Documentation: Why Bother?  (Part 2)

Part 2: Documentation as Courtesy 

In the first post of this series, we talked a bit about what we mean when we talk about documentation in our Arts and Sciences.  The remainder of this series will talk about how documenting our re-creation efforts furthers the various virtues that we hold dear in our Society.  

Often, we think about the virtues celebrated by the SCA as being exemplified by our various Peerage orders.  If you have witnessed a Peerage ceremony, you will have likely seen members from each of the orders speaking about how the new peerage candidate exemplifies each of these virtues.  However, even if you don’t aspire to any of our Peerages, you can still embody and promote these virtues.  

The Order of the Laurel is usually seen as exemplifying skill and knowledge.  And it’s almost too obvious to mention how sharing your research demonstrates knowledge and skill.  So, I’d like to move on to the virtue of courtesy.  

Courtesy is a virtue often associated with the Order of the Rose.  It is not just behaving politely toward others, but more broadly acting with love and respect toward all.  As a Society that assumes a level of nobility for all our participants, we are all expected to treat each other with respect and courtesy.  

How does our documentation in the Arts and Sciences further the goal of courtesy in our Society?  One aspect of courtesy is simply giving credit where credit is due.  Presenting documentation of your re-creation tells people where you got the information you used.  Whether you’re digging into documents from archives, analyzing surviving objects from our period, or just relying on the research of other SCA members, letting others know where you found that information is just the courteous thing to do.  Living or dead, friend or stranger, professional or amateur, everyone is owed the courtesy of giving them credit for their contributions.  

Often, when we are making our re-creations we are not just copying what other people have found, but making our own decisions based on that evidence.  Master Justin du Coeur, a long-time member of the Order of the Laurel, has described one aspect of good documentation as showing what others have said in order to demonstrate why you’ve made the conclusions that ultimately led to the final product.  This makes a clear distinction between your own ideas and conclusions and those of other researchers whose work you are building upon.  Without explicitly citing where you got information, someone might think everything presented is your own work – even if you don’t explicitly try to take credit for it all.  Allowing others to think that some else’s idea is your own would be discourteous.  And this discourtesy is avoided by making sure to always credit the sources you’ve used in crafting your own work.  

So, in the interest of promoting a courteous Society, let’s all start sharing our documentation!  

– Abu-Darzin Ibrahim al-Rashid, Laureate

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