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Running Head: ASSIGNMENT 4, PART 2 Anthony 1

Assignment 4, Part 2: Case Study on Data Consumption and Repurposing

Casey Anthony

SLIS, KENT STATE UNIVERSITY


ASSIGNMENT 4, PART 2 Anthony 2

Abstract

Worldwide you can find carvings in rocks, called rock art, which was created by ancient peoples. British rock
art is believed to have been created sometime between 4,000 and 1,000 BC. Various archaeological projects
have collected much information on British rock art. England’s Rock Art is a website and database built for
this information. The information is open and free to the public, and there is even opportunity for community
involvement in the ongoing ERA project.
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Case Study on Data Consumption and Repurposing

Introduction

Overall Focus and Goals of the Project or Service

England’s Rock Art (ERA) is a website and database which hosts and expands on the data collected

during the Northumberland and Durham Rock Art Pilot (NADRAP) Project, as well as from the Beckensall

Archive and the CSIRM Project. Rock art is symbols, images, or writing carved into rocks. In the case of rock

art found in Britain, the art is symbolic and appears abstract. The rock art was created by ancient peoples who

lived or passed through the areas where the rock art is located. ERA represents a digital humanities project

with a focus on collecting archaeological data, promoting preservation of cultural heritage sites, as well as

educating the public on the presence and history of rock art.

The ERA website was created and database designed by the Archaeology Data Service, University of

York; the text has been written by Kate Sharpe (NADRAP) and Aron Mazel (Beckensall Archive Project).

The website is managed by the NADRAP, and the data on the website and database is copyrighted to the

English Heritage, The University of Newcastle, Northumberland and Durham County Councils, and Pennine

Prospects, while the software copyright is held by the Archaeology Data Service; individual contributors may

hold copyrights as well.

The ERA website contains both quantitative and qualitative data collected during archaeological

surveys and excavations. For each piece of rock art, also known as a panel, ERA provides quantitative data

such as GPS coordinates and measurements. The database provides qualitative descriptions of the geology and

topography, surface descriptions of the rock art including the motifs (as well as details related to weathering,

plant growth, and damage). There are also photographs, sketches, plans, photogrammetry, and 3D models

available for many of the panels. Aside from the database, the website provides much information from topics
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ranging from how to best view rock art to how to get involved in documenting rock art; as well as many

resources, including both links to other websites as well as a large bibliography of scholarly work.

Results

Sources of Data

The data located the ERA website comes from the NADRAP, Beckensall Archive Project, and the

CISRM project, although any tyro can still contribute. ERA is the open source for this data, with the website

and database specifically designed to house the data generated by these projects. The information on the

website has been written by people who participated in these projects.

While users of the data may contribute themselves, it is unlikely someone not actively involved in

archaeology or the preservation of rock art would be contributing any new data. It is likely though that many

of the users may have contributed data while participating in one of the projects; ERA is a great resource for

archaeologists, rock art aficionados, and students. If an individual or group is interested in contributing data,

ERA provides detailed information and resources on how to do so; anyone can collect and submit data, but a

local archaeologist and a database administrator must review the data before it is added to the database. The

best way for a lay person to be involved in contributing data is to either volunteer with their local

archaeological (historical) society, or to help with monitoring sites and reporting any changes or damage to the

rock art, including vandalism. Another way to contribute would be to the bibliography and resources page.

Published research, whether informal or formal, is important to ERA as it expands awareness of British rock

art. As Meyers et al. (2013) note “…the digitally literate citizen must be an active and ever-vigilant

participant…” (362), direct database contributions are not the only way for users to be involved with ERA.
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Tools and Technologies

The database itself is probably the most important tool on the website. It allows users to search for the

all the recorded art rock from the projects in a variety of ways. The GUI is simple to use, allowing the user to

preform simple text searches and to make category selections to narrow the search within the database. The

user has the option to browse all of the panels, do a basic or advanced search, or locate panels by map if they

prefer. The advanced search is a useful tool for users who are not sure what inputs they need in order to get

specific outputs; and for those still struggling, there is a help page on how to use the database. The database is

a collection of all the data obtained on a specific panel, broken into five categories: overview, details, location,

management, and media. The database standardizes the presentation of information, but without damaging the

integrity of the information collected by the various projects. Information of any given panel may come from

one or more sources, there is only one entry for each panel, so many of the panels will have data and notes

from ERA, NADRAP, and Breckensall presented together in the database entry.

There appears to be little to no use of graphs and charts on the website or in the database, but there are

many maps to be found throughout the site. In addition to the database and maps, media, in the form of photos

(including aerial), videos, photogrammetry models, and laser scanned models are available for viewing and

study. There is even an option to virtually tour some of the sites, as well as a phone app, RAMP, which can be

used to discover rock art in person. Every tool or technology on the website has an important function,

whether it is photographic documentation, locational information entered into the database, a video panorama

of the landscape, or to aid in doing a proper rock art ramble.

