Harrison Eiteljorg, II
(See email contacts page for the author's email address.)
The underlying point debated by CSA Board Member Sam Francis and myself about the nature of the web -- art form or publication medium -- deserves some discussion as it applies to scholarship on the web. We were both right, of course. The web (for organizations like CSA at least) is a system for information dissemination that is rapidly supplanting print; at the same time, designing web pages is part art and part technical facility, with choices reflecting individual preferences. Design, though, does not occur in a vacuum. Any web site is designed for the specific users and purposes of its producers. The CSA site and the Propylaea site, for instance, have scholarly pretensions and assume their audiences are primarily scholars or serious students. That being the case, one issue is of particular importance, and it as much about content as design: including citation information or the scholarly apparatus for materials on the web.1
The recent redesign of the site did not change the information we include about each page at the bottom of the page. We present that information -- author, date, file name, permanence information, and the like -- not because it is standard on the web but because I believe strongly that the scholarly apparatus is absolutely critical for our audience. This practice is sufficiently unusual that it nearly always generates some discussion.
Many web documents need no such attributions; some surely do, at the least articles in scholarly journals (e.g., Bryn Mawr Classical Review and Internet Archaeology) and other scholarly work placed on the web. So the real question is, "Which web documents need scholarly citation information?" I see three important reasons for specifying author, date of posting, permanence and the like for some materials:
The idea that citation information should be included on a web page is not anomalous. Along with other journals, both the American Journal of Archaeology (at www.ajaonline.org/pdfs/111.1/AJA1111_Editorial_Policy.pdf) and American Antiquity (at saa.org/Portals/0/SAA/Publications/StyleGuide/styleguide.pdf) have citation policies that require authors (individuals or agencies) for electronic documents.3 However, regardless of these indicators, important scholarship on the web too often lacks the kind of scholarly notation that would be included in a print edition, and some is ambiguous in a way paper publications would not be. For example, the web site for the excavations at the Athenian Agora includes a rather lengthy discussion of various issues from Athenian democracy, divided into some thirty sections. No authorship is stated; oddly enough, though, drawings and computer-generated models are attributed to their producers by name. Little of this is scholarship in the sense of project results, but the material is a product of a scholarly project. Should there be authors, or is this simply a kind of online encyclopedia? In this context, one should note that a paper publication, The Athenian Citizen. Democracy in the Athenian Agora, is listed among the publications of the project, and its author, Mabel Lang, is named. Indeed, all items listed on the site as publications or reports, including small booklets similar in content to these web pages, have named authors (see www.agathe.gr/research?q=&v=list&sort=dc-contributor%20asc&pid=&t=publication and www.agathe.gr/research?q=&v=list&sort=dc-contributor%20asc&pid=&t=report).
The Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago illustrates well what I take to be an unspoken division between paper as publication medium and the web as something other. If one selects Research Projects from the home page and then archaeology, the page shows In The Field, and In Publication or Inactive. I looked at each of the latter and found that, in every case, the page to which I was directed had no author. To be fair, some were virtually empty of content; others, however, were relatively long and detailed, especially the pages about the Bir Umm Fawakhir Project, the Diyala Project, and the the Landscape Studies in Upper Mesopotamia. The publications listed for each (all apparently published on paper originally, so far as I could tell) always had a designated author. This distinction between author for paper publication and anonymity for web publication seems pervasive.
Çatalhöyükoffers another interesting case study. The web site is extensive and includes a great deal of material. All Archive Reports have stated authors and this comment at the bottom of the page with the list of such reports: "The reports presented here were originally written for a paper publication, no attempt has been made to edit them beyond conversion to html [though some are PDF files], as they remain the original author's work." In contrast, the Mission Statement and History carry only copyright indications (to the project only, no individual). The Site Management Plan also lacks a specific author, but it might reasonably be considered a product of the project, not an individual. In addition, the database information, which is unusually well documented, has no indicator of any person or persons responsible. Similarly, the photographs (actually at the Flickr site) have no named photographer so far as I could tell upon quick inspection of only a small portion of the whole. The link to illustrations also goes off the main site -- to the personal site of the illustrator, where a selection of illustrations may be seen at relatively small size. Videos are accessed without seeming to leave the basic web site; none is attributed to a maker. Instead, the name of the speaker is given. Following the News link, I found an item entitled "Remixing Çatalhöyük Launches." While this item had a long list of attributions at the conclusion; no author is among them. Absent the long list of credits, the missing author might have seemed acceptable. However, if that many people4 can be named, . . . .
The home page of the Gordion Archaeological Project lists four "New Articles," each of which is a relatively short item. The term articles suggests the need for authors; no author is named.
I checked the OpenConext archival site for the basic page for the Petra Great Temple Excavations and the basic page for the Domuztepe Excavations. In both cases the basic project description was unsigned and undated. Both statements are short, but they should be considered definitive since they are the lead statements for the archives of the projects' data. [Note added 3 May 2010: The OpenContext Project Lead and Editor, Eric Kansa and Sarah Whitcher Kansa, have indicated that the absence of citation information was an error - see the comments page. Citation information is now included on the relevant web pages.]
