Wednesday, July 20, 2022

The concept of citation-readiness and Mycenaean Atlas Project

 A URL  is a 'universal resource locator': it refers to a web site, e.g. pleiades.stoa.org.  A URI is a 'universal resource identifier': it refers to a specific item sheltered under the URL.  So, in the pleiades scheme, 579885 is a URI that refers to Athens.  And the link (URL + URI): pleiades.stoa.org/places/579885 is the pointer to 'Athens' in their database and which will be returned by Pleiades.   This is a very friendly form and easy for the user to remember.

The actual address of the Pleiades Athens page would not be friendly at all.  It's more likely to look something like this:

{a} https://www.pleiades.org/stoa/locator-page-constructor?place=579885

My example here is made-up but Pleiades' genuine locator is going to be very much like it and an awful lot for the user to remember.  Much easier to allow the user to write:

{b}  pleiades.stoa.org/places/579885

Now, to be clear, form {b} is for the user's convenience.  The server running at pleiades cannot use this string directly.  It has to convert this string into form {a} before the server can task the right resource.  A rewrite rule is what allows the server to do this.  The result is convenience for the user but correctness for the server.  Win-win.

Well, what one group can do another can also.  I created some rewrite rules for helladic.info so that, if you know the location key for a BA site you can just use that without  remembering the long pathname to the actual program.  So from now on you will be able to type and/or embed a simplified form.  E.g., such as here for the stadium at Argos:

{b}  www.helladic.info/C4480               

instead of the real full path:

{a}  https://www.helladic.info/MAPC/pkey_report_wparam.php?place=C4880

The rewrite rule itself is just this:

RewriteRule  ^(C[0-9]+)$  /MAPC/pkey_report_wparam.php?place=$1  [L,R]

... and the result looks like this:




In one of his foggier statements about Pleiades URLs (he clearly doesn't understand the technology), Tom Elliott has this to say about enhancing citation practice.

“On the world-wide-web, the identifiers necessary for citation should be front-and- center: they are the strings of characters that you put into the location bar of your browser in order to retrieve a web page.  They are the essential magic in a hyperlink.  Their technical name is “Uniform Resource Identifier,” a phrase usually abbreviated with  the acronym URI.  URIs (or yoo-ahr-ees, as they’re sometimes pronounced) are cool.  They’re cool because, if you construct them sensibly and connect them to interesting information and take care of them so they don’t rot into uselessness, they make citation happen.  In throwing off the normalizing tyranny of a single map view to embrace the radical equality of all places, Pleiades was born citation-ready.  Because Sean Gillies and others present at the creation payed attention to emerging best practice and cared about scholarly communication, Pleiades was born citation-ready.”[1]

(I removed Elliott's footnotes 17 and 18).

Elliott suggests that this practice makes pleiades 'citation-ready'.  'Citation-ready' in this sense requires, however, no special 'magic' (the word is Elliott's and it's one which he should avoid) because every server supports rewrite rules that will convert some simple address that you type into the URL box (here pleiades.stoa.org/places/579885) into the more complex 'actual' address where that resource resides.  As usual Elliott is erecting a cathedral on a postage stamp - overselling a normal web function.  If all it takes is a rewrite rule to make pleiades 'citation-ready' then helladic.info is now also 'citation-ready' ...

or something.

But is a simple rewrite-rule enough to create citation-readiness?  I'm not convinced.  We all could benefit from a discussion which tries to clear up the idea of scholarly citation in the context of on-line resources.  Maybe next time.

Notes
  1. Elliott [2018] 45-6.
  2. A guide to rewrite rules is here and a handy cheat sheet for regular expressions (RAs) is here.

Biblio

Elliott [2018]:  Elliott, Tom, 'The Pleiadic Gaze: Looking at Archaeology from the Perspective of a Digital Gazetteer',  Archaeology and Economy in the Ancient World; Classical Archaeology in the Digital Age – The AIAC Presidential Panel 12.1 (51), 43-51.  Kristian Göransson ed., 2018.  Online here.

It seems to me that this paper was actually written at least a decade ago but I can find no earlier reference to it.  Is it just me?  Does anyone else know better?

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