What all is (not) paradata? Documenting the making and provenance of archaeological and heritage information

Submitted by Isto Huvila on Fri, 10/30/2020 - 05:34

Keynote at EUROMED 2020 conference, organised online by the Digital Heritage Lab at Cyprus University of Technology.


We might have enough data about archaeological data and collections but not a good enough understanding of how the data and collections came about. Current digital documentation and collection management systems provide increasingly comprehensive and easy-to-use functions to keep track of what happens when data and objects are managed and manipulated within the systems. The digital lifecycle within dedicated systems is still only a part of everything that has an influence on how data and collections come into being and what their current and future users might need to know about it to make them usable and useful. 

The on-going CAPTURE research project investigates what information about the creation and use of research data (i.e. paradata) is needed and how to capture enough of that information to make the data reusable in the future. The wickedness of the problem lies in the practical impossibility to document and keep everything and the difficulty to determine how to capture just enough to complement information that is already available  in the collection data itself and that can be deduced by combining available direct and indirect evidence.

This presentation explores into the question of what all things might count as 'paradata' i.e. data that can inform future users of the processes relating to how data and collections have come into being. It stresses the importance of thinking about paradata and the processes of making more broadly than as a linear list of events.

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