Donald H. Sanders
In an increasingly electronic world, archeological data are appearing in new types of publications and are finding new avenues for dissemination. The definitions of author, publisher and content creator have become blurred, and entities other than the original excavation team are playing important roles. A close collaboration is required between the excavators and the digital designer and publisher to produce text, graphics and organizational layouts. New formats and presentations are so different from traditional print-based publishing that new techniques must emerge for crediting authors and illustrators, peer review and bibliographic citations. This paper addresses some of the changes that digital media bring to the process of archeological publishing.
Imagine walking through a virtual reality re-creation of an ancient site (Figure 1) — a true three- dimensional space, full of sounds, activities, people, furniture, artifacts and architecture that you can experience as if you were really there. When you see an artifact or a piece of wall decoration that interests you, or you have questions about an assemblage, you can either click on the object (Figure 2) to retrieve instantly a collection of information such as drawings, explanatory text or high-resolution models, or you can activate a search window and query a database that contains all the three-dimensional models, photographs, excavation notebook pages and text about the site. The results (Figure 3) will be automatically formatted for you into a temporary document that you can read, print, save to disk or take with you as you continue to stroll through the virtual world. This is a glimpse of the future excavation report; indeed such reports are being created now.
Traditionally, information came in discrete neatly defined blocks — books, chapters, and pages — each with an assigned author. In the example above, however, information comes as linked segments of information dynamically created as a result of specific queries. The three-dimensional space — the virtual world — beyond being a window to the past, is a visual index to all the information published via the re- creation, both accessible and changeable depending on how it is used.
This scenario of information retrieval raises some questions. Who is the author of the document retrieved as a result of your search? Who is the author of the particular scene in the virtual world you are experiencing? Who is responsible for content in such a nonlinear, hyperlinked, multimedia publication, with interactive documents created on the fly as a result of individualized queries? Questions about authorship inevitably lead us to question the definition of a “document,” a “chapter” or a “page.” Are such divisions meaningful in electronic publications that contain animations, sound and virtual reality? Is the term “author” meaningful here?
What happens when a third party — not part of the excavation team and not a publisher in the traditional sense — takes on the roles of both content creator and publisher working in close collaboration with archeologists? How are the traditional definitions of and assumptions about authorship and scholarship affected by this new relationship? What happens to the bibliographic citation conventions?
This paper reviews definitions of “author”, discusses how limitations of traditional paper-based archeological publications have encouraged the rise of digital publishing, discusses how Learning Sites — one of the third-party companies actively producing alternative archeological publications — handles its role of content creator and concludes with some issues raised by the movement towards an all-electronic information universe. Offered here are some possible solutions for assigning and citing authorship in an increasingly digital world.
Definitions of Author
The definitions of author, publisher and content creator blur when entities other than the original excavation team play important roles in the process of data analysis, organization and dissemination. New nonlinear, hyperlinked, multimedia publications bear so little resemblance to traditional monographs that it may be necessary to develop new techniques for such things as crediting authors and illustrators, peer reviewing the results, and citing all or parts of the final work.
The topic of authorship for electronic media only now is coming to the attention of standards organizations and professional societies. For example,
“author” is not one of the basic elements in the Dublin Core — a set of categories or metadata for the description of all kinds of textual and image resources, especially electronic ones. Instead, the Dublin Core has chosen the term “creator” and defines creator as “the person(s) or organization(s) primarily responsible for creating the intellectual content of the resource.”1
On the other hand, the Institute for Scientific Information’ s Hypertext T erminology and Concept Glossary2 defines “author” as the “writer of an article, chapter or other complete work.” There may be multiple authors, and they may be individuals or organizations, but for cataloguing a work, one must be chosen as the primary or senior author.
The University of Texas Southwestern3 has proposed graphic standards and electronic publication policies in which “document” is defined as the basic element for digital publications. In this context, documents mean text, audio, video, graphics and similar information. Although not precisely defined, the standards require that authorship must be indicated on the document.
Traditional archeological publications are prepared in six steps: data collection and analysis, writing, publisher or journal review, editing, publishing and critical review. This pattern has been fairly stable in archeology for two hundred or so years. Each step has specific individuals responsible for specific portions of the whole — specific paragraphs, chapters, appendices and illustrations — and for aspects of the final product such as editing, printing and publishing.
Recently, discontent with this process has contributed to the popularity of electronic publications. The digital environment, perhaps, can mitigate, if not eliminate, perceived problems with traditional methods, such as the high costs of production, the small sample of excavated data that can be published, the difficulty in updating a work on paper when new data or syntheses appear and the high production and distribution costs that limit the audience who can have access to the work.
