As I discussed in a previous post, the Bone Collective is the project that I will be working on as a Cultural Heritage Informatics (CHI) fellow. Currently, the Bone Collective project is in its initial development stage. This means that I am primarily learning to use the Mediawiki platform. Last week, I set up Mediawiki on our server- a task that took a surprisingly long amount of time but that was completely satisfying in the nerdiest way. There are a couple of lessons that I learned from this task. My initial reaction to the challenge of installing Mediawiki onto a server was that this task was way beyond my tech skills.

The first lesson of this experience was not to doubt my own ability. One of the benefits of being a fellow for the Cultural Heritage Initiative is that we get the opportunity to learn these technical skills through trial and error. After numerous years in a ‘soft’ science, it’s easy to follow the more traditional tendencies of your discipline. Leaving my comfort zone was not only refreshing, but has completely changed my perception of what I can and cannot accomplish. Watch out archaeology, I see a digital future before us… and it is glorious. The second lesson of installing Mediawiki is don’t be afraid to ask for help or get a struggle buddy. Another benefit of the Cultural Heritage Initiative is that all of us fellows are working through this together, so while I plugged away at installing Mediawiki, Micalee was right next to me installing Omeka. If we’re going to break down the technology/humanities dichotomy we need to do it together through collaboration and teamwork.

The next stage of development for me is going to be building the ‘bones’ for this bioarchaeology and mortuary archaeology wiki. This is going to consist of creating a user guide and formatting the site in general. As I go through this next stage I find that the challenges I am facing are a little less on the technical, and more about how I want this community to operate. For those of you who read my previous post, you know I am an advocate for open access archaeology. However, as a young graduate student with dreams of becoming a tenured professor, I understand the value and necessity of having full authorship over one’s writing.

The question is then, how much of this project do I want to be restricted to specific authored sections, and how much will be open for community sourced editing? Do I want to follow a more traditional format of an edited collection of essays on the various topics in bioarchaeology and mortuary archaeology, or do I want to open this completely to the community like Wikipedia? The current plan is that following the construction of the basic site I will make a call to bioarchaeologists and mortuary archaeologists to author specific topics. For the section that they write they will be openly credited for them. After the first wave of topics are authored and submitted, the second phase will consist of a peer review discussion of the articles done through the companion forum pages. These discussions will be used for the author to refine their section as well as add new information. Finally, in the third phase the site will be fully opened for the public addition of comments and newer sections. These original essays and topics will be maintained as authored pages.

As the site continues beyond the initial production, authors will be able to continue to update and maintain their topic or pass it on to others to continue. By doing this, we will be able to have an open discussion over material, but also will give scholars a peer-reviewed piece of work that is their own to claim. While this is the current model I am creating, I am extremely open to discussion over the subject, so I look forward to comments and suggestions over the authorship versus open community debate.