Wednesday, 19 August 2009

NSLA Project Five - building a tool box with a community of practice

NSLA - Re-imagining Libraries

I am now mid way through my fantastic set of London meetings with some of the big GLAM institutions.

Naturally these kinds of meetings create a lot of opportunities for dialogue and debate. As part of this I thought it might be useful to outline some of my current thinking around topics that I have been introducing to the discussions I am having.

In the process I would also like to refer to some work I was lucky enough to do with NSLA, the National and State Libraries of Australasia, who have a really interesting piece of strategic work going on under the headline, Re-Imagining Libraries, here.

Building a rich digital public space
Like many others I am currently preoccupied with how the big institutions and their collections can help shape as well as contribute their assets and imagination to building a rich digital public space in which learning and collaboration are not just slogans but a real framework for action.

And of course, if we can start thinking inside this space, then there is also the exciting and intriguing question as to, in addition to the big institutions in the GLAM sector, what will be the role for the traditional public library both as a resource for 21st century literacy, and a key locus for new forms of civic and public engagement?

Introducing Project Five
A lot of my own current thinking around this topic is embedded in, Project Five, one part of the Re-Imagining Libraries, and now just published as a policy discussion paper on the NSLA site, here.

Project Five is one of ten projects, each oƒ which contributes to the overall Re imagining Libraries vision:

In collaboration, the National, State and Territory Libraries of Australia and New Zealand will become leaders in empowering people to create, discover, use and transform our collections, content and global information resources.

The vision has, in turn, three strategic paths:
  • One Library will put people at the centre. We will redefine services to provide a consistent and easy experience across our libraries.

  • Transforming Our Culture will change our culture and workplace. We will promote a new culture which supports new services, innovation and emerging technologies.

  • Accessible Content sees collaboration as the key to liberating our content. We will empower everyone to find, share and create content.

    Source - here
Project Five
Project Five was originally tasked with 'identifying and implementing a framework and tool set for everyone to create and transform online content,

The social /semantic web
As the thinking and the research proceeded the project opened up into a really interesting opportunity to rethink how and why institutional content touches and is transformed by the new tools and frameworks coming online as part of what I call the next generation social/semantic web.

Transforming the relationship
Moreover, as the research moved past looking for ways of managing and indeed encouraging community lead content streams, the project quickly began to see that a key task was about acknowledging that the relationship between formal and informal content streams was itself under radical realignment, and that web 2.o tools, methodologies and practices were transforming the entire relationship between institutional and community content frameworks.

Web 2.0 frameworks changing
Then came a recognition that the web 2.0 frameworks were themselves under a radical realignment, and that the new emerging web of social and semantic relationships would have just as big an effect on the world of web 2.0 as it would on the traditional knowledge pathways of the collection sector.

In short, it cuts both ways!

Context/ personalisation
Accordingly the research frame began to concentrate on working out the implications of the notion that,courtesy of the potential of emerging social/ semantic web, the entire web was moving towards context and personalisation, not just at the margins, but as the constituent DNA of the next generation always on, device independent network.

Social is everywhere
This lead to a key premise of the eventual report - i.e. an understanding that in this emerging next generation network social networking tools and practice wont be something that happens in special places - but, in contrast, the entire web will be characteristic by behaviors we currently see in action in web 2.0 type environments.

Semantic is everywhere
However, if collaboration is everywhere, the report also argues that the same is true of the semantic tools which are coming into view and which link information and data into rich seams of contextual meaning.

In other words, for the semantic web to go beyond the rhetoric of massively capable concept linking machine, there was a need to start thinking about how to create social frameworks and tool sets which help users and groups of users create their own mediated patterns of meaning and action.

Building digital public/civic space
Put these two aspects together and we have an online landscape populated by rich personalised spaces which we can use to gather and create a community wide digital public space whether for ourselves or the groups we are part of.

And as an extension to this insight, the report argues the library sector in particular, and by extension, the wider collection sector in general, has an extraordinary rich opportunity to help build these new learning and creative civic spaces.

There is a whole lot more of this kind of thinking in the report here.

The community of practice and the tool box
As to how this might be achieved, in the report I argue the case for an Australasian wide 'community of practice' which will build some of the pieces to a social/semantic tool box which could help build an Australian version of the emerging civic/public digital space.

What would it build
The report offers a four part framework as a beginning to this recommended work stream. Each of the four parts is a way of offering the user some tools which the user can mix and match inside their own space.

Operationally, the idea is that community of practice would put together the schedule of tools - with each partner committing to building at least one, and be able to access the other tools made by the rest of the community of practice. The suggested frame is:

Source Station
A set of online tools and web services which gives the user the ability to manage– store – subscribe and direct their own ecology of web information and web sources.

Search Station
A set of online tools and web services which delivers a next generation semantic search and discovery feature set where the user can create a customised user profile which will search and retrieve the rich set of sources available from the open and subscription based deep web.

Social Station
A set of online tools and web services which gives every library user in Australian and New Zealand a social networking space which offers the ability to participate in a rich collaborative digital public space

And yes, the content and activities in this space will be able to be shared with other social networking spaces

Remix Station
A set of online tools and web services, which give the user the ability to create a personalised user/group creative studio where the user uploads – co-creates – shares and remixes to the world. A key aspect of the remix offer is that sources on the Re-Mix station are rights cleared.

Next step?
The ideas in Project Five are being discussed and debated inside NSLA as well as online - so any comments welcome. The full report is, here


Ian Thomson said...

Hi Paul,

This is really exciting stuff. Keep up the great work
My interest in this area is that such tools will enable community interest groups to more powerfully engage with Govt in the consultation process.
The consultation process is very lop sided today with the Govt having access to powerful datasets and tools to manipulate them while the community has basically only emotion to argue with.
This is a very important development in the democratic process


Paul Reynolds said...

Great to get your support - means a good deal to me!

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