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Learning the Lingo 3: Reading electronic publications

Readers will be familiar with our regular “Learning the Lingo” column, reporting latest news on the PATOIS project. In this issue we have invited Pete McKinney of the Humanities Advanced Technology and Information Institute at Glasgow University to discuss work that they are doing towards the completion of the project.

Technology is fundamentally changing archaeology. The discipline has always created large amounts of data, but digital media have changed how data is represented, analysed and disseminated. Technology is also changing the data itself both through new methods of collecting, and providing possibilities for archaeologists to present data in new ways.

As well as being a partner on the PATOIS project, the Humanities Advanced Technology and Information Institute (HATII) has been contracted to create one of the suite of four tutorials that make up PATOIS. The tutorial being created by HATII explores electronic publication in archaeology. The tutorial addresses practical and theoretical issues surrounding the online use and presentation of archaeological research, using Internet Archaeology as an example.

The module is split into four discrete sessions: understanding images; geographic distributions of data; accessing large datasets online; and a concluding session that develops skills learned and offers directions to other online journals and resources. The first session, on the visualisation of data, teaches students about the types of images that have been used, how to assess virtual realities, and how images are used to represent different datasets. The second session follows the lead, discussing graphs and maps as pictorial representations of data. The third session introduces online interfaces that allow users to interrogate raw data from excavations. Thus, students are introduced to the ‘integrated archive and publication’ only possible with on line publications.

Data is the foundation upon which hypotheses are built; it is therefore vital that students learn how to discover, search and utilise them. Yet electronic publications - which use the latest technical wizardry to wrap their data - require different critical skills to interpret than conventional monograph or journal publications do.

The tutorials on e-publication respond to this need. The main aim of the tutorial is to foster an understanding of the opportunities and dangers that online publication offers. Exposing students to these digital resources will not only enhance their own research, but push archaeology as a discipline into further exploiting technology. Conversely, they will help foster an understanding of how technology can continue to evolve archaeological practices.

Pete McKinney, P.McKinney@hatii.arts.gla.ac.uk HATII, University of Glasgow. For more on PATOIS visit the PATOIS website at: http://ads.ahds.ac.uk/project/patois/

In this issue ...