My application to the University to submit in hypermedia format

N.B. The links below have been added and did not appear in the original document

Cornelius Holtorf M.A.
Department of Archaeology


To the
Vice-Chancellor (Chairperson of Senate)
Professor Dr Keith Robbins
University of Wales, Lampeter

cc: Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Dr Barry Burnham
Head of the Department of Archaeology, Professor David Austin
Director of the Computer Centre, Mr Alan Rogers
My supervisor, Dr Michael Shanks

Submission of my Ph.D. thesis as a hypermedia document in HTML

Dear Sir,

I am a full-time Ph.D. student in the Department of Archaeology since October 1994, holding a first class MA degree from the Universität Hamburg (1993) as well as having completed the MA in Archaeological Theory at Lampeter (1994). Supported by a (fees-only) British Academy award and the Postgraduate Research Studentship of the Department of Archaeology, I am writing my Doctoral dissertation on A »Monumental Past«: Interpreting the meanings of ancient monuments in later prehistoric Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.under the supervision of Dr Michael Shanks.

Today I would like to invite the University to stay at the forefront of academic research and technological innovations by allowing me to write and submit my Doctoral dissertation as a hypermedia document written in HTML. For details please refer to the enclosed documentation.

I have discussed my plans recently with the Head of the Department of Archaeology, Professor David Austin, my supervisor Dr Michael Shanks and the Director of the Computer Centre, Mr. Alan Rogers, who all support my endeavour to write in HTML.

For further clarification or discussion I am available to you at any time.

yours sincerely

Cornelius Holtorf, Department of Archaeology, letter to the Vice-Chancellor, 17.11.95

Documentation on my research and the project of writing in HTML

The Department of Archaeology, the Internet, and Lampeter

The Internet is now emerging as a major research tool and publishing medium in world-wide Archaeology.
The Department of Archaeology being a leading UK institution for archaeological theory and landscape research (among other fields) is explicitly committed to using the Internet and, more importantly, to providing high-quality contributions to the WWWeb of its own. A 'listowner group' consisting of academic staff and postgraduate students (including myself) of the Department of Archaeology is running the electronic mailing list ARCH-THEORY since May 1994, with now more than 400 subscribers world-wide. Comprehensive departmental WWWebpages have recently been established and received international attention.
Lampeter is at the forefront of new technological developments with its excellent computer and multimedia facilities and its enthusiasm to explore and use new mediums for presentation and discussion of academic work.

The project of my Ph.D.

My research focuses on receptions and experiences of prehistoric monuments in Northeast Germany. I have completed my first fieldwork season in Germany last summer and I am now starting to write down some first results. The dissertation is due to be completed by September 1997.
Monuments are permanent features of the landscape; they "alter the earth" (Richard Bradley). Long after they were built, monuments are still present as symbols of The Ancient and parts of a "Geschichtskultur" (Jörn Rüsen). In my dissertation I aim at presenting the rich diversity of how such ancient sites were, and are, interpreted as parts of later cultural landscapes. My interpretations will be based on concepts and ideas, images and experiences gained from the archaeological evidence of the study area, other archaeological case-studies, ethnographic examples, historical sources, present-day impressions as well as from theoretical contributions to various academic disciplines. The project is an inquiry into Monumental Time and Cultural Memory, employing Reception Theory and a Radical Constructivist epistemology, thus redeveloping how monuments and time are understood and dealt with in Archaeology.
My research is directly linked to major intellectual debates within the discipline and beyond, not only to those about appropriate interpretations of monuments, but also to more general ones about the poetics of archaeology, the possibilities of representing and experiencing the past, and the meanings of material culture. All these issues are directly affected in both form and content by the possibilities which new technologies, such as hypermedia documents in HTML, offer to the discipline. With my research I hope to make an important contribution to such larger debates and present an example of how future archaeologists can benefit enormously from new ways of presenting both past remains and the argument itself.

Why HTML for my dissertation?

HTML is a universal formatting language for hypermedia publication that is used to create WWWebpages.
HTML offers ways of writing which conventional texts in book form do not allow. In my dissertation I want to make use of and further explore such possibilities. My research topic is particularly well suited for this ambition.
The traditional way of writing (and reading) a dissertation does not allow for all these desired qualities of my dissertation, while a HTML document does.

The administrative side

At the moment it is not possible to submit a Ph.D. dissertation to the University of Wales in HTML, but bound text volumes are required. In the light of recent technological innovations connected with the Internet and the overwhelming acceptance of the WWWeb as a central medium for academic research and discussion which will transform the world of academia as we know it within the next few years, the University should now consider a small change of the regulations in order to remain a leading academic institution.
A small and somewhat remote University like Lampeter runs the danger of being marginalised within the larger world of academia. That makes it here all the more important to use advanced new technology which reduces such disadvantageous locational factors, as soon as it becomes available. The Internet and the use of WWWebpages is one such way. My dissertation could be made available for everyone interested by simply installing it on the WWWeb server at Lampeter.
At the time of submission, it would be feasible that I hand in the finished version of my dissertation on a secure storage medium such as a CD-ROM, while it could at the same time be accessed by my examiners via the WWWeb. Without being linked to any other WWWebpage or its URL openly advertised, the dissertation could not be considered as 'published' at that stage. After the examination it would, however, be easy to make the work freely accessible by advertising its URL on subject-specific mailing lists such as ARCH-THEORY and providing a link from the Lampeter WWWebpages .

The technical side

All the technology needed to write a dissertation in HTML is available in Lampeter.
The Computer Centre has a webserver as well as the software and expertise to write in HTML. I have been assured that there is sufficient storage capacity available for my project which will encompass several hundred individual webpages with texts of various lengths (usually no more than 500 words) as well as up to one hundred illustrations.

The vision

There might—one day—be a University which has put not only its teaching materials for students but also the research of its academic staff on WWWebpages. As far as this University would be concerned, there would be no hassle any longer about getting hold of obscure references by time-consuming Interlibrary loan orders or sending around manuscripts before their publication. All the latest articles (nicely presented with colour images, video sequences and computer simulations) by leading researchers in their fields would be available to everyone at any time around the world as HTML documents on WWWebpages. Postgraduate dissertations and book-size publications by their supervisors, with links to other electronic publications from anywhere in the world, would form an openly accessible electronic library of great use for students and colleagues. The postgraduate community jointly with the academic staff would run mailings lists and electronic journals for discussing new ideas or WWWebpages with both young and established scholars from all parts of the world. Occasionally, when they live too far apart to meet each other in person, they would have life video conferences and discuss issues face to face. The academic world would have changed to a large family and from the instant dissemination of information and discussion of ideas the quality of research world-wide would have benefited more than we can currently imagine.
Why should Lampeter not become such a place?

I received various responses to this document.


© Internet Archaeology URL:
Last updated: Mon March 8 1999