Turning to the New World, I looked at the site for the Chaco Stratigraphy Project and found something very predictable in my experience. I found there a group of timelines, one for Architecture and Settlement Patterns, one for Environmental Variables, and one for Material Culture. Each of these timelines had substantial scholarly information [e.g, "bone and nonlocal turquoise and shell from Gulf of California (Olivella & Glycymeris)" in the Material Culture timeline showing Ornaments/Minerals for the period from 550 to 600 C.E.], but no timeline had any indication of authorship. When the information is not in text form, the lack of attribution is rather general on the web. None of the sites I examined had careful descriptions of responsibility for non-text information.5
It seems likely that archaeology is somewhat unique in that archaeologists need to put onto the web the results of major projects. They need electronic publication forms that go well beyond the electronic journal. That need will probably accelerate because it is so expensive to print the kinds of large (and large-format) books that are required to disseminate all that is learned from a major long-term excavation or survey project and because so much that is now recorded can only be effectively shared in digital form. Indeed, many projects start a web site immediately, though such sites are often casual at the outset. At some point, however, the materials on the web become the true product of the project; then those materials must be treated as publications in the traditional sense -- even the non-text materials. At that point authorship/responsibility, date, permanence, and similar concerns must be taken seriously.
Looking about on the web I have found plentiful examples of signed and unsigned material. There seems to be no standard, and often the difference is between a web item that has a paper counterpart (and therefore a defined author?) and one that does not. Does that reflect the kinds of materials now available or a new sensibility? Indeed, it has been suggested that I am simply betraying my age by expecting the web to continue a tradition tied to print. So I close here with a request for comments. Assuming scholarly material on the web should observe the traditional niceties by identifying authors and dates of posting, is it possible to draw a clear line between that which requires the citation information and that which does not? If so, where should that line be? Should everything not also put on paper remain anonymous? Are the issues of credibility and pride of authorship relevant here, or is the only issue providing information for citation? I see this as a truly significant question for scholars and scholarship because there seem to be no established protocols; I hope readers will join in a lively debate.
-- Harrison Eiteljorg, II
1. That was the subject of an article I wrote for the CSA Newsletter nearly fifteen years ago, ("Scholarship and Electronic Data," VIII, 4; February, 1996). I wrote then about the problems "of finding, using, citing, and relying upon the material on the net. . . . How, then, can traditional scholarship be accomplished if the citations are not reliable?" From that time forward, Susan Jones and I took our own comments seriously and included citation information at the conclusion of virtually every CSA web page, including those for the CSA Propylaea Project (save individual CSA Newsletter articles, which are treated as parts of a larger, single resource defined on the introductory page for the CSA Newsletter). We used a button at the top of the page with the single word "ABOUT" on it to link to the information; there was also associated text saying "Citation Information." The button has been changed to read "ABOUT THIS PAGE," and the accompanying text has been removed in the hope that this will prevent confusion between our use of the term about and its common use elsewhere on the web -- generally to indicate a separate page telling users about the web site as a whole. Return to text.
2. In the case of archaeological project web sites, unfortunately, the process of putting materials on the web is often overseen by relatively inexperienced and junior members of the team because they have the time and/or skills. As a result, relying upon material because it comes from a project web site may ill-advised. Return to text.
3. A quick look at two recent issues of both journals shows that, in general, the bibliographic references are complete with author and date of publication. There were a few differences. In one instance, a company was the listed author (and I could not find the web page); in another photographs from the National Park Service were listed without attribution (again at a URL I could not find). Oddly, one reference without author was to a page that explicitly (and in red print on screen) stated how the citation should be handled, and an author and electronic journal article were listed. An organization's name was used in one case, but the URL was again not helpful. I did find the document, and it was a formal project report issued by the Center for Desert Archaeology without a named author. No case of a web resource that lacked some level of attribution, save those photographs about which I could learn nothing, was found. Return to text.
4. Credits include persons named as/for "Project Sponsors," "Principal Investigator," "Project Director," "Director of Data Services," "Principal Investigator," "'Remixing' Team", "Content Direction," "Pilot Instructor," and "Video Production." Also included are funding thanks and a date of posting (down to the minute!) along with a list of something akin to keywords. Return to text.
5. I should be clear that I did not have to search widely to find the examples. Only three projects not mentioned here were examined; two of those, The Pylos Regional Archaeological Project, Internet Edition and the Minnesota Archaeological Researches in the Western Peloponnese (MARWP), seemed fully to state authorship where appropriate. The third did not.
During the preparation of this article I checked the Propylaea site and found that there was no clear description of my own responsibility for one of the CAD models. I added that quickly, looking sheepishly over my shoulder as I did so. Return to text.
An index by subject for all CSA Newsletter issues may be found at csanet.org/newsletter/nlxref.html; included there are listings for articles concerning the use of electronic media in the humanities and Electronic publishing.
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