Digital technology conference anyone? Anti-social networking (as David Reeves put it) during lunch at the National Digital Forum in Wellington.
Despite above appearances, the Forum was full of discussion, fantastic presentations, inspiring projects, some heated Twitter exchange and a museum-ish ‘fellowship’.
I’ll summarise the key themes by applying some cliches to this image:
FROM DARKNESS TO LIGHT
There was a decidedly positive air at the Forum, with focus on the applications of digital technology rather than on the obstacles, risks and uncertainty around it. A small coming of age perhaps…
THE ROUGH AND THE SMOOTH
There was much talk of audience and how to make collections accessible to them: both inside the sleek (onsite and website) walls of the museum and out there in the big messy bright of the Internet and mobile devices.
AND SO TO THE DETAIL…
The Crowd. The Citizens. The Punters (the what? asked the US speakers).
When Michael Lascarides said, “use begets value” he was referring to use of collections, but his phrase works for use of ‘the crowd’ too, who have much to offer. Two crowdsourcing projects worth a look are What’s on the menu? and Map Recitfyer by the New York Public Library.
Lucinda Blaser talked about how, for the UK’s National Maritime Museum GLAM/NMM project, enthusiasts are able to “find the information that we haven’t had time to Google!” NMM will ultimately pull the “fixed-up” data back into their catalogue. NMM is also involved in the very elegant Old Weather project, where participants add to public knowledge whilst re-living the tribulations and triumphs of old sea voyages via ship log books.
Participant payoff was picked up by Tim Jones who talked about Christchurch Art Gallery’s project of crowdsourcing locations depicted in their paintings. The crowd (who for them was a small team of gallery supporters), in its enthusiasm sometimes saw the need to take field trips to confirm the locations – so there was a little boost to regional tourism to boot!
Michael Parry talked about ACMIs 15 Second Place project where co-creation and contribution is about much more than tagging and commenting.
Toby Vincent said that tech is starting to look more alive and natural and that “we are becoming cyborgs.” He cited Google Goggles, Street Museum and the more somber but impressive Christchurch City View AR project described in this You Tube clip as examples of apps that allow us to “scroll back through time.” (read this Washington Post article for more apps). Jon Voss picked up on the theme with historypin, an attempt to “build a better time machine,” and noted that when people add their memories to an institution’s holdings then we start to get a community.
Stories and data
Voss also advocated, “sharing the stories and sharing the data.” A compelling case for this is the response to the Christchurch earthquake, where the stories and other resources captured in sites such as Ceismic, Quakestories, and Kete, will be harvested by DigitalNZ to provide a federated digital archive. This raised the question of how to archive content in social networking sites such as Facebook. Ryan Donahue said that for George Eastman House, if the information isn’t held by the organisation then it isn’t the organisation’s. GEH pull their Flikr data back into their archive.
Given that everything can be copied now – both in the virtual space (see theblu) and in the real world (see Ben Kacyra’s TED talk: Ancient wonders captured in 3D) – Andy Neale made the case for re-usable content in the “use begets value” vein. He called metadata silos selfish and encouraged organisations to get help to expose and link their data, and, to clearly mark content that is out of copyright.
Linked-up data (and the stories it tells) was a common topic, starting in the opening address when Chris Batt stressed that connection between information is as important as content. Two projects exploring the potential of linked-up data are the formidable Europeana and the nimbler NSLA Libraryhack project.
Mitchell Whitelaw encouraged a motto of “show everything” and stressed the importance of INTERFACE DESIGN TO ENCOURAGE DISCOVERY AND ACCESS, saying “a generous collection needs a generous interface.” He suggested a good example of an immersive and exploratory interface is Mildenhall’s Canberra.
“It’s all just programming, you know.” Chris McDowall
Indeed it is, Chris. Indeed it is! In the online space we need creative content producers and just as creative programmers and technicians. If NDF is anything to go by, we are faring well.