjected to prior peer review but has been revised regularly after consultation with other scholars.
- Paper publication history: Articles about the CSA Layer Naming Convention were written for the CSA Newsletter - first version in the issue for May, 1988 (v. I, no. 1: "Layer Naming Conventions Important in CAD"); revised in the issue for November, 1989 (v. II, no. 3: "Preliminary Proposals for Archaeological Layering Convention"); further revised in November, 1990 (v. III, no.3: "Layering Standards - Some Changes"); revised again in February, 1991 (v. III, no. 4: "Layer Naming Convention - Again"); extended in May, 1991 (v. IV, no.1: "Layer Names for Excavations"); and last revised in February, 1993 (v. V, no. 4: "Layer Names Again"). This electronic version is based on that last revision but has been altered slightly. Prior versions may be available through the CSA Newsletter Web site, http:// csaws.brynmawr.edu/web1/ index.html). (This site has been replaced by www.csanet.org/newsletter. - 11 July 2000)
- Internet access: This document is maintained at csaws.brynmawr.edu by the Center for the Study of Architecture and Harrison Eiteljorg, II. Note that there may be changes in computer addresses that are beyond the control of CSA.
- Long-term availability: This document and/or its successors will be maintained for electronic access until the technology makes the information useless. When it is no longer directly accessible, it will remain in the CSA archive.
- Citation permissions and copyright information: This document is copyrighted by the Center for the Study of Architecture. Citations should include the date of the document cited. The document may not be reproduced without the explicit permission of CSA. However, CSA will readily grant free use for scholarly purposes.
* * * * *
For the CAD model, which scholars may wish to use at any time, it is crucial to know about archival storage. The model is a part of the data record and should remain so. This is the case for any data that is made available in electronic form, including CD-ROMs, since all such data files have finite shelf lives. Where will the original be kept and how?
For the document concerning layer naming, which is a practical aid but contains no irreplaceable data, the history of its many revisions may be of interest to someone studying the development of the application of CAD to archaeology. Otherwise, it is not the kind of document many scholars will wish to access when its practical utility has ended.
Attempting to write this article has helped me to consider carefully the kinds of information that should be available, and adding examples helped yet more. But I hope that reader reaction will lead to more and better categories of information. Meanwhile, as many rush to add information to the electronic corpus, we users must insist upon the kinds of information discussed here. We need standards concerning the supporting information, but we cannot wait for standards to be developed by others. Nor can we stand by without complaint if materials are made available without adequate supporting information.
For other Newsletter articles concerning the use of electronic media in the humanities, consult the Subject index.
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