Available Online l Contextualizing Digital Data as Scholarship in Eastern Mediterranean Archaeology by Eric Kansa

The Center For Hellenic Studies is pleased to announce the online publication of spring fellow Eric Kansa’s paper, “Contextualizing Digital Data as Scholarship in Eastern Mediterranean Archaeology,” which was presented at the 2015 Fellows Research Symposium. See the abstract below. To read the full article, visit the Center for Hellenic Studies Research Bulletin.


Though digital data is assuming increasing importance in archaeological research, it still plays only a minor role in scholarly communications. Most archaeologists do not yet see data sharing as a professional goal; instead, they regard it mainly as a bureaucratic concern. Data need be “managed” (in the parlance of the NSF) to meet the requirements of external funding agencies. In this light, data have more to do with administrative compliance and less with the intellectual core of research. However, recent studies of data curation practices highlight the challenges of data reuse. These studies show how meaningful data sharing and reuse requires intellectual investment in data. To better realize the full potential of digital data, archaeology needs to see fundamental changes in research practices and professional roles, expectations, and inclinations. Open Context’s experiments with data sharing as a form of publishing explore ways to encourage such intellectual investment. This paper will present examples of modeling diverse artifact typologies and chronological systems used in Classical archaeology in the Eastern Mediterranean. These examples show that while computational approaches to the archaeological record involve greater formalism, they are still inherently interpretive and should not be divorced from other theoretical or methodological concerns.

Eric Kansa (PhD Harvard University) directs Open Context, a data publishing venue for archaeology. As a CHS/DAI fellow, he will develop workflows and standards to guide editorial practices and peer-review process for publishing classical archaeology datasets of higher quality, discoverability and usability. Eric’s research interests explore web architecture, service design and how these issues relate to the social and professional context of the digital humanities and social sciences. He also researches policy issues relating to intellectual property, including text-mining and cultural property concerns, and actively participates in a number of Open Science, Open Government, text mining and scholarly user needs initiatives. Eric has taught project management and information service design at the UC Berkeley School of Information and has been a principal investigator and co-investigator on projects funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the US National Endowment for the Humanities, the Institute for Museum and Library Services, Hewlett-Packard, the Sunlight Foundation, Google, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Encyclopedia of Life and the National Science Foundation. Eric is on the board of the Shelby White and Leon Levy Program for Archaeological Publications, a granting program that funds archaeological publications. In June 2013, the White House recognized Eric’s contributions to reforming scholarly communications with a “Champion of Change” award.