The road ahead

authored by Frank Lynam at 04/04/2012 11:31:40

My mission over the coming weeks is to write a review of current practice in my area of research. This is a good thing. Being forced to write something isn’t usually that great but in this case it’s going to make me set down exactly what it is that I’m going to do my research on. And that will be a good thing for my mental state overall.

So far the idea has been to position my PhD research within the field of archaeological digital data management (ADDM) but that’s a pretty broad subject. Specifically, I had this idea that I would create the perfect ADDM system and that because of its brilliance archaeological projects and general archaeological enthusiasts would flock to use it. As the last 6 or 7 months have slipped by however my initial conviction that this approach was a) possible and b) worthy of a PhD topic, has slowly ebbed away. Archaeologists tend to dislike the constraint or standardisation that such a system might would most likely place on them. There are a number of theories why exactly this is the case but my own feeling is that it all comes back to the old debate of whether archaeology is a science or a humanity. You could even expand this to include the idea of archaeology as an art and the archaeologist an artist? If you decide that it is the latter than imagine trying to tell the next Pollock that he must produce his art within a certain set of parameters.

If you read my previous post, you’ll have seen that I visited CAA2012 last week and there I was able to scope out the current hot topics. I was also able to see where researchers in this field are encountering problems. Back in the old days when I worked in the telecoms industry these were the nuggets of information that we were constantly on the lookout for. What was it exactly that was causing our customers grief? At CAA the thought therefore occurred to me: why shouldn’t I adopt the same strategy within ADDM? Lots of people have their own systems (e.g. ARK, ARCA) that they are using and in large part they are generally happy with. But that doesn’t mean to say that there is nothing that could be added to these environments that would improve them. Maybe a particular project is having trouble because its users are demanding support for numerous different types of input data (XML, CSVs, XLS, DOC, etc.). Or maybe the problem is not with the input data but with the way in which the system currently copes with its visualisation on the other end; i.e. the outputs.

So hopefully my review of all that has gone on, is currently going on, and possibly some predictions as to what will be going on in the coming months and years will allow me to highlight and target these little niches in which innovation might benefit the digital archaeologist.

Watch this space!