March 2007

Stuart Jeffrey of the Archaeology Data Service recently forwarded the following conference announcement to share with DDIG members:

Data Sans Frontières: web portals and the historic environment

25 May 2007: The British Museum, London

Organised by the Historic Environment Information Resources Network (HEIRNET) and supported by the AHRC ICT Methods Network and the British Museum, this one-day conference takes a comprehensive look at exciting new opportunities for disseminating and integrating historic environment data using portal technologies and Web 2.0 approaches. Bringing together speakers from national organisations, national and local government and academia, options for cooperation at both national and international levels will be explored.

The aims of the conference are:

  • To raise awareness of current developments in the online dissemination of Historic Environment Data
  • To set developments in the historic environment sector in a wider national and European information context
  • To raise awareness of current portal and interoperability technologies
  • To create a vision for a way forward for joined up UK historic environment information provision

This conference should be of interest to heritage professionals, researchers
and managers from all sectors.

The conference costs £12 and a full programme and online registration facilities are available at There may be tickets available on the day, but space is limited so please register as soon as possible.

I’ve been traveling and coding so much that I haven’t had time to keep up with news in the Open Access world. It turns out that there are two important developments just in the past few data that I should alert to DDIG members.

Self-Interested Data-Sharing:
First off, Peter Suber recently noted a recently article published by Heather A. Piwowar, Roger S. Day, and Douglas B. Fridsma in PloS One that shows an impact advantage for people who publish primary data. The demonstrate a 69% increase in citation for articles associated with publicly available data. For those of us interested in encouraging comprehensive and open publication of archaeological research data, this is very good news. We no longer only have to make appeals to ethics, preservation, transparency, or the possibility for new modes of inquiry (through reanalysis and reuse of shared data). We can now appeal to enlightened self-interest. Publishing your data makes your research more cited and more influential. That’s a much more persuasive and personally meaningful case for data sharing.

NSF Cyberinfrastructure Report:
A second post noted by Peter Suber linked to a new NSF report “Cyberinfrastructure Vision For 21st Century Discovery“. Suber highlighted text in the report calling for open access to scientific data, an important and needed policy direction. Dan Atkins, head of the NSF Cyberinfrastructure office, spoke about this report at the recent Hewlett/Rice conference on Open Educational Resources. He discussed how the report makes clear recommendations for US cyberinfrastructure to not only support enhanced research and research communication, but also to meet increasing training and educational needs.

It seems clear that we should work toward open data sharing and accessibility so that content can be made to serve multiple needs, from “cutting-edge” research, to instruction, and also (but not often discussed) the needs of the greater public, both to stimulate life-long learning and creativity. These latter issues are important (and noted needs in the NSF report, see page 39), but easy to forget. We often overlook the important and growing place of life-long learning in our society, and too often think of education as something that solely takes place in established institutions.

Thus, we have our work cut out for us. There are many balls to juggle, ranging from IP practices, technical interoperability, ease of use, outreach, and following the dizzying array of developments taking place across the web, in education and in the commercial sector.

Chuck Jones who blogs over at the ever-informative Stoa Consortium and Julie Hollowell both independently alerted me to this insightful and provocative video developed by Michael Wesch, a professor of cultural anthropology at Kansas State University.

Here it is:

Michael Wesch also licensed this video with a Creative Commons Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike license, which means that you’re free to download, share, edit and modify it for noncommercial uses so long as you credit him and similarly share your new work (under the same license).� For all of you new to Creative Commons, it’s clearly worth your while to go look at their site and learn about copyright, sharing, and licensing.
Michael Wesch also made his video available for download and here are some links:

Windows Media File (55 MB):

Quicktime File (96 MB):

Mojiti Version (for comments, translations, etc.):

PS. I should also note that one of the most widely read blogs about anthropology “Savage Minds” is featured in this video.

This post is a little less “business like” and a little more thematic about the larger picture of “digital archaeology”.

I just finished attending a very interesting conference hosted by Rice University and the Hewlett Foundation. The conference brought together many invaluable projects developing high-quality Open Educational Resources (see the Hewlett Foundation’s link) and systems that not only deliver such content, but also help foster communities and collaborations between and among educators and learners. There is a now a fantastic array of infrastructure and open tools available to really enhance many of the public outreach and instructional responsibilities archaeologists have. Many of these tools can and should also be used to enhance communication between researchers. I’ll shortly post a list of links to some very exciting projects that many archaeologists may wish to join.