Electronic publications promise significant improvements by delivering works to a wider audience faster, more efficiently, and with vastly more data and analysis than possible with traditional paper-based publishing. Digital publications are easy to update; they are inexpensive per unit of information to produce and distribute; the end results can be interactive, multi-user, and customizable; and they can offer a vast amount of up-to-the-minute information to the public.
Medicine, high-energy physics and history of technology publishing, for the most part, eschews monographs and instead, prefers the dissemination of scholarly work via articles — and largely in electronic journals. Because most electronic publications in the sciences and elsewhere, however, have tended to be organized like normal text-based works but published in digital form, there is little precedent for the developments outlined here with regard to archeology. The changes described here for our multimedia, virtual- reality-based reporting have serious implications for the way we perceive, cite, and use archeological data.
How Is Learning Sites, Inc. Involved?
Just what these changes are and how they will affect our research and publication will be come clearer after a review of a few examples of how Learning Sites’ staff — with expertise in archeology, architecture, architectural history and information science — collaborates with clients.
For the Assyrian palace of Ashur-nasir-pal II, at Nimrud (Figure 4), we fully participate with an international team of specialists to discuss each reinterpretation of the architecture, sculptural program, decoration, history, and use of the monument. The final monograph, an exceptional research resource, will integrate intelligent agents programmed to lead researchers through the massive amounts of data being collected and presented entirely in virtual reality.
For the religious center of Gebel Barkal, ancient Nubia (Figure 5), we work closely with curators at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, examining primary documents, debating various reconstructions of the architecture and the wall decoration and collaborating in the preparation of analytical text, as we move toward a site-wide electronic report of the current excavations.
Finally, for the Bronze Age settlement of Tsoungiza, Ancient Nemea, Greece (Figure 6), our staff works closely with the excavation leaders to study the architectural remains and collaborate in discussions about construction techniques, use of materials and design for each reconstruction (Figure 7). We also are reworking the excavators’ database into a searchable front-end for our virtual reality re-creations of each trench (Figure 8) resulting in an entirely new mode of studying the site, which will integrate all the excavated information including photographs, drawings, field notebook pages and analyses.
In each case, the three-dimensional modeling techniques and the virtual reality environment led us to new insights about artifacts and buildings and their use that could never have been realized using traditional static, two-dimensional visualization or presentation methods. For each project, we are careful to record who was responsible for each decision, each item of text, each image and each aspect of the three-dimensional models.
When companies like Learning Sites or the Digital Archaeology Laboratory at UCLA step in to organize primary data into one of these exciting new publications, they transform the data into interactive
bits that defy traditional chapter designations, or change the look and even the content as it is recast into the hypertext, multimedia final work. The presentation format, the organizational format, the presentation media and the visualizations that support, supplement and often contain excavation material are largely our creation. These new third parties, while not adding raw data, are responsible for a good portion of the content and are responsible for taking data and analyses and presenting them in ways that offer new insights not possible in linear, static, codex-based works.
Consequences of New E-Formats
How then, can we assign authorship to each interactive bit and to any given constellation of interactive bits? Before concluding with some suggestions, let me enumerate some other consequences of these new electronic works.
How does one peer-review a hypertexted, interactive, nonlinear publication, which will appear different to each reader, depending on the paths chosen or searches performed? What is being reviewed — the text, the links, the interface, the visualizations, the entire package? When virtual reality becomes the container and medium of navigation between the written word, the static image, the moving image and the interactive three-dimensional environment, will the reviewer or editor be fluent enough in all four technologies, in all four interfaces, to move fluidly among computer-based datasets? Further, and more fundamentally, how will reviewers, editors or other scholars know who authored what piece of the whole when there are no chapters, no pages, no neat packages of linear text-only information. And, consequently, how does one cite such a work or a piece of such a work? How does one ascribe an author to a multimedia three- dimensional dynamic screenful of information? Does not critical inquiry rest on being able to present replicable substantiation for arguments? Don’t scholars need to know who authored what opinion so that we can relate this information to the wider body of knowledge by the same person in order to judge the writer’s credibility? If scholarly argument is based on attribution, then don’t we need to be able to cite a person and a specific location from which we got our material?
There are no scholarly precedents for what is happening here. Yes, there are lots of multimedia and even multi-author CDs out there, but since they do not purport to be scholarly publications, there is no pressing need to cite specific information or a single “page” or identify a specific author’s contribution to the final work.
