[open-archaeology] Blogging about new WG?

Jonathan Gray jonathan.gray at okfn.org
Wed Feb 3 11:26:45 UTC 2010

Il giorno gio, 28/01/2010 alle 18.14 -0800, Eric C. Kansa ha scritto:

> following Rufus, I'm especially interested in the use of open data, 
> because use can be an important motivation for its creation.

Eric, Rufus,
this is certainly the most interesting part that we have to write for
our manifesto, yet. And I don't see too much value in pointing out that
other disciplines have already been doing good things in research thanks
to open data, because it is an external argument and not one that
focuses on actual outcomes for archaeological practice.

> Misuse would be an issue many worry about to, though I think data
> would be misused open or not. I'm just voicing a concern many have
> told me for not wanting to be more open.

Yes, I have heard similar concerns lots of times, particularly for
survey data that could put at danger unexcavated archaeological sites
(actually, I think this means underestimating by far looters' knowledge,
but this is another story). However, this can't apply to catalogues of
finds from excavated sites or museums.

If "misuse" refers to "stealing of intellectual property", which I have
heard as well, it's a different issue. It's not easy for me to argument
against this mindset without reductio ad absurdum (that is, "why would
you publish your work in any form if you fear that someone could read
it?"), but I think we can start collecting stories.
> Alternately, some uses only require access to data, and licensing is 
> less immediately relevant. I'm thinking here about using datasets as 
> reference / comparative material. This seems to be a common use.

This is true, but look as an example at the ADS website. The amphorae
database there [1] is an essential reference, but requiring the user to
click and accept terms of use before entering the website is not only
quite annoying, but makes a linked data infrastructure unbelievably
harder to implement, as I see it.

> Regional analysis could be advanced with shared legally/technically
> open data, but a critical issue here is obtaining enough relevant open
> data to make analysis across different datasets meaningful. This issue
> is probably of more strategic importance for advocates of open data in
> archaeology.

Having done some regional research using pottery data collected from
published excavation reports, I'd say that some sort of harmonisation
will be hard to reach until we have open data, in fact. I'm all for a
bottom-up strategy on this point, in this moment. I think there are
hundreds of databases within single research centres right now, each one
aimed at one specific target. I believe that most value brought by open
data lies exactly in what others can do with our data that we would
never imagine about.

> As far as discussion, here's some simple guidelines we use. The 
> copyright / licensing discussion is relevant here:
> http://opencontext.org/about/publishing 

Eric, these guidelines look as a very good reference to me. Combining
generic guidelines for openness like opendefinition.org with specific
arguments for archaeologists like those of OpenContext seems like the
best approach.

What do others think about the points raised here?


[1] http://ads.ahds.ac.uk/catalogue/resources.html?amphora2005

Stefano Costa

Coordinator, Working Group on Open Data in Archaeology
The Open Knowledge Foundation

More information about the open-archaeology mailing list