3.2 How the Sikyon interactive image was designed: the VRE framework

Part of an effective framework is enforcing and maintaining data in a standard structure or format. The kind of interoperability of resources pursued by VREs has historically evaded archaeologists because of differences in recording protocols, obscurely archived data, format inconsistencies, and variations in semantics (Snow et al. 2006, 958). Frameworks and standard formats will enable data to be more accessible, whether it is being shared between the tools of a VRE or between geographically distributed data sets.

The ability to host data on multiple servers and then be referenced from a single location limits the strain on a single server or organisation in terms of performance and hardware costs. This distribution of data storage and workload has obvious advantages within a project as well as outside the project. There are inherent issues to achieving interoperability between databases (Ryan 2004) or data sets. Yet to get multiple data sets or distributed databases to interface properly, standard structure and semantics are not necessarily required. There are a number of successful current examples of database mediation services which can work around issues of consistency between data sets (Snow et al. 2006, 959). The Historic Environment Information Resources Portal also serves as a good example of interoperability between geographically remote data sets (Ryan 2004).

The establishment of functional frameworks should be built on open source software (OSS) and open standards. Proprietary programs can limit the kind of flexibility necessary to work within a VRE owing to their closed nature and restrictive licensing. Currently, many open source equivalents offer the same functionality and features of their closed source brethren, such as OpenOffice (Microsoft Office), Gimp (Adobe Photoshop), and Firefox (Internet Explorer). Open source programs are often capable of being modified and appended, although this frequently requires a decent understanding of programming and the application in use.

As the Sikyon interactive image was only a stand-alone tool, developing it within a framework was something of an abstract exercise. With no other tools or resources to integrate it with, the so-called framework was mostly hypothetical. Open source software and open standards were employed in addition to a comprehensive data structure already existing in the project. While this tool was not designed within any definitive framework, the potential to include it within a future framework is possible due to the open source and standards-based foundation of the tool.


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Last updated: Tue Mar 25 2008