November 2010


The recent Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) Annual Meeting in Atlanta had a new Blogger and Online Publication session (November 22, 2010). It was actually one of the best attended sessions! The academic biblical blogosphere and online world, even though they are more the domain of linguists and historians than archaeologists, provide interesting comparative material and ideas. Here are the titles, web links, and audio (on the Targuman blog):

This session has been and continues to be discussed, reviewed and expounded upon, often very thoroughly and insightfully, in a range of blogs:

Last but not least, a few more fun contributions:

It sure seems that “bibliobloggers” are a very active and numerous (see Jeremy Thompson above) group, full of ideas. Is it just me or are they more so than “archaeobloggers“? It could have something to do with the former’s field’s history of popularization and sermonizing which lends itself easily to blogging. They are maybe a little less locked up in their ivory towers? Of course, there are so many more of them compared with us (dwindling?) archaeologists… There were even organized blogger lunches and dinners at the meeting (pics on Targuman). By the way, the SBL meeting is nowadays no longer organized together with the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR; archaeological association with a focus on Israel/Palestine and region). They are still organized in the same city but subsequently rather than concurrently. One ironic fact: the hotel where the meeting took place didn’t have decent wi-fi thus prohibiting prompt blogging of the meeting (the wi-fi that was available although not necessarily usable was charged by the day and by device!).

Finally, there was also a related seminar organized by our good friend Chuck Jones (NYU), entitled E-Publish or Perish. I’m sorry but I didn’t track down all the relevant blog posts… I’ll just give you one:

“Z,” the mark of Zorro! Boy, do I remember watching that TV show as a kid in Belgium… But no, we’re talking about Zotero here, not the swashbuckling hero of yesteryear.

Zotero [zoh-TAIR-oh] is a free, easy-to-use tool to help you collect, organize, cite, and share your research sources. It lives right where you do your work—in the web browser itself.

I was reminded of this app by Phoebe Acheson’s post on the Ancient World Open Bibliographies project blog. I have tried it in the past but it didn’t seem to fit my needs. I know that quite a few people like it though. Acheson (University of Georgia) writes:

I had not used Zotero before this experiment, and I like it reasonably well.  But my experimenting thus far has not convinced me that it is a good solution for the need I currently have.  As this discussion thread in the forums notes, there is no simple way to create (export) an annotated bibliography, i.e. as a document to print or email and share with students (although work-arounds for specific citations styles, including Chicago, are noted in the discussion.) There are additional user-generated software scripts linked in the thread that provide this functionality as well, and Zotero has an open ticket to make this easier as a pending upgrade (but the ticket is currently 4 years old, so it’s probably a low priority).

If you are using it, what are your thoughts about and experience with Zotero?

Clifford Lynch drew my attention to “an announcement from the UK Royal Society indicating that in celebration of Open Access week they were opening their entire journal archive for free access till the end of the society’s 350th anniversary year, 30 November 2010. This is a great opportunity to get access to two issues  of Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A from August and September 2010 which focus on E-science and contain a number of outstanding papers. See http://rsta.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/368/1925.toc and http://rsta.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/368/1926.toc

A few examples:

  • “Methodological commons: arts and humanities e-Science fundamentals” (abstract and pdf);
  • “Deploying general-purpose virtual research environments for humanities research” (abstract and pdf);
  • “Use of the Edinburgh geoparser for georeferencing digitized historical collections” (abstract and pdf);
  • “Adoption and use of Web 2.0 in scholarly communications” (abstract and pdf);
  • “Retaining volunteers in volunteer computing projects” (abstract and pdf).

figure from “Use of the Edinburgh geoparser for georeferencing digitized historical collections”

Sebastian Heath has an interesting discussion about museum identifiers. This is part of his ongoing project to document museum and online archaeological-collections identification schemes. Sebastian referenced a discussion circulated by Martin Doerr of the Center for Cultural Informatics on Crete (and of CIDOC fame) about aligning Web identifiers in museums toward some common design standards.

For instance, the Rosetta Stone has the PRN number: YCA62958, hence the “official” URI of the Rosetta stone is: http://collection.britishmuseum.org/object/YCA62958 . This URI should never become direct address of a document.

I absolutely agree with Sebastian on his points about getting human readable pages and avoiding divisions between the semantic and the “plain web” (contra the second sentence in the quote above).

Beyond those architecture issues however, I think the politics of naming and identifying cultural heritage will be a very interesting problem for semantic web approaches. Custody over the Rosetta Stone is in some dispute. The Elgin marbles are even more contested. I’m sure that some people in Greece would have a problem with “britishmuseum.org” in the internationally recognized / official / canonical  URI(s) for the Elgin marbles. In other words, naming and identifying things can be somewhat political and that will work against attempts to harmonize. I’m sure there will always be a need for third-parties to cross-reference identifiers.

I suspect issues like this will pose big problems to attempts to rationalize identifiers. That’s part of the reason why some digital library folks favor opaque identifiers. Of course, this digital library perspective is not universally shared.

It will be interesting to see how this discussion unfolds in cultural heritage applications.

Updated (Nov. 2):

  1. Also I should note that the “Museums and the machine-processable web wiki” (a fantastic resource and community hub!!) has some excellent discussion of these issues.
  2. Sebastian continued the discussion in this post.