Monday, 28 April 2008

Chris Batt and other voices

I am sitting in my own chair here in Auckland feeling for the lever which will put it back at the right angle, looking around at the bent paper clip I didn't leave on the desk, as well as wondering who 'tidied away' the last two chocolate biscuits I had in reserve for my next late afternoon sugar hit. Who says men can't multi task!

I have a whole week in Auckland ahead - the first of its kind in the past six weeks. Not that I'm complaining; in my time away I have had some brilliant encounters with a bunch of key institutions, and heard some interesting people speak about their plans and intentions. I even managed my own contribution to the IATUL conference last week.

Chris Batt
One of the people I spent time with was Chirs Batt, the former head of MLA, the UK agency promoting common thinking, ideas and policies between the UK Museum, Gallery, Archives and Library sector.

He had been over in the Australia with his partner Addie speaking at the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Library, Information and Resource Network (ATSILIRN) conference in Darwin. In addition he did some work with the state libraries of New South Wales and Queensland. 

He was also invited to New Zealand by the NZ National Library , and a session with Puke Ariki down in New Plymouth. There is a rumour that the National Library session was video taped. Hope so.

I attended the Puke Ariki session courtesy of an invite from the Director Bill Macnaught who in turn was once upon a lifetime a colleague of Chris's in the UK.

One of Chris's big ticket messages/insights is his concept of MyBerSpace. Although it might sound familiar - i.e. a personalised piece of the web which lets you store stuff like some kind of virtual squirrel, it goes a lot further than that.

Indeed it fits with my own current thinking on personalisation - rich learning spaces, and the need to understand that the next generation web will not only have the user at the centre - the user will be the centre.

The User is the Centre
You need to take a step back and have a real think to get the measure of how radical this idea is. 

It means going well beyond current web sites looking to be a little more user friendly - a little more web 2.0 - a little more conversational. 

Sources as bricks and mortar
It also means leap frogging past some of the, albeit admirable, new institutional thinking around 'DDI' - [discover , describe and interact] - to a point where we can start to see the notion of a semantic personalised web as a place where the user and his/her community of interest is able to interrogate sources and then use the latter as the bricks and mortar to build their own cyber intelligent home.

Naturally to get there we need to do some strong hard deep thinking. Moreover, I'm perfectly well aware that the results for some users may well be trivial - the equivalent of the pig in the tale's straw house.

But I also hold to the vision that many of these new cyber homes will be strong - i.e. be able to protect the user and his/her community, as well as offer rich collaborative stores of knowledge and influence, which in turn will be the place where new knowledge - new communities and new forms of democratic discourse can flourish.

A tad high falutin ? Who knows ? But the great thing about blogging is its ability to offer the beginnings of just such a place - where opinion - influence and argument can think itself into new kinds of action.

Other Voices
Speaking of sources of influence and argument, TED has just published a new set of talks - including these two, Brian Greene on String Theory, and Amy Tan on Creativity.
C. P. Snow, eat your heart out.

Auckland Writers Festival
Also waiting for me was a note to say that the Auckland Writers Festival has a neat set of video tasters from last years festival [using embedded YouTube]. Check out Fiona Farrell's really funny contribution on the Books left on Buses session. She nails the Stewart Island batch holiday in one.

Radio New Zealand
I have also discovered a set of audio from the Auckland Writers 2007 Festival from Radio New Zealand. I especially enjoyed the opening sessions on Writing about Visual Art where Linda Tyler chairs a wide-ranging session in which Hamish Keith, Justin Paton, of New Zealand and Matthew Collings, from the UK discuss the notion of writing about visual art. There are a bunch more here. Hidden treasure indeed. Thanks to Radio New Zealand.

Christchurch City Libraries
And finally, a wee plug to my old friends at Christchurch City Libraries. They have started their own build up to the festival including a page on the authors and writers with links to their works on their catalogue. Nice touch! Here!


Bindy said...

Chris Batt enriched my understanding of digital possibilities at National Digital Forum and LIANZA conference a few years back.

Just one thought for the mix - in a networked world built, and continually rebuilt, by multiplicities of connections, is there a centre?? This is not to depreciate the value of the user. Rather it asks for a different topology than a map with "you are here" as a starting point. (like that twisting to focus on our house when I boot up Google earth that makes me feel vaguely sea sick) ... Or is that the point in your view?

Paul Tudor said...

Show me an audio-visual, physical representation of Earth that has a centre. Sure, we have North, South, even an East and a Wesy apparently. But centre? No.

However we do now have map grid co-ordinates for the entire planet, down to a metre. Perhaps the digital world needs something like that to plot the connections.

Bindy said...

And right there we are into the standards vs organic models of digital connectivity. Although they vary on many levels, terrestrial maps work because of agreed, ubiquitously employed conventions for their representation of spaces. I haven't read all those histories of how the world was mapped but I agree, there may be some solution there.

In 'myberspace' time and spaces may move faster but the comparison is useful. The fixed nature of terrestial spaces is only relatively stable ( erosion, earthquakes, urban sprawl...)

But what would be the unit of location .. the ISP? ..... ah, back at the political again.

Paul Tudor said...

Ah yes, net neutrality. That is a Pandora's box if anything...

Paul, while you are having fun at home and at work, what do you think of John Key's fibreoptic cable prposal? My objection is getting anyone like Telecom involved, because of the net neutraily aspects. Is it me, or does nobody seem to care about that stuff anymore?

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