Monday, 31 December 2007

2007 - the year when context woke and stretched

I have this certain theory that in twenty years time, a student researching the history of the web, will look back on 2007 as the year the now commonplace concept of 'context' emerged as one of the key drivers to the creation of the rich and diverse ecology of personalised web spaces which this same student will totally take for granted.

This ecology will see him being able to switch from laid back recreation mode [music - movies - story ] to work mode [reinvented work web spaces] - to social [hanging with friends ] to life long learning spaces where both primary and secondary sources will flood into the learning space following the context of his or her inquiry.

Rich and intelligent personalised digital home
In short a content rich and intelligent personalised digital home which not only automatically brings the content based on your managed preferences/personna, but also manages your social networking spaces, fiercely protects the assets to your digital identity including automatically tracking and maintaining oversight of the data trail you leave around the web.

Being me, it will also need to contain all manner of wonderful heritage material, from the European Renaissance - Islamic art, to whatever is emerging out of the creative digital soup - in short a place to create, share and manage a rich and vibrant digital life in which learning and being - curiosity and enquiry is still at the centre of my daily life.

Maintaining our digital commons as a creative community space
How yours will work will be entirely up to you - your context - your space - your social network: however, hopefully , the common link between us will be an equally fierce commitment to maintaining our digital commons as a creative community space where commerce and innovation is welcome to thrive, provided it respects not just our digital identities but our purposes in common.

Fanciful? Noble? Perhaps - and for sure, I've been accused of both a couple of times this year, but, hey, who cares - this is my little corner of the web sphere - I get to control it - I can be as fanciful or as a noble as I like.

2007
So where does this notion of mine on 2007 and context come from ? Easy - 2007 was the year when the web reinvented itself as a place where people hang out with other people, and in the process emerged a bunch of tools and frameworks which gave people and crucially, groups of people, the ability to nudge, nuance and cluster their preferences - whether for people , products or pieces of the Internet into conversations and communities of interest.

Social Networking - Web 2.0
For sure, being the Internet, it had to have a label - or even two - i.e web 2.0 - or social networking, Also, being the Internet, loads of people had to try and make money from the idea - and or, claim it as their own.

But whatever the hype, the fact remains social networking, and the tools and paradigns that define it - were the context for an explosion of self expression and group collaboration - whether it be the millions of people who started and maintained a blog , or the big guys - MySpace - FaceBook - Bebo - or the thousand other open social networks that give people the tools and frameworks for self and group expression.

Power of Crowds
Then we have the power of the crowd scenario - from Wikipedia to the dozens of work place wikis . And for the record , for sheer incongruity the NZ Police wiki still takes my biscuit.

Tagging
Then we have the 2007 tagging phenomena. My favourite example of tagging from the heritage worlds if still The PowerHouse Museum . But I've also discovered a whole bunch of other heritage type articles/thinking here courtesy of those brilliant people who bring us the annual Museum on the Web conference.

Type in tagging and meet the strangly compelling mystic twins, the taxonomy/folksonomy But while we are at it, lets not forget the welcome experiment in tagging from Archives NZ - and their War Art site.It's great - like walking in on grandma smoking pot.

The API

But the big killer application for me is the emerging field of API's - those anarchic pieces of code, often from the open source end of the web, who are determined to build the tools and frameworks that will alloow us to interrogate the big data sources and. almost against their interest, persuade them to come out their institutional shadows and lend themselves to the mash up game.

Much of this is still a tad trivial - e.g. Google Maps Mania - but, you can't knock the energy, or the potential of the toolsets; moreover you can also see an smudge of the shape of things to come from the knowledge and heritage sector in the likes of Historyscape and Museum Blogs

But that's the point. It's still only a smudge. We need to speed up and start seeing how these tools can be used in much more compelling ways as knowledge and learning frameworks which can build in the best of the social networking tools with the formal institutional knowledge institutions/structures - and its from there that I reckon we can build the mechanics of a context machine in 2008

2008 - web 3.0?
So there is is - the New Year resolution - get involved in projects and policy frameworks which use the best of web 2.0 to build and create context and learning spaces which also include perspectives and inputs from formal institutional knowledge frameworks.

Some people are beginning to call this kind of framework Web 3.0 . Others see the latter as more in line with Tim Berner Lee's Semantic web. whatever the outcome, for me the goal is context - i.e. bring into the mix the ability to contextualise information and knowledge frameworks to match the activities of the user. See this Wikipedia article for a broad view of the issues.

Building a context machine?
One way of experimenting with this is to build tools and frameworks which give the user the tools to create a context, and then , when populated with questions , or activities, use the latter as search strings out to the formal taxonomic web,especially the material hidden in closed databases.

The search results are then sent into the users space with the question, - am I useful - does this data stream help/ answer the question?

There are some interesting questions in this framework, some of whom I think fit into the Digital New Zealand project? More on this in 2008.

Story telling machine/ community repository
Another, more immediate potential framework is to build a story telling machine which gives people/groups a space to write up their own stories, and/or develop their own community repositories.

On save, and if given permission by the user/group, the story machine could scan their content for context using a folksonic/taxonomic schema which will then be passed to the big institutions/knowledge stores to see if they have any sources, whether primary or secondary, which match the story in the box, and if found, send the sources into the box.

This idea has some powerful suction - and its one I want to spend a good deal of time on early next year. Better still some key New Zealand, and perhaps Australian agencies are keen to play. Exciting stuff!

So - roll on 2008 - there is lots to be done - for all of us - and yes - I'd love to hear of what people are up to !

In the meantime - warm regards to one an all - and all the best for the New Year [when it comes!]

3 comments:

artichoke said...

RE: Story Telling

Think you might enjoy a recent article in The New Yorker that explores in part - Ongs argument for the emergence of a secondary orality - "The scholar Walter J. Ong once speculated that television and similar media are taking us into an era of “secondary orality,” akin to the primary orality that existed before the emergence of text." Twilight of the Book -What will life be like if people stop writing http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/atlarge/2007/12/24/071224crat_atlarge_crain/?currentPage=1

The article has some interesting thoughts about story telling in the new media - that have relevance to your post

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