Saturday, November 10, 2012

Last House on the Hill: A New hybrid publication from the Cotsen Institute

Editorial Director Cotsen Institute of Archaeology Press
New hybrid publication from the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology Press,
available at the AAA meetings this Fall: Last House on the Hill

Last House on the Hill is a digital multigraph mirror of the printed monograph of the same name. The book and digital component comprise the final report of the Berkeley Archaeologists at Çatalhöyük (BACH) project, in which a team from the University of California at Berkeley excavated a group of Neolithic 9000-year old buildings at this famous cultural heritage location in Central Anatolia, Turkey. By creating an on-line media- and data-rich edition of Last House on the Hill, we hope to keep alive, and open for critique and further elaboration, the narratives about the archaeology, history, cultural heritage, and memories of the BACH project.  The digital edition of Last House on the Hill is available as a “Cloud”-based database running on your desktop and as an iPad application, which brings together digital versions of the printed texts and authors’ supplemental materials along with the full archaeological record. The ambition of the digital edition of Last House on the Hill is to embed, interweave, entangle, and otherwise link the complete project database (including all media formats such as photographs, videos, maps, line drawings as well as data analysis and interpretation) with the final synthetic contents held in the printed edition in an open access, sharable platform. It is an open-ended data stream that can grow and—as long as it is well curated—can live for many decades. Rather than building a repository of content that merely replicates in digital the fragmented nature of miscellaneous archives, we have worked to ensure that the on-line edition provides a sustainable and extensible framework through which researchers, visitors, and future scholars can all make substantive contributions and that it will serve as an engaging model for the digital publication of archaeological content.

An essential information management challenge for a project of this magnitude is how to make sense of such an enormity of information and rich media.  Through the metaphor of a strongly visual, web-like navigation through content, we provide an interface to meaningful relations existing amongst the records and different media collections that would otherwise remain unexplored, such as who or what is represented in a photography, drawing, or mentioned in a document. We believe that the mass of archaeological documentation gains its full significance for a study of the past if it is represented as the relationships among people, places and things, their representation through media, and the contingencies of time and space, all of which contribute to the creation of the archaeological record. Thus, the ultimate aim of the digital edition of Last House on the Hill is to have both archaeologists and a broader public be inspired to track back from the “official” interpretation to the original data and media in order to download, recontextualize and remix them in creative and productive ways. In the age of mobile computing, iPads, and Android devices, there is an ever-increasing market pressure to provide easy-to-use and powerful tools for self-expression (publishing), coupled with robust digital asset management and archiving through “cloud” computing. We are optimistic that these market changes will continue to positively influence traditional archives and publishers to reconsider what it means to be “done” with an archaeological publication.

Further information about the Last House on the Hill project is available here

The book has been published by the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology Press and is distributed through UNM Press.

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