What would Indy do? Resisting post-truth through the practice of annotation

Barker, Elton (2020). What would Indy do? Resisting post-truth through the practice of annotation. In: Roosevelt, Chris ed. Spatial Webs: Mapping Anatolian Pasts for Research and the Public. ANAMEDD: Research Center for Anatolian Civilizations. Istanbul: Koç University Research Centre for Anatolian Civilizations, pp. 5–31.


Perhaps due to its fragmentary nature, the study of the ancient world has always been open to a holistic approach that has read archaeology through a historiographical lens and vice versa. At the same time, the growing professionalization of academia, as well as the exponential growth in scholarly output, has resulted in ever more specialized fields of research and ever-sharper disciplinary boundaries being drawn. New digital technologies carry an even greater risk of fragmentation, since the different models and standards used to structure and represent digital data present substantial challenges to their discoverability, accessibility, and (re)usability. And yet, not only can the Web be a powerful means of bringing disparate data together for both visualization and analysis; archaeologists now have a vital role to play in informing the public through this medium.

Using the linking potential of the Web, Pelagios (http://pelagios.org/) has been pioneering a means of ‘mutual contextualization’, whereby any online document—be it a text, image, or database—can be connected to another simply by virtue of having something in common with it. In Pelagios this linking is achieved through the method of annotating places. From having originally been seeded in collaboration with partners who already curated data and had the technical know-how to align datasets, Pelagios now offers any researcher a simple, intuitive means to encode place information in their work.

This presentation will set out and explain this annotation process through Pelagios's Web-based, Open Source platform, Recogito (http://recogito.pelagios.org/). It also considers the potential uses of this kind of semantic annotation, including the repurposing of data in other systems (such as GIS), and the linking to other resources (e.g. in our prototype search http://peripleo.pelagios.org/). Throughout, there will be a concern to identify challenges and opportunities related not only to technical production but also to the conceptualization of place as well as the development of an online Commons. Thus, contrary to much current thinking, this presentation hopes to show how digital tools can enhance the close reading of data and facilitate a more nuanced understanding of place as represented both in our historical sources and through the evidence on the ground.

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