In addition to offering many practical discussions, Cathy Casserly (Hewlett Foundation) took the time to get us all to step back and take a look at the larger perspective. The conference started with this video (below), as a way of setting the stage and context for our discussions.

As is made so vivid by this video, the pace and dimensions of change are at once very sobering, exciting, and overwhelming. It’s this kind of context that we have to consider when we’re building a “cyberinfrastructure” for archaeology. If anything the video underscores the urgency of the need to understand and adapt to the rapidly changing social, economic, and technological context in which we work. It is a remarkable challenge communicating a meaningful and vital past in this age of exponential change.

Did You Know; Shift Happens – Globalization; Information Age

(Created by Karl Fisch, and modified by Scott McLeod, posted on YouTube by “vipeness”)

As many of you know, I’m leading development of Open Context, a web-based data publishing tool built on the conceptual framework (data structures) described by ArchaeoML.

Posting has been light lately because I’ve been in the thick of programming efforts and travel. Anyway, we’re nearing public demonstration of a web-based data publishing tool for museum collections and archaeological field research. The publishing tool will allow researchers to describe their data so that it can be processed and expressed in ArchaeoML. It imports data for use in Open Context and in OCHRE, the sophisticated system in development at the University of Chicago.

I’m looking for a few good datasets (tables describing field research, or descriptions of finds and collections), as well as collaborators interested in testing the publishing tool and providing feedback on a tool that will no doubt be somewhat frustrating at first. There’s no reward other than good-will, since this publisher will be released open-source once a stable version 1 is ready.

If you’re interested in open, shared data, and want to help create an infrastructure for making data sharing a normal part of archaeology, museums, and other areas of the social sciences, please email me!


Keith Kintigh forwarded me an important announcement for the DDIG community:

As a member of SAA’s Digital Data Interest Group, we’d like to invite you to participate in a virtual lecture series that we hope can help set the direction for the development of a comprehensive cyberinfrastructure for archaeology. This series is organized by, a new consortium of five institutions that have joined together to advance the cause of building such a cyberinfrastructure. Briefly, our vision is for a disciplinary effort to build an open, Internet-based information infrastructure that will provide integrated, concept-oriented access to a distributed network of archaeological data sources–including databases, textual sources (such as gray literature reports and articles), and images. The objective would be to advance our ability to do synthetic and comparative research in archaeology and, at the same time, to promote the long-term preservation of irreplaceable archaeological data, along with the metadata that make them meaningful.

The idea behind the lecture series is to host, over the Internet, live presentations on both existing archaeological initiatives in cyberinfrastructure and also successful cyberinfrastructure initiatives in other scientific disciplines. We expect that it will be possible to learn a great deal from the accomplishments of a number of these efforts both in the US and world-wide. At the same time, we hope to foster interactions among these efforts and to promote a greater engagement in these efforts by interested archaeologists.

The lecture series will begin at noon EDT (16:00 GMT) on March 26, 2007 with a introduction to the activities of This will be followed at the same time, two weeks later, on April 9, with a lecture by Eric Kansa on the Alexandria Archive Institute‘s archaeological project, OpenContext. On April 23rd, Chaitan Baru, Director of Science Research and Development at the San Diego Supercomputer Center, will speak on GEON, geology’s successful analog to some of what we believe archaeology needs to accomplish. The series will resume in the fall, with lectures every other week. Generally, the presentations are expected to be about 45 minutes with a maximum of 45 additional minutes reserved for discussion. Up to date schedule information can be found at

It will be possible to take advantage of this lecture series in several ways. First, using conferencing facilities provided by Access Grid or InSORS (one or the other is available at most University campuses) you can be networked into the virtual meeting with two-way audio and video. Alternately, you can receive an outgoing audio or audio-video feed of the lecture and, if you wish, email questions to a moderator. Finally, with the permission of the presenters we will make archived versions of the presentations available through the web site. The lecturer’s PowerPoint presentations will be posted on the web so that you can download them and follow along on your own machine, or you can receive a live feed via Breeze (Acrobat Connect). More technical details are available at If you plan to participate please review the instructions for each alternative way to connect and then send a message to so that we can anticipate the network requirements. You may also contact Debbie Harmon ( at the University of Arkansas with any questions. On March 19th we have set aside an hour, also starting at noon EDT so that you can test your connectivity–but there will be no formal presentation.

