Blog 2.0 – this time it’s academic

authored by Frank Lynam at 07/11/2012 15:56:30

My PhD is entitled ‘An investigation into the use of standards within archaeological digital data management’ and while I started the programme just over a year ago I have not yet gotten into the blood, sweat and tears of just what this might all mean as an implementation. For the most part I have been advised to adopt this somewhat slow and cautionary approach; no point in getting carried away with myself and heading off on a tangent using some technology that no one is going to adopt in the long term. This project is after all one that is focussed on practical success and this will be judged in no small measure on the amount of people that decide to listen to just what it is that I have to say and indeed to the amount of archaeologists and others that will make of use of the contents of the standards and systems that come out on the other side.

The eureka moment of the project happened when I went to the Computer Applications and Quantitative Methods in Archaeology conference, which was held earlier this year in the University of Southampton. While the topics covered by CAA are typically broad, it was hard to avoid the mention of Linked Open Data or LOD. It was by far the most talked about facet of new technology at the conference. Now if I’m honest, that was probably all the information that I needed to know to get this project started; the standards that are mentioned in the title of my research would have to revolve around the paradigm that we have also come to know as, more euphemistically perhaps, the Semantic Web. This phrase, yet another one attributed first to Berners-Lee, implies a system of knowledge that is a ‘web of data’, where any one data element or node can be related to all other such nodes. The primary demand on such a web is that the data that it contains must be capable of being processed by a machine. With this promise of connectivity, of compliance and of a breath of such infinite scope, it is not surprising that archaeologists are so excited about it given the fact that they have for some years now been drowning under a sea of heterogeneous data. And I admit that at this point I would have to include myself in LOD’s retinue of cheerleaders. It truly does seem to offer all data management systems something innovative and perhaps even revolutionary.

I have run this blog for a number of months now. My first post dates back to March 21 in which I wrote about a Vimeo movie that I had just watched. It seemed the ideal way to begin. It exhibited all the elements that I wanted my soapbox to boast: a focus on digital contemporary culture and all presented in a self-critical postmodernist fashion. At the core of why I decided to setup a blog of this bent was my prior enrolment as a student of the new Digital Arts and Humanities structured PhD programme – the largest and most ambitious perhaps of its kind in the world – that is being run by the collaborative force of the Irish and Northern Irish universities. My blog would be the ideal platform on which to describe my journey along this new road. And while I had hoped that it might have attracted a bit more attention from the wider DAH community, it hasn’t gone completely unnoticed in this respect, and more importantly, it has functioned as a helpful conduit on which to channel and collect my thoughts on various subjects that all share the central theme of things digital.

Anyway, it is time to now draw a line in the sand. Whereas before my blog entries have been sporadic, both in terms of the regularity of their appearance and of their content, their future form will strictly follow the direction of my PhD as a child follows its parent. This statement is my own call to arms, my rallying call. All future posts will channel the PhD by documenting all of its processes, successes and defeats. In sum, they will form a total record of the PhD process from start (in a real sense from today) to finish (with its submission).

The battle cry has gone up. Let it begin.