The Association for Computing Machinery has addressed the issue of evaluating e-publications when reviewing for tenure, an important point for their audience because ACM soon will publish only in electronic format. ACM assures readers that “traditional criteria and standards for appointing editorial boards and refereeing papers [and] warrants that scientific papers published electronically in ACM refereed journals meet traditional scientific and engineering standards and should be accorded equal stature with print publications”.4 ACM, however, is referring mainly to papers that are organized like traditional printed text, though stored and accessed digitally.
The interactive, interwoven resources being created by Learning Sites and others for the benefit of archeology are unique. The questions raised here are new; they have been addressed neither by such organizations as the Modern Language Association, the International Intellectual Property Alliance, the European Community’ s Information Society Project reports, the International Organization for Standardization, nor in the Journal of Electronic Publishing or in the Arts and Humanities Data Service standards.
Electronic publications produced, for example, by Learning Sites are not jigsaw puzzles in which there is a single unity of all the myriad bits of information at any stage of its use. One cannot cite an author of a single page because the page or screen of information is dynamic and variable.
One key to the attribution of authorship may be to accept e-publications as simply not the same as codex-based works. Digital publications have many different formats, encompass a different amount of data, provide different methods of presentation and are not linear. Maybe we cannot merely take existing citation and author definitions, created and refined for the codex era, and assume they will work for electronic media. Maybe we need a different paradigm.
To develop a new paradigm, we could look for analogies elsewhere. For instance, making a movie — a multimedia affair with sounds, action, lighting, and words — means taking a written work, and adding creative input and changes from a director, producer, lighting and sound engineers, support staff and actors. An entire crew is responsible for the final work; each individual can build on another’s material. No one part can stand alone and the long list of credits for the final work cites each member of the team who may have had very little to do with the original data or content. However, despite the similarities, we are here dealing with different intentions. Movies and other analogous collaborative works are not meant to be scholarly publications and thus need not answer to the same rigor.
Instead, what if we return to this essay’s initial image of the future; that is, jump over the present uncertainties for a moment. Imagine perusing an electronic publication online. You attach a digital bookmark to an interesting location in the virtual world or tag a bit of information that you may want to cite later. The bookmark will automatically contain your name, e-mail address, date of visit and your personal annotation. Remember we are live and online. When other scholars visit the same site and wish to cite the data, they could choose to see all the bookmarks set by other visiting scholars or only their own — as is possible with electronic reviews at Internet bookstores. Researchers will be able to link directly to that bookmark — the citation itself now — which could also contain information about the path, the multimedia environment and the author of each bit of data in view.
Thus, in an entirely electronic environment it is easier to envision how authorship and citations can be handled. Meantime, the difficulty is creating citations to dynamic digital publications from compartmentalized static paper-based ones. We could maintain some of the format of codices in the electronic works. That is, include traditional linear descriptions and analyses in addition to the hypertext multimedia formats. Scholars could use the interactive aspects for research, but reviewers and tenure committees could opt to read the linear text. The problem here is that the linear blocks of text with single authors bear little relation to the information and interconnections presented in the actual digital publications.
One solution that we are implementing in our electronic publications is to tag each snippet of information with the creator’s initials (Figure 9). Each piece of text, each image, each virtual reality texture is linked to its creator’s background information and level of contribution. Although citations may be cumbersome, at least authorship can be maintained, and critical analyses and tenure reviews can continue with attributions intact. This is all feasible now, and provides a relatively painless transition to a more electronic future when still newer methods of disseminating archeological information appear.
The transition period we are now in will not likely supply the entire solution; things will evolve as we come to grips with emerging technologies and begin fully to take advantage of new options. Nevertheless, there is no reason to stop trying to advance our understanding of cultural history, nor our visualization and presentation of our interpretations. This is an exciting time for our profession, with still untapped resources on the horizon, such as three-dimensional semantic networks, projection holograms and multi- user stereo virtual worlds.
Certainly, in archeology’s digital future, there will still be individuals who will write descriptions and analyses, who will be the signatories and whose e-mail will be linked to the result, but the responsibility for the whole, for the content and presentation of the work, will likely reside with a much larger group than is common today. Our study of the past need not rely on methods of the past.
1. Stuart Weibel. Discovering Online Resources. The Dublin Core: A Simple Content Description Model for Electronic Resources. Arts and Humanities Data Service. Nov. 17, 1997. .
2. ISI Hypertext Terminology and Concept Glossary. Institute of Scientific Information. 1999. .
3. Publishing on the WWW Server at UT Southwestern. University of Texas Southwestern. Sept. 1, 1997. .
4. ACM Policy on The Quality of Refereed Electronic Publications. Association for Computing Machinery. Jan. 15, 1997.