We hope that you may find this useful and we encourage you to join us.

DDIG members, please provide some suggestions about an agenda for our groups meeting at the Austin SAA conference on Thursday, April 26: 6-7 PM.

Some emailed suggested agenda items include:

    (1) Forming a Taskforce to work with granting agencies to encourage data publication.
    (2) Forming a Taskforce to explore ways to encourage online dissemination of some CRM related “grey literature”.
    (3) It is often hard to know who is doing what. We can develop a list of professional digital resources for archaeology, as well as organizations and people involved in such efforts. We can circulate this list among these different resources (including Archnet and others) to encourage better linking and coordination between different groups.

Comments on this blog are moderated, so it may take a few days for them to appear online. If you don’t feel comfortable posting suggestions to this public blog. Please email me!

I’ve composed a short report for the SAA leadership about DDIG and its activities. It would be wonderful to get some feedback from people involved in Digital Archaeology. If you see errors, omissions, or other editorial changes, please contact me and I’ll make the needed revisions.


Click here to download the 2007 DDIG report (pdf. document).

The SAA’s annual conference is fast aproaching! For those DDIG members headed to Austin, I’ve compiled a small list of events with a digital focus.

Digital Data Interest Group Meeting (Thursday, April 26: 6-7 PM)
Please remember to go to this important meeting! This will be the first time we have a real chance to chart a course of action. Since the formation of the group, DDIG has achieved a number of milestones. It now has a membership of 613 people, indicating a great deal of interest in digital communications among the SAA community.

As a further indication of the widespread interest in DDIG’s area of focus, there will be a host of sessions, roundtables, and other events at the SAA’s annual conference in Austin with a thematic emphasis on digital data. This year’s conference events related to DDIG subject areas include:

General Sessions and Symposia:

· Diversifying Archaeology’s Impact Through New Forms of Public Engagement: Current Happenings in Public Archaeology (Friday, April 27: 8AM – 11AM)

· The Digital Excavation, Part I: Approaches to Recording, Repository And Publication Excavation and Web Applications Part 2: Real Time Link Between Recording and Publication: Digital Archaeology at Ancient Urkesh (Saturday, April 28: 8 AM – 12 PM)

· New Knowledge from Old Sites: The Value of Revisiting Sites and their Collections (Sunday, April 29: 8 AM – 12 PM)

· Delving Deeper into Subsistence: Integrating Plant and Animal Data
(Sunday, April 29: 8 AM – 12 PM)

· GIS and Remote Sensing Technologies in Historical Archaeology
(Saturday, April 28: 8 AM – 12 PM)

Round Tables:

· Share, Remix, Reuse: Making the most of Digital Archaeology
(Friday, April 27: 12 – 1 PM)

· GIS and Archaeology (Friday, April 27: 12 – 1 PM)

Poster Sessions:

· GIS and Mapping in Archaeology (Thursday, April 26: 8-11 AM)

Open Archaeology Reception:
With its focus on digital data, DDIG explores the dynamic and rapidly changing world of scholarly communication. Scholarly communication is in the midst of an important transition toward increased openness, access, scope and diversity. The American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) recently called upon university counsels, boards of trustees, and provosts “to provide aggressive support for the principles of fair use and open access, and to promote awareness and use of Creative Commons licenses.”

My home organization (the Alexandria Archive Institute) recently won some funding to host an event that will help acquaint archaeologists with the changing world of scholarly communication. We will host an “Open Archaeology Reception” on April 27 (7-8pm, at the conference hotel). The event will provide some free sushi and information about resources and incentives for open scholarship. We will also an Open Archaeology Prize, aimed at encouraging free and open publication of high-quality archaeological datasets.

(Edited on March 9, 2007 thanks to comments from Donna Byczkiewicz)