Isaksen, Leif, Martinez, Kirk and Earl, Graeme
Archaeology, formality & the CIDOC CRM
At Interconnected Data Worlds: Workshop on the Implementation of the CIDOC-CRM.
23 - 24 Nov 2009.
The CIDOC CRM is the most sophisticated, best documented and well-known ontology in the Cultural Heritage domain. So much so, that it is frequently referred to as a ‘miracle cure’ and ‘the only show in town’. Yet despite this perception, the rate of its adoption – like that of the Semantic Web with which it is frequently associated – has been glacial at best and almost exclusively by large, well-funded projects. What is hindering uptake and are there important lessons to be learned from it?
In their 1999 paper ‘Formality Considered Harmful’, Shipman and Marshall identify four barriers to user interaction with formal knowledge systems: (1) The cognitive overhead required to understand the formalism, (2) The need to elicit tacit knowledge, (3) enforcing premature structure on unstructured or poorly-understood source material, (4) the problems caused by situational structure, i.e. the different needs of different users. While they note that there is no ‘silver bullet’ that addresses all of these challenges they do propose several palliatives that can assist, and therefore encourage, the transition from free to structured information where beneficial.
This paper will discuss these principals in reference to current doctoral research being undertaken in archaeological data integration. While the work in question has elected to use ontologies other than the CIDOC CRM, the results derived are also likely to be of interest to the CRM community. In particular it focuses on means by which microproviders – owners of the small but important datasets that form the ‘long tail’ of excavation data – can participate in semantics-driven datasharing.
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