AGAIN: sharing the data

Stefano Costa
Sun Sep 24 23:01:38 CEST 2006

Il giorno sab, 23/09/2006 alle 19.21 +0100, Chris Puttick ha scritto:
> >  files are now best in ISO 26300 (Open Document Format) 
> one might disagree. holding text in what is simply standardized 
> word-processor format is not as useful as it might be.
> >>> Depends on the file type - by files I was implying office
>  productivity files, and for those ISO 26300 is pretty much the only
>  preservation choice, and holds far more meaning than is present just
>  in text, numbers and pictures.

Current archaeological work can be done without ever using an office
suite. ODF is good for what it was meant for - bureaus and the like. But
I second you on the fact that standards (ISO, or similar ones) are
missing here.

> > Metadata is in reality an open question. Dublin core plus some real
>  basics (site location (name/lat,long), relevant historical periods,
>  ?). After that, well, that's a long, heated discussion. it is indeed
>  :-} "relevant historical periods" is a nice wrapper for a can of
>  worms.
> >>> And that sort of definition work I'll leave to the specialists,
>  with a plea (a demand) that they leave and explain room for
>  interpretation. The further details of a preservation and access
>  solution is the one I'm really interested in further discussion of...

There's really a lot of stuff out there about metadata and ontologies
(which are strictly tied just because metadata are not so useful on
their own - machines should be able to "understand" them).

> > I think it's important to remember that we preserve for social
>  reasons, not for the specialists now. Bu then I'm not a specialist. >
> >   by "social", you mean "political" there?
> by why do you collect data if _not_ to preserve?
> >>> By social I mean for society e.g. for the likes of me, a common
>  non-archaeologist tax payer, rather than just or even primarily for
>  the experts and researchers; and then not just me now but future
>  generations. This a) means we cannot presume what is meaningless and
>  therefore discard it and (b) we should consider the marginal value of
>  the work done as part of the preservation of the record.

> >>> And on why do we collect data? Depends who you ask - definitely
>  seems for some archaeologists it is primarily for their own ends -
>  this type demonstrate limited interest in what happens to the data
>  once they have studied it and written about it. Personally I preserve
>  because I should and I can. And it's my job ;-).

This is not an archaeology-only problem. Public entities collect
archives of everything that is falling under their domain, including
archaeological data, that we are collecting for our purposes (research,
preservation, or whatever one might want to do while being an
archaeologist). This is what can be done for the tax payers, and as one
of them I really don't like archives (especially archaeological ones)
being locked, secret, unmanageable places as they are - at least in

Previously on this list I had written about this issue that I value data
sharing far more than preservation per se. Sharing makes sense because
it is a powerful mean for selecting valuable contents and disregarding
others. If everything gets collected but nothing gets evaluated and
used, why collect?

But one cannot collect everything: we have to make selections, it's not
a choice but a must. Digital archives are far less heavy than old ones,
but they don't come at no cost. Data storage needs to be paid and though
its immaterial nature it needs however some physical space. (Though I
admit this is not a strong point).

And if you are worried about data selection and preservation for future
generations, don't forget that there are people in archaeology who use
to think that we are making (sometimes unconscious) selections at every
stage of our research, from early projects through data collecting, to
their publication and dissemination. I don't agree 100% with those
theories, but I just think we can't ignore this issue when we talk about

There are great differences between Italy and UK, but I see there are
subscribers from other countries too that I would like to hear about.

Best regards,


Stefano Costa Software Open Source per l'Archeologia
GnuPG Key ID 1024D/0xD0D30245
Linux Registered User #385969

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