[Back] [Forward] [Contents] [Home]

Section 5: Towards a 'Real World' Application

5.3 Advantages of online access to XML-encoded reports

The advantages of providing online access to XML-encoded grey literature reports are many. These are related not only to the benefits of making data available via the Web (see 2.1), but also to the potential offered by the XML encoding itself (see 3.2). Wolle (2002) sees that the archaeological profession now has the potential to become a discipline not solely focused upon data collection, but on the interpretation of the data collected. If project results were to be more accessible, researchers would no longer need to spend the majority of their time seeking and acquiring the material they require prior to analysing it. This would have a significant impact upon research (see 1.7). Whilst this study has focused upon grey literature, there is no reason why a system of XML encoding could not also be applied to conventionally published archaeological reports to enhance electronic dissemination and access.

Increased access to client reports would make the data and interpretations they contain open to wider critical appraisal and reassessment. There are calls for grey literature to be subject to peer review, as are conventionally published works. As Lock (2003, 251) identifies, the appeal of the Web has led to a vast increase in available information, 'much of which is highly dubious in quality and, sometimes, factually incorrect'. Wolle and Shennan (1996) note that this may be uncomfortable for authors, but important for the discipline. On the plus side however, for the majority of organisations, there would be greater recognition and publicity, not only for authors, but also for those funding the work. RSS newsfeeds, for example, could be generated to publicise recent discoveries (Miller 2003).

Through application of XML, documents would be in a format suitable for long-term preservation. From a single document, multiple presentations and other formats could be generated relatively easily, as has been discussed and demonstrated in Section 3 and Section 4. Multi-layered presentation tailored to varying user needs would have the benefit of aiding the user's search for, and retrieval of, relevant information. The profession must accept that very few people ever read a complete archaeological report, that there is a greater non-specialist audience for this material than ever before, and that different users have different needs which will vary over time. It is recognised, however, that the electronic publication of client reports is presently viewed as an adjunct to, and not a replacement for, the traditional paper report.

[Back] [Forward] [Contents] [Home]

© Internet Archaeology URL: http://intarch.ac.uk/journal/issue17/5/gf5-3.html
Last updated: Wed Apr 6 2005