Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Introduction to Phosphor-Ostia

There is now a site to act as a repository for high resolution photographs of Roman Ostia.  It is called www.phosphor-ostia.org.  In effect it is the same software which powers Squinchpix except that I used the creation of this site as an opportunity to improve that software, fix problems, and add new features.  Any photos placed on this new site will:

1. be displayable in a gallery
2. appear as century icons when displayed on a map
3. be displayable on a timeline by century
4. be analyzable on a tag map (unique to SquinchPix)

Add caption

This new site also displays a SquinchPix-style dictionary which will be added to over the coming months.  There is also a ‘New-Images’ page which will be a quick way to determine what’s new on the site.
In addition to pictures I have added the capability to display movies (‘squinchmovie’), notes (‘squinchnote’), and external references.

A squinchmovie is a video in .wmv form.  Such videos on Ostia will be displayed on the site; they appear as ordinary thumbnails in the gallery display and as regular century markers on the map display.  They are key-worded like all other objects on SquinchPix.

A squinchmovie marker.  It uses an ordinary
century icon; the tool-tip label tells you that it's a movie.

Squinchnotes are free-form html files which are displayed in full in the gallery display.  On a map they show up as a special note icon and when you mouse over it you get a tool-tip label which tells you that this is a note.  Notes show up in the century display as a special note thumbnails.

Some note markers in the Ostia area.  Here they're used to
label some of the Mithraea with tool-tip label.

An external reference is a kind of object which, like the others, shows up in a gallery, on a map, and on a timeline.  It’s content, however, is just a URL so that when you click on it you’re taken to an external site.  This is useful, of course, to direct other people’s attention to a reputable and informative external site (ostia-antica.org for example) and might be at its most useful when seen on a map along with other types of markers.  On a map it has a special ‘Ex’ icon so they are identified at sight.

A marker to an external page which describes a coin
issued under Hadrian; with its tool-tip label.

What sort of photographs is Phosphor-Ostia looking for?  The purpose of the site is to be a repository for high-resolution photographs of Ostia, the necropolis on Isola Sacra, and the area around the ancient Portus (roughly all the area north of Isola Sacra around the southern part of Fiumicino airport).  High-resolution, in displayable web terms, means anything from about one and  a half to ten megabyte jpgs.  After about three megabytes things start to load slowly (even on a high speed DSL line) but I’m willing to host anything up to 10 Mb.  The site has a capacity of 1500 Gb so storage shouldn’t be a problem.  The photographs hosted should be originally shot in raw format and if you want to submit photos you would, ideally, submit .tifs.  You can submit anything up to about 30 Mb in size.  I’ll convert them to .jpgs and size them for the site.  Any photograph submitted must have a caption and keywords.  If you don’t furnish keywords then I’ll furnish them but I might get back to you about it.

A caption must tell us

a. what the object is
b. what it’s made of
c. what year (decade, reign, century, era) it was built/made.
d. anything unique about it
e. where it is (I need to establish an exact lat/lon pair if humanly possible)

You can also suggest notes or external URLs that you think should be displayed  on Phosphor-Ostia.

For all submissions send me an e-mail at bob@squinchpix.com.  Phosphor-Ostia will have its own e-mail address shortly.

I also urge you to ‘like’ the new Phosphor-Ostia page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Phosphor-Ostia/174520946036365

There is also this Phosphor-Ostia blog which I hope people will submit posts to.  Such posts should concern Ostia, Ostia photography, or posts about archaeological photography in general.

Right now the site is hosted for the next year (cheap at $37.00) and at the end of the year we can evaluate how useful it is.

Phosphor-Ostia is intended to furnish materials for archaeologists, scholars, researchers, students, and others to use for their own initiatives.  Therefore I propose that the photographs be released under “Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic” which is described here: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/

Every photograph or other material, when displayed, will be marked the way it’s currently done on SquinchPix.com.  It’s important that each photograph bear a mark because this tends to slow down content-scraping.  I propose that that mark be ‘PHOSPHOR <Year>’.

Currently the site carries about 20 photographs of the Piazza dei Lari (search for ‘Lari’) which were taken by Dr. Robert Harp.  I’ve marked them ‘© PHOSPHOR 2013’.  Dr. Harp hasn’t objected to this; at least not yet.

We can debate the ownership issue further.  PHOSPHOR-OSTIA has no desire to own the material submitted; only to display it and make it available for researchers under
“Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic”, as I mentioned above.

You should never submit any photograph to the web if you also desire to retain full control over it.
I created this site on spec after reading Dr. Jan Theo Bakker and Dr. Robert Harp discuss the need for a photo-site devoted to Ostia (and other ruins) because of the continual deterioration of the city fabric due to neglect and other reasons.  I myself have been to Ostia more than once and I understand what they’re talking about.  The time to photograph Ostia is now.

My plan is to turn over ownership of this site to Drs. Bakker or Harp or their representatives and I’m waiting to hear from them.  Also I should mention that the phrases  'PHOSPHOR' and 'PHOSPHOR-Ostia' are their intellectual property.

The software that powers this site is my property.  Anyone who owns this particular site, Phosphor-Ostia.org has a perpetual license to use the software and I undertake to maintain it.

In the meantime I hope that you potential users will look over the site and familiarize yourself with its features.  At the present moment there are about 100+ pictures and other objects on the site.  They were chosen for their utility in integrating the software at this new location and may not all relate to Ostia.  The non-Ostia material will ultimately (soon) be removed.

I’d like to make some broader statements about photographs, scholarly purpose, and the web.

Anyone can take pictures but it takes a huge amount of work to make them available for scholarly purpose.  Pictures in isolation, pictures with no captions, pictures without an exact location, pictures that aren’t keyworded are basically of no more use than artifacts that are looted from a site and devoid of context.  I see many beautiful pictures of sites and artifacts on, for example, Flickr (or worse, the unspeakable Wikimedia); I wind up shaking my head because none of these photos can be put to scholarly use.  They’re not captioned, they’re badly captioned, they have no keywords, they’re not dated, they are not put on a map or they are put on a map but in the wrong place and, what’s fatal, they’re not in context with other pictures or materials.  In such a way beautiful pictures made with considerable effort are converted into a heap of garbage.

Phosphor-Ostia.org is run by software that corrects all those problems.   Phosphor-Ostia.org is the means by which anyone with photographs of Ostia can place them in a usable scholarly archive.   In addition to its specific features this web site is motivated by the idea that pictures have to be put into context.  Researchers aren’t just looking for the perfect picture; they want to see all the other pictures that are similar.  By that I mean, similar in date, similar in subject, similar in material, similar in physical location.

We do all of that.

Welcome to Phosphor-Ostia!

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