Users and Uses

Archaeologists and volunteers in that field are going to be major consumers of the information of this

project, but property owners with rock art on their land, local school groups, or any dilettante could be a user.

Finding this site will be easier if the person searching is either specifically looking for rock art or archaeology
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in England; using the tools may be easier than finding the website in the first place if you are not British. The

information in the database is, in general, quite simple and presented in a neat and consistent format. If a

person does not understand how information is presented in the database, the website provides explanation on

methodology and provides tips and resources for further study so that anyone can learn the techniques needed

to properly record rock art. While a non-specialist can certainly contribute to ERA, they cannot directly access

or manipulate data already in the database or on the website. Volunteers played a crucial role in the projects

which contributed to ERA, and are still integral to the management and preservation of rock art.

The sort of information that can be garnered from the site can range from specific data on rock art (such

as location and motif) to how to record rock art, where to find it, and the history of rock art in Britain. A

common question for ERA may be in regards to the use of data and images, the ERA website provides that so

long as the use is non-commercial, nothing is modified, and copyright is displayed that everything is open for

use. This means that it is not a completely open collection. As Eschenfelder and Caswell (2010) point out,

controls are not always a choice, but requirements to protect the legal rights of some contributors.

For visualization to be valuable either original information should be used, or the information should

add a new perspective to an area of study (Strikeleather, 2013). The information found on ERA fits both

criteria, for example data patterns (or lack thereof) between location and motifs used could be generated, but

the site itself does not provide a way to create visualization outside of dot distribution mapping and a thematic

map showing ERA geographical coverage. A shows a screenshot of a dot distribution map and B screenshot of

a dot distribution map.


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There is potential for a knowledge graph to be generated, but ERA is not widely linked outside of other

British rock art resources and archaeology projects. It does not even show up on Googles knowledge graph as

it has essentially no presence on Wikipedia or other sources that the knowledge graph pulls from. Below is an

example of A) Googles knowledge graph, B) Google search results for rock art and C) results for England’s

Rock Art. If ERA was essentially more linked, it might show up in the knowledge graph similar to the

example with Barack Obama.


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Users can integrate information easily into their own projects. The entire database can be downloaded

in the form of CVS (spreadsheet), XML, or KML. Images of various resolutions are available for download on

their rock art gallery, as are the photogrammetry models available under virtual rock art on their experience

page. Users can also utilize dot distribution maps for projects.

Discussion

Impact
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There have been a number of publications which are the result of the project; the most easily accessible

is the ERA booklet The Prehistoric Rock Art of England: recording, managing and enjoying our carved

heritage. Other publications include scholarly articles, newsletters, and the content of the website itself. The

impact of the project has been largely the discovery of new rock art. During the NADRAP there were at least a

dozen new rock art discoveries. Another has been the digitizing of rock art; the main objective of the

Beckensall Archive was to put Northumberland rock art online. Their contribution and presence on ERA has

most certainly made an impact on the amount of searchable rock art on the internet.

While contributing to the database may not be a reality for most users, ERA is still an important

informal source of digital literacy. As Meyers et al. (2013) discuss, such sites promote engagement with

digital tools that lead to social learning and community involvement; digital skills may be a bit de-emphasized

but this allows for greater participation and focus on context. The ERA provides both resources and a sort of

scaffolding for users to research and make use of; the results of user participation are most evident in the

database and bibliography.

Conclusion

ERA is a terrific resource for anyone interested in rock art, but is also an important resource for

archaeologist, historians, and those concerned with preservation. Although the major contributing projects

have ended, ERA itself is an ongoing project which accepts submission of new data from anyone who has

information which has been reviewed by a local archaeologist. While ERA may have somewhat limited

audience, as it contains data exclusively on British rock art; that is not to say that it does not hold value for

those researching related topics. The majority of the rock art is still embedded in the landscape of northern

England, often on private property; ERA allows the public and professionals to view and research the rock art

from anywhere in the world with internet connection.


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References

England’s Rock Art. Retrieved From: http://archaeologydataservice.ac.uk/era/

Eschenfelder, K., & Caswell. M. (2010). Digital cultural collections in an age of reuse and remixes. In First

Monday, 15(11), 1-21.

Meyers, E.M., Erickson, I., & Small, R. V. (2013). Digital literacy and informal learning environments: an

introduction, Learning, Media and Technology, 38 (4), 355-367.

Strikeleather, J. (2013). When Data Visualization Works - And When It Doesn’t. Harvard Business Review.
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