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STUDENT AFFAIRS

Getting Your Work Out "There":
Publishing Conference Papers on the Web

Anna Agbe-Davies and Sharon Misdea

So, you're back from Seattle and wondering what to do with the hard copy of the paper you stressed about so much before your presentation. And you're wondering why you were so anxious because only three people attended your session at 8 a.m. Sunday morning. Now what?

Many conference papers and other types of interim reports never make it beyond an advisor's desk before a conference or a filing cabinet upon arriving home. Maybe one person was interested enough to ask for a copy at the meetings. Because filing this information for eternity runs counter to ethical archaeological practice, you should consider publishing your conference papers on the web. Although a number of critiques have been leveled against publishing in this format, none will remain tenable for long. Students today are junior scholars at a time when the discipline is being transformed by concerns with stewardship and communicative technology such as the Internet, and need to engage in the dialogue on such issues and gain publishing experience. Students need to become comfortable with and active in publishing on the web. The Internet provides an exciting opportunity to share ideas, make original materials and documents available to a wide audience, and invite dialogue and collaboration.

In this column, we briefly discuss some current issues regarding publication on the web. These issues have been treated in detail elsewhere and what follows is somewhat of an oversimplification of some very serious concerns. Students should read (and reread) the SAA Special Report on Ethics in American Archaeology: Challenges for the 1990s (1995, edited by M. Lynott and A. Wylie, Society for American Archaeology, Washington, D.C.) for thorough considerations of such topics. Additionally, Karen Vitelli's edited volume, Archaeological Ethics (1996, AltaMira Press, Walnut Creek, Calif.), includes several chapters on publishing for a variety of audiences. A more technical discussion of how to get your work out into cyberspace will follow.

You may be concerned that your ideas will be improperly cited or that you might be quoted in a supermarket tabloid as having found evidence of the Holy Grail in Texas. Copyright, ownership, and fair use are all issues of concern, but they are not fully understood by most students. Christopher Chippindale and David Pendergast offer a straightforward discussion of copyright and public knowledge in their article "Intellectual Property: Ethics, Knowledge, and Publication" (SAA Special Report on Ethics in Archaeology, 1995, pp. 45-49). The misuse of archaeological data and interpretations is difficult to control even when they have beenpublished in print journals. But archaeological knowledge is public knowledge and you do not own your ideas about or interpretations of the past. It is only the ways you articulate those ideas that are protected by copyright. Web pages can be copyrighted but more importantly, archaeological information will be more widely available to the public.

"Yes, but I need at least two dozen peer-reviewed articles published in a major print journal before I graduate in order to get a job," you say? However, peer review is no longer exclusive to print journals. An increasing number of refereed journals is currently being published on the web, including Internet Archaeology (www.intarch.york.ac.uk) and Assemblage (www.shef.ac.uk/uni/union/susoc/assem). Publication in these journals substantially reduces the lag time you can expect when you submit work to most paper journals. The audience for electronic journals is growing and many libraries now include links to a variety of online journals as well as electronic versions of many print journals. Libraries often will consider recommendations for electronic subscriptions just as they would for a print journal. In addition to publishing in an online journal, prepublication versions of your articles (conference papers!) could be put on the web linked to your own home page. You could invite preliminary review by distributing your home page address, requesting and creating links to web sites related to your work, and registering with several search engines.

How many times have you clicked on a link only to be transferred to a page informing you that the URL no longer exists? Information seems to disappear from the web quickly. The most difficult issue at present concerning publication on the web is the archiving of archaeological information. This is a particular problem when an individual publishes articles, papers, and interim reports on the web. It is your responsibility to carefully maintain the pages you create and properly curate hard copies of the data until a consensus is reached about how to appropriately archive electronic information. Given the rate at which technology changes, this issue will likely remain with us and will require constant reconsideration.

