Posts in category "Events"

Conference: Digital Publication in Mediterranean Archaeology

October 10, 2017

Next week, Open Context’s Program Director, Eric Kansa, will participate in a one-day conference exploring digital publication of archaeological data. The Digital Publication in Mediterranean Archaeology: Current Practice and Common Goals conference is hosted by the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World and the Shelby White and Leon Levy Program for Archaeological Publications, in partnership with the Archaeological Institute of America. From the conference web page:

“This conference brings together archaeologists and experts in the creation of digital resources to share and discuss current practices and future opportunities in the digital publication of archaeological data and results. The event is timely because the volume of archaeological resources available via the public internet is growing rapidly. There is much to be learned by assessing what has been accomplished and by considering what steps and which existing or new standards and practices can make digital publications more useful. The conference will promote ongoing discussion by bringing together archaeologists, librarians, archivists, and digital publishers for individual presentations and a closing panel.”

Visit the conference page for a list of speakers and topics.

Posted in: Events

Shedding Light on Endangered Data

April 19, 2017

This is a cross-posting from an April 17, 2017 post on Heritage Bytes, the Open Context blog:

For the week of April 17-21, we’re joining a large community-wide effort to raise greater awareness of “endangered data”. In light of all of the other crises in the world, highlighting endangered data may seem silly. After all, given the daily news onslaught of increasing authoritarianism, kleptocracy, war, bigotry, poverty and environmental problems, the fate of abstract electronic databases seems low on the priority list.

However, we argue that safeguarding data represents a need to safeguard our civil liberties, civil society, future environment, and broader understanding of our world. This last point is key. Data are often integral to how we try to understand the world.

As authoritarianism takes hold, data become increasingly politicized and precarious. Authoritarians attempt to dictate what is and is not true. Truth must conform to the needs of vested interests or ideologies or it will be suppressed. The current administration’s assault on climate science represents a stunning assault on an “Inconvenient Truth” (so aptly named by Al Gore). Beyond climate science, researchers create data key to understanding social, historical, and governance issues. Like climate science, better understanding in these other domains can threaten powerful and entrenched interests, which is why authoritarians may seek to suppress or corrupt data documenting such topics.

Unfortunately, we don’t really understand the full scope and magnitude of what data may be under threat. We also don’t have a good understanding of what threats may be more immediate and where to prioritize our “data rescue” efforts. But here are some (incomplete) thoughts about what threatens data:

  • Outright Suppression: Some datasets may be suppressed and destroyed overtly. This is a digital equivalent of burning books or even whole libraries.
  • Lack of Funding: Creating, maintaining, curating and preserving data all require effort, often by dedicated professionals and institutions. Cutting off funding to these professionals and organizations will quickly endanger data.
  • Lack of Time: People need time to dedicate their attention to work on data. Badly structured rewards, incentive systems, and other bureaucratic pressures in academic research, force many researchers to neglect data. Researchers need intellectual freedom to devote their time toward data, where the rewards are still uneven and uncertain.
  • Lack of Access: Hiding data away from wider scrutiny makes it easier to delete, alter or corrupt. It also makes it easier to make spurious claims (and harder to refute them).
  • Collection Biases: Political and ideological agendas shape how we collect data and what data we collect. We’ve already seen Republican attempts to cease collecting data about housing discrimination, no doubt with a motivation to make the problem “disappear”.
  • Analytical Biases: Data need analysis to be interpreted and used. People apply different models and analytic methods that may (or may not) explicitly or implicitly bias understanding of data.
  • Filter Biases: The past several months have provided a hard education on the problem of “fake news” (propaganda) in the contemporary news media. Even if we manage to preserve some integrity in our data and analyses, we face the steep challenge of communicating our understandings in an overtly hostile and ideologically-charged media environment.

In arguing for the importance of data, we’re not suggesting that data are wholly objective or empirical. Data are never complete, perfect, or objective. As brilliantly discussed by Cathy O’Neal, data reflect our incomplete and often biased views of the world. Because data, like other forms of knowledge, are imperfect, they need to be a part of open conversations and debates in civil society. If we do a better job at making data more open to critique and evaluation from people with a wider variety of perspectives, we can improve both the data themselves and our understandings derived from them.

