We have now begun working on developing the query interface for the Avkat Informatics project. The interface allows for the query of four parameters. Artifact Type, Time Period, and Unit Type correspond to specific attribute values. A second option for time allows a user to enter a range of values and retrieve all information that potentially falls within that date range. Lastly, the Search Comments of Forms allows users to enter in words to search the comments. The goal is to replicate the query interface of search engines familiar to the end-user.
The design of the Query Interface is highly important. Here, users access data in a fashion that is influenced both by the organizational structure of the database, the query, and the user’s internal notion of what would ‘make sense’. The goal of any data system is to provide structure and organization, while at the same time to allow for new systems of organization to emerge as the data is explored. The query interface is that point where the questions of the researcher are addressed by the data system, and the types of questions that the interface allows (or doesn’t allow) can reveal potential research biases latent in the database structure, such as:
- favoring one type of evidence over another (such as pottery shape over pottery function),
- the way in which time is divided into periods, thus reflecting biases towards ‘important’ events of history that may or may not reflect actual cultural shifts;
- potential artifact misclassification, owing to a lack of ‘unknown’ options
- the inability to attach two or more categories to an object due to uncertainty.
Our initial foray into the query interface is focused clearly upon the questions of ‘what’ and ‘when,’ and is designed to be a very bare-bones system to find and extract the data, understanding that further analysis will occur in 3rd-party applications. Our system is not intended to be the venue where complex analytics are performed. Our purpose is to provide an easy means of serving datasets to end users, who will manipulate the queried data within applications specifically constructed their needs.