URKESH.ORG/H/81-concept.HTM
VERSION 1 – G. Buccellati, February 2016

The UGR concept

The concept
Data base and narrative
The argument
Hyperlinks
The grammar
Impact on strategy
The input as publication
References

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The concept

     The Urkesh Global Record is an argument driven global archive.
     It is an "archive" in that it contains and makes available in an ordered fashion the record of the excavations.
     It is "global" in that it incorporates the entirety of the data as observed during excavation.
     And it is "argument driven" in that there is an overarching narrative (in fact, several intersecting narratives) that subsume the structured data set.
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Data base and narrative

     The interweaving of these two dimensions, data base and narrative, is the distinctive formal trait of the UGR. While serving the traditional purpose of a data base, the UGR is more than that precisely because of the way in which the data are integrated within the scope of an overall narrative.
     Data bases may be considered as argument based inasmuch as the categorization that underlies their organization derives from a set of principles that are applied systematically to the data set. But they remain inert, they are not argument driven. There is, in other words, no dynamic progression or reasoning thread that proposes any given conclusions. The data base is open to queries that are rooted in such progression or thread, hence in an argument. But they do not achieve that goal in and of themselves.
     The UGR, instead, purports to do just that, and in this it aims to bring to full fruition the potential inherent to digital thought. It is both a data base and a discursive, multilinear argument. Hence its complexity.
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The argument

     It is around these "data" that UGR builds its argument. There are three major mechanisms for this particular type of digital argument, for which one will find examples in a separate section.
     (1) Broad narrative frame, manually constructed. – Each digital book proposes its own narrative. The centrality of the excavation unit defines the boundaries of this narrative: it is intentionally limited, and develops its own internal frame of reference, where each one, in turn, points to a broader one. The narrative is highly segmented, but it is held together by the overarching frame.
     (2) Ordered sequence of data, automatically generated. – The observations, which in their initial stage adhere closely to a journal style of record keeping, are then ordered automatically and are displayed in a sequence that corresponds to the logic of a traditional excavation report. Thus even at the lower level of the individual record, there is a logical flow which corresponds in substance to that of a normal prose statement.
     (3) Typological compilations, automatically generated. – Large typological compilations combine the data in ways that make them, rather than isolated and self-standing tabulations, an integral part of the aoverall flow. They are called upon from individual points of the UGR, and they in turn link systematically to each individual element in the system.
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Hyperlinks

     It is the interweaving of these mechanisms that proposes an argument which flows with constant interaction with the data.
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The grammar

     Underlying the whole project is a broadly conceived theoretical effort, which I have articulated in a volume entitled: A Grammar of the Archaeological Record. Some aspects of this volume are briefly discussed elsewhere. The main thrust of that effort is the development of a specific theory of excavation. While how-to manuals abound, research on theory is lagging behind, and mere techniques are often presented as methods.
      A synthetic overview of the axioms that underlie the Grammar is given separately. This overview dates back to the earliest stages of my effort, when its full implications could not yet be fully understood.
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Impact on strategy

     (1) Impact on excavation strategy. – The constant and instant access to the full universe of data impacts in a determinant way on strategy. Hence the value of the project should be judged not only for what it offers at a later date and a remote location, but in view of the fact that the Global Record is constructed in exactly the same format during the very process of excavation.
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The input as publication

     A major aspect of the Urkesh Global Record is that it is produced on an ongoing basis, in the field, and during the excavations. It is constructed directly from the normal input provided by all members of the project. The input is the final publication, in three respects.
     (2) Analytical control of the excavation process. – The remote user has access to exactly the same observations as the excavator (if not the same physical data). The goal here is to allow one to come as close as possible to the ideal objective of allowing the repetition of the original experiment. While the excavation cannot be duplicated as such, conclusions can be drawn on the basis of exactly all and the same observations that have guided the excavator.
     (3) Publication as it happens. – Finally, the UGR addresses the problem of the chronic delay in the publication of excavation reports. The solution proposed rests on two considerations that are purely methodological – the sharp distinction between emplacement, deposition and typology on the one hand and, on the other, the application of a rigorous grammatical approach to the data as observed.
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References

     The following titles are available online:
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