Accessing data in databanks like the Archaeological Data Archive requires indices. Otherwise, finding needed items can be all but impossible. Some ideas about indexing were put forward in the Newsletter a year ago (see "Where is the Information?"), and groups have been working together at an international level to create an agreed-upon minimum set of information for any digital document. This international effort has focused on a set of items called the Dublin Core (named for the 1995 meeting of the group in Dublin, Ohio).
The members of the international consortium have produced a memo that is also intended to serve as a request for comments. It sets forth the current list of data items to be recorded for any digital document. There are 15 such data items (elements), and there is some discussion of each item in the memo/request for comments. The memo is now available on the Web at ftp://ftp.isi.edu/in-notes/rfc2413.txt.
It is easy for scholars to ignore these kinds of debates about metadata (the term preferred in the Internet community) and indexing (the term preferred at CSA, as pointed out in the article mentioned above). However, these metadata/indexing schemes will determine the ways scholars will access electronic data in the future. Therefore, scholars should take this opportunity to respond to the suggestions of the consortium. The members of the consortium need to hear from potential users; they need to know how the choices they make now may affect scholarship in years to come.
For other Newsletter articles concerning the use of electronic media in the humanities, consult the Subject index.
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Table of Contents for the Fall, 1998 issue of the CSA Newsletter (Vol. XI, no. 2)
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