Despite these difficult issues and the limited publication space in print journals, you are responsible for making information about archaeological data and interpretations publicly available within a reasonable amount of time after you collect the data. And there are multiple publics to whom you are accountable. The web provides a flexible and creative means for communicating with those publics simultaneously. With the HTML format, you can provide information in a manner palatable to the lay public and provide links to details that would satisfy the most data-hungry colleague. You can also create links to later research or commentary about the work that you have published on the web.

Once you have decided to take your ideas or data into cyberspace, you have two options as noted above. You can create your own web pages, or you can submit your piece to an online journal, which then will put your item on the Internet as part of a larger publication. Certain advice pertains regardless of where you publish your piece. First and foremost, the web is a very different medium from traditional printed material. Organizational and stylistic strategies that work very well in print may be less suited for the web and vice versa. Online archaeological journals warn potential authors that a good paper text may need substantial revision to make it into a good web text.

The main reason for this difference in standards is the use of HyperText Markup Language (HTML) in web documents. In a nutshell, HTML contains the commands that control the appearance and behavior of the elements of a web page. The principal advantage of presenting information in this manner as opposed to print is the variety of ways pages can be linked together, allowing the user to move through the text in ways that one finds logical or useful.

Of course, this also means that you as the author have less control over the pages the user will actually read and the order in which the pages will be encountered. Consider the fact that the phrases "see above" and "as previously stated" lose some of their punch if you cannot guarantee that your user has already been to the pages where those points were made.

The flip side is that hypertext does allow you to put in links to those "previous" statements, which will take the user directly to that place in the document. Likewise, repetition becomes superfluous in a medium where a simple link will take the user to information that may have to be restated in paper text.

Authors writing for the web should consider the most effective organization of their texts and take both content and users into consideration. The Yale C/AIM Web Style Guide (info.med.yale.edu/caim/manual/sites/site_structure.html) lists four types of organization: sequence, grid, hierarchy, and web.

A sequence is a linear format in which each page follows another in a set order. This strategy works best for small sites, or those in which the progression is in some way intuitive (i.e., alphabetical or chronological order). A grid is best suited to pages that contain information that may be correlated in a very uniform manner (i.e., comparing tools of different materials against different time periods). These two organizational principles work well for linear narratives with a predictable structure.

A web structure is characterized by an abundance of links that most closely approximates the free association of pages in a nearly infinite number of permutations. A hierarchical structure is much like an outline in that minor points are nested within major points and links connect points of the same order with those of a higher order. Webs and hierarchies are less linear and more flexible than sequences and grids but have a greater potential to confuse the user or to be poorly organized by the author. (Interested readers are strongly encouraged to visit Yale's site, authored by P. Lynch and S. Horton, 1997.)

It is helpful to think about your audience and the nature of your piece. To select the appropriate organizational pattern, some site builders suggest sketching your site out on sheets of paper and moving them around physically to simulate the way they might be encountered by a user. Another good strategy is to note on each page any other page to which it might usefully be linked.

Some other differences between traditional and web publishing arise from the fact that the former uses paper, and the latter appears on a screen. The titles of your pages should be clear and concise. Don't forget that many users will come to your piece via search engines, which often display only the title and a line or two of text to hint at the content of your work. Also, when users discover how brilliant your work is, they will want to mark it with a bookmark, which will bear the name of that page. An obscure or confusing title might confuse a potentially loyal user and prevent a return to your work.

Thinking about how your users will move around in your text will also help you plan a better document. Offer plenty of links to your main or home page. Consider making links to the top or bottom of long pages, to keep your readers from scrolling too much. "Back" buttons allow your user to return to previously visited pages easily and in a sensible order.

If you decide to create your own site for your publication, the first thing you need to do is convert the document to HTML code. There are many, many sites on the web with instructions on how to write (and how not to write!) HTML code. One very clear and easy to understand site is at www.scar.utoronto.ca/homes/david/htmlcourse/htmlcourse.html. Another more extensive site is www.ncsa.uiuc.edu/General/Internet/WWW/HTMLPrimer.html. Programs are also available that can convert a word processing document (Word or WordPerfect) into HTML text. Many newer versions of word processing software come equipped with these add-ins.

