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Subject:

Democratising Archaeology

From:

Judith Winters <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Judith Winters <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Wed, 24 Nov 1999 17:00:20 +0000 (GMT)

Content-Type:

MULTIPART/MIXED

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

TEXT/PLAIN (73 lines)

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Wed, 24 Nov 1999 15:12:06 +0000
From: Robert Daniels-Dwyer <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To: [log in to unmask]
To: Judith Winters <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: Democratising Archaeology

The main issue here is not one of technology.  Any of the main
commercial relational database management systems can be accessed
through open systems protocols by other software company's tools.  These
user tools are increasingly flexible, and capable of exploratory data
analysis; users are no longer confined to following paths laid down for
them by developers.  With web technologies, these exploratory end user
tools can be driven at the information provider's end, and the user
requires merely a java-enabled browser (and patience, as ever with the
Internet).  The issue of proprietary formats therefore does not arise.

The idea of Information Democracy is that users are able to decide for
themselves what information they would like to see, and be empowered to
get that information.  The most important thing is therefore to explain
to the user what information is available, and how that information came
into being, so that the user understands its limitations and potential.

The skill of the archaeological database developer comes in designing
the architecture of the database.  Traditional database theory was
transaction-oriented.  The relational database was developed for
transactional systems, concerned with processing the maximum number of
transactions with the least effort.  Transactional principles such as
normalisation remain at the heart of archaeological database education.
This is fine so long as we see the database as a way of storing away as
much information as possible.

Subject-oriented database design, for repositories of knowledge ('data
warehousing') sacrifices some of this efficiency in return for ease of
data exploration.  Data are structured around the sorts of ways that we
expect users to think about the data, though not constraining them
unnecessarily in the questions that can be asked.  This is an issue not
really explored in archaeological database theory.

The major impediment in all of this remains financial, however.  IT
solutions are expensive, and cannot be delivered on the cheap (cheap
solutions litter archaeological computing's history).  In principle,
though, if the transactional part of the excavation was done using a
properly designed database, then the transfer into an archival
datawarehouse and its publication on the web would not be prohibitively
expensive.  For this reason I would therefore back Nick Eiteljorg's
ongoing campaign to get archaeological databases properly set-up and
running.

--
Robert Daniels-Dwyer
Business Intelligence Consultant
Oracle UK

The views expressed herein are my own, and do not necessarily represent
those of Oracle Corporation


Forwarded by:
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 
Judith Winters
Editor, Internet Archaeology  http://intarch.ac.uk

Department of Archaeology,
King's Manor,
University of York
YO1 7EP,  UK 
Tel: +44 1904 433955
Fax: +44 1904 433939



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