automatic

Automation

November 2005 - G. Buccellati
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Automatic production of the Browser Edition
Intellectual significance of automation

Automatic production of the Browser Edition

     An important dimension of the Urkesh Global Record is that the vast majority of the pages are produced exclusively through programs that operate on the original input data, that are quite disparate in format (text files, Excel type ledgers, directories). This applies to all of the pages that are invoked from the right hand side vertical bar (in black) and all the tabulations that are invoked from lower portion of the left hand side vertical bar (in red). This means that, in these areas, no manual intervention ever takes place to affect the display of the Browser Edition.
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Intellectual significance of automation

     The pervasive use of automation has obviously a practical impact, in particular because it favors greater speed in the utilization of the record at the very moment of excavation. But there are important intellectual dimensions that should not be underestimated.
     First, the excavator sees the daily notes (in whatever format) immediately integrated, on a recurrent basis, into the final product as it is when published. In a real sense, the smallest remark ever entered in the record is "public" from its very inception, because it becomes embedded from the start into the same format that will be available to the scholar. This increases the sense of responsibility and of identification with the goal of sharing the process and the results.
     Second, the degree of standardization that ensues makes it possible to aim for a coherent publication of all the material from the entire site, in such a way that comparisons and correlations are possible in the measure in which the excavations progress and the record grows.
     Finally, the vast quantity of minute details is transformed into a coherent whole where no ad hoc adjustment can take place: automation is quite unforgiving. This increases the transparency of the record as nothing else could: the correlations established by the programs among the atoms of the system show how they fit together or, where they do not, the underlying error that caused the disconnect in the first place. The adage "tout se tient" is indeed an apposite description of a successful, automated Browser Edition.
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