Over the past several months, we have taken part in “data rescue” events organized across the nation. There is a strong focus on climate data, but our participation involved endangered data from National Park Service websites. Working with Max Ogden and colleagues at the California Digital Library, we safeguarded more than a terabyte of data from a National Park Service database, as well as some 20,000 web pages, especially those that bring US national parks to underrepresented communities (African American, Asian American, Native American, LGBTQ).

As we move forward with Endangered Data Week, we will post more about the needs to protect public data, some of the importance of public data for a healthy civil society, and some of our broader collaborations to make public data better protected and understood.

Posted in: Events, News

Conference: Critical Perspectives on the Practice of Digital Archaeology

January 23, 2017

Early next month, the AAI will participate in a conference at Harvard University on Critical Perspectives on the Practice of Digital Archaeology. Hosted by Harvard University’s Standing Committee on Archaeology, the February 3-4 event will cover topics related to digital technologies and how they are transforming archaeological practice.

trowel-world-transparentConference co-organizers Eric Kansa (Program Director for Open Context at the AAI) and Rowan Flad (Professor of Anthropology and Chair of the Standing Committee on Archaeology, Harvard University) ask participants to consider how current research data management and curation practices can better support new scholarship, instruction and engagement in archaeology. Speakers herald from the Harvard community and from institutions across North America and include partners from the DINAA project and the Secret Life of Data (SLO-data) project, funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the National Endowment for the Humanities, respectively.

An overarching theme of the conference is the need for new skills, professional roles, and professional incentives to make data more meaningful to scholarship. Attendees will hear presentations and panel discussions on the first day discussing the impact of digital technologies on the entire life-cycle of archaeological data, from the process of data capture and creation to the challenges of data curation and reuse.

The second morning of discussions in a workshop format, led by Anne Austin (Stanford University) and Eric Kansa, will introduce archaeologists to the fundamentals of good data practices, open source software tools for data cleanup, and practice to better share and preserve research data.

Kansa, who for more than a decade has led programs to preserve and share archaeology’s digital record through AAI’s Open Context data publishing service, explains that the industry is at a crossroads with most archaeologists, historians, and other social scientists uninformed about how to make their research accessible. “There is an urgent need for this conference to improve the application and integrity of stored research data,” Kansa said. “We have a tremendous responsibility to the public to share our understanding about what’s factual, what’s uncertain, and do so in a way that builds more trust and confidence in research. That’s why data skills are so critical in the 21st century.”

Visit the conference webpage to view the full program and panelist bios: http://archaeology.harvard.edu/critical-perspectives-practice-digital-archaeology. The conference is free and open to all, but attendees are requested to register on the website by January 25.

Posted in: Events, News

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All Data, Big and Small: A Lecture

April 27, 2016

stanford-lecture-eric-kansaIn the SF Bay Area this week and looking for something to do? Come on over to the Stanford Archaeology Center on Thursday afternoon for a public lecture about data in archaeology! Open Context’s Program Director Eric Kansa will speak on the topic All Data Big and Small: Archaeology, Ethics, and Professionalism in the Age of the Web. The lecture is scheduled for Thursday, April 28 at 5:15pm. For more information, see the lecture announcement on the Stanford Archaeology Center’s website.

Posted in: Events

Open Context to Receive AIA Award for Outstanding Work in Digital Archaeology

December 1, 2015

On January 7, 2016, during the annual meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) in San Francisco, the AIA will present Open Context with the 2016 Award for Outstanding Work in Digital Archaeology. Open Context, the open access data publishing service developed by the Alexandria Archive Institute, is entering its tenth year online, with more than one million resources contributed by researchers worldwide.

The award recognizes “projects, groups, and individuals that deploy digital technology in innovative ways in the realms of excavation, research, teaching, publishing, or outreach” with a goal of “recognizing the value of digital scholarship and encouraging its practice.” Past recipients of the award include the Ancient World Online (2015) and Fasti Online (2014).

Posted in: Awards, Events