4.2 Specific questions about hypertext reception and archaeology's
Here are just a few questions, for which even partial answers could
help us write better archaeological websites:
What are the differences in reception of sequential
exposition augmented by multimedia, versus intensely fragmented
For public archaeology's purposes, is it better to use the WWW to
publish highly illustrated essays, or to break papers down into
small sections with multiple links between them?
How does hypertextual presentation affect the different
kinds of information routinely conveyed in
Does hypertext affect people's understanding of empirical data
(this pot was found within this feature), scientific explanation
(how thermoluminescence dating works), experimental procedure (we
attempted a new form of analysis), historical interpretation (this
pot is from this era and this social group), literary narrative
(what the life of the potter was like)?
Within a hypermedia environment, how can we effectively,
consistently, and fairly signal epistemic distinctions between
archaeological fact, 'standard' interpretation, 'alternative'
interpretation, speculation, and reconstructive
For example, if one is discussing the history of the idea of
Atlantis, are there visual cues one might use to help separate
Plato's story, archaeological investigations of Thera, and tabloid
reports of submerged cities off the coast of Florida?
Are multiple voices best accommodated through structural
integration of their content — i.e. in a single synthesis — or
through separate, linked texts?
If an archaeological site can easily be interpreted in radically
different ways — say, from the perspective of indigenous Britons
vs. the perspective of Romans, or the perspective of enslaved
Africans vs. the perspective of those who exploited their labour,
or the perspective of women and children vs. the perspective of men
— then what is the best way of including these multiple
Can nonlinear presentations of information beneficially
influence epistemological frameworks?
If archaeological evidence and interpretation are represented as a
complex web of inference, does this help people's understanding of
how we know the past?
What kinds of navigational aids should we provide to our
readers to help them locate their subjects simultaneously in space,
time, and cyberspace?
Geographical maps, timelines, website maps, menus, frames
what options are best suited for the challenge of representing
multidimensional archaeological information?
How do readers of varying ages use websites
Nielsen (2002) notes that
the age of the viewer is highly significant, not merely with
respect to the content, level of writing used, and the nature of
the illustrations, but also with respect to fundamental aspects of
Web design. For example, children in the study (a) rarely
scrolled down pages, (b) liked geographic navigation metaphors, (c)
actually read instructions much more readily than adults, (d) did
not discriminate between site content and advertisements, and thus
clicked ads much more frequently than adults (Nielsen 2002). This clearly has
implications for the 'all-purpose website' that many public
archaeology sites try to provide.