Another constructive alternative (if you have money to burn) is to hire a consultant (often freelancing students) or a full-time agency to write the code for you. Fellow students may be contacted through The Global Institute for Interactive Multimedia home page (www.thegiim.org/) and are likely to be cheaper than agencies.

Once you've established a way to translate your ideas into HTML, the next step is to organize your information into one or more HTML documents, each of which is a page, and which, when linked, constitute your site. Of course, this site needs a place to stay, a service that is provided by a web server. Potential servers are your university, a museum, or a firm with which you have connections. Many Internet service providers (like America Online) also act as servers for individual web sites. Check to see how you might be billed. Some servers charge a fee, which might be based on the amount of disk space your site uses, or you might be charged per "hit"--that is, each time someone requests text, links, or graphics from your site.

The main thing to be aware of is that there is a lot of information on Internet publishing on the web, and some of it is very entertaining to read! (It may be that the only group of professionals more eccentric than archaeologists are computer experts.) There are sites on the web to help you with site design, aesthetics, HTML writing, and many other aspects of creating your own page. See, for example, www2.hawaii.edu/jay/styleguide/part1.html.

Some aspects of site design have already been addressed (we wouldn't be saying that in a web text!), but certain issues are especially important if you decide to publish independently on the web. Archaeologists are constantly aware of the importance of context for the interpretation of what they see. Apply this same consciousness to your web document. Let your user know who you are and with what institutions you are affiliated. Better yet, offer links that connect to your university, professional societies, and to an email address where you can be reached for comments. Most site authors are very good about following most of these guidelines but very often neglect to say when the site was established. This, too, is important in helping users evaluate the information. Also realize that because web documents might not be read from "beginning" to "end," it is important to place identifying information on most, if not all, pages. Note that many paper journals print the journal name, volume, issue, and date on the first page of an article, or on every page, for the same reason. Again, context is very important to users.

Nearly all journals prefer electronic submissions (email or word processing document on disk) to paper copies. And, don't think that you'll be off the HTML hook if you submit your piece to an online journal. Although many online journals will turn your submission into code for you, most of them want your input on the organization of your pages. Several journals we consulted also noted that it is best to start with an initial outline submission in consultation with the editorial staff before you attempt a major rewrite of an already written piece.

Indeed, some journals, like Internet Archaeology, will not accept pieces that have already appeared in print elsewhere. However, this journal does accept extensions of, or pieces complementary to, existing works. Like their paper counterparts, different online journals serve different audiences and publish different types of submissions. Assemblage is an online journal "first and foremost for graduate students" that accepts essays, formal papers, and reviews (of books, programs, exhibits, tourist sites) as well as announcements and humor. You can check out their mission statement and call for papers at www.shef.ac.uk/~assem/3/3mission.htm.

Internet Archaeology, on the other hand, does not accept book reviews but does encourage CD-ROM and software reviews in addition to artifact studies, articles on excavation/fieldwork, theory and methodology, and archaeological publication using electronic media (intarch.ac.uk/news/editpol.html).

Southwestern Archaeology is more like a clearinghouse of archaeological information than a strict "journal" and accepts academic papers, reviews, links, essays, field reports, annotated bibliographies, and event information (www.swanet.org/ brochure.html).

The number of online journals is growing and the Internet will undoubtedly continue not only to reshape the way archaeological information is published but to transform many other aspects of the discipline as well. Students should become literate in HTML and conversant in the ethical issues regarding archaeology and the web.

Anna Agbe-Davies and Sharon Misdea are graduate students at the University of Pennsylvania. Sharon is a member of the Student Affairs Committee and Anna is a campus representative for the committee.

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