Web Magazine for Information Professionals

We Do Not Know We Are Born (Digital)

Richard Waller introduces Ariadne issue 54.

In his article Ancient Cultures Inside Modern Universes Edgardo Civallero teases out for us the relationship between notions such as cultural heritage, cultural identity and what he terms intangible cultural heritage, in the context of indigenous peoples. What becomes immediately apparent for those of us concerned for fellow citizens on the wrong side of the Digital Divide [1][2] is the degree to which even they are fortunate when compared with the indigenous minorities across Latin America [3]. While it is arguable that in globalised post-industrial societies whole groups of citizens risk social exclusion through developments both economic and more general, it is a different order of exclusion being faced by minority indigenous peoples across South America, whose language, culture, indeed their very history, are in danger of disappearing. While it is possible to maintain that information and communications technologies (ICT) have contributed to the global village that now places many pressures upon these communities, it is also evident that Web-based tools are beginning to offer them a means of preserving their identity and even promoting their cultural aims. In his article Edgardo provides a panoramic view of the continent and how peoples fare in this Web-based endeavour, where progress is patchy and related to some to degree to their population size. He provides us with a profile of the principal characteristics of their Web-based material. It should be emphasised at this juncture that the 'direct involvement of native communities in the digital universe is still very limited, due to several reasons: geographical or social isolation, exclusion, poverty, digital illiteracy, lack of reading and writing skills, language, absence of resources such as electricity, telephone or computers, etc.' Much of what is being achieved is due to the support of national educational institutions and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), but a path forward for the smaller, more excluded communities is becoming apparent. It is both heartening to see how Web-based technologies are a source of aid in this context. For that reason Ariadne cast all constraint to the wind and opted to exclude none of the 126 references submitted in Edgardo's article, since most linked to the Web presence of all the indigenous groups he mentions. This is certainly an Ariadne record.

Noa Aharony is clearly of the opinion that Web 2.0 technologies are not a passing fad and that they must certainly have their part to play in the library services of the very near future, encompassed in the allied term Library 2.0. In this context she shares with Ariadne her findings in what she readily accepts is an initial survey into Web 2.0 in US Library and Information Services (LIS) schools and asks the question Are They Missing the Boat?. Her article also touches upon the notion of culture, but rather in the sense in which it is used in all manner of IT-related organisations. Noa considers how libraries and their support services should address the changes that are already apparent in the behaviour of students and researchers in their use of ICT. One has only to compare the floor plans of the Higher Education library in which Ariadne is produced to see how user behaviour has changed and been addressed in the last five years. It remains to time and the reader's perspective to decide what of Web 2.0 will stay the course and whether policy makers have correctly assessed its importance in the design of LIS courses for the newest members of the profession. More clear is that Noa's question is both a reasoned and reasonable one.

I am delighted to welcome Phil Bradley back to this issue; his column on Human-powered Search Engines addresses a particular aspect of Web 2.0 which will like as not continue to prove controversial for some time to come. His subject touches upon a personal area of interest, namely where the effects of human and technological behaviour impinge one upon the other. In his usual business-like fashion, Phil places various examples of this kind of search engine under his magnifying glass and speaks as he finds. He left me pondering as to whether even policy makers concerned to widen the opportunities to exercise one's democratic franchise would also do well to consider the implications of voting behaviour.

I am indebted to my colleague Julie Allinson, together with Sebastien Fran├žois and Stuart Lewis for their article on the JISC-funded SWORD: Simple Web-service Offering Repository Deposit, a recent 8-month project with a remit of producing a lightweight protocol for repository deposit. Not only do the authors provide information on the Project's outcomes, but they also furnish the background and rationale for the Project, including the benefits of a standard deposit mechanism. They go on to provide the requirements and parameters of SWORD, a definition of the deposit service and associated standards, closing with information on the various implementations of SWORD and related testing. We are assured that case studies on implementation of SWORD will follow and note that SWORD is already being employed by a number of projects.

Remaining with repository activity, I also welcomed the contribution of Richard Green and Chris Awre for their description of work at Hull to place Web services at the heart of its personalised digital repository provision. In RepoMMan: Delivering Private Repository Space for Day-to-day Use they describe the intention to make their institutional repository not only the seat of completed digital material but also a widely available workspace in which such material can be developed. In this RepoMMAn soght to identify how Web services could be formed to provide users with a means of translating their activity from work-in-progress to formally available object with maximum ease. Richard and Chris point to the obstacles they encountered along the way and also describe future work in this area.

We come, once more, across the path of different cultures when we read the incisive review by Malcolm Heath, Michael Jubb and David Robey of E-Publication and Open Access in the Arts and Humanities in the UK. In this instance we are invited to consider how the perspective and expectations of researchers in the Arts and Humanities differ from those of their colleagues in the Sciences in the context of use of open access and electronic publications. Much has been offered in respect of the latter group and so it is most welcome to receive a view of the former. This article is invaluable for practitioners considering how the use of data is affected by the culture and practice of their intended or likely users. It must also surely give pause for thought in respect of any potential one-size-fits-all solution; not least on reading the authors' description of the issues that arise both within and beyond the Arts and Humanities research community.

Even within the solution-oriented activity of version identification (one closer to an editor's heart than most authors would ever imagine) the issue of culture, once more in the organisational sense, arises once more in Version Identification: A Growing Problem. In conducting a survey of differing behaviours in respect of version deposit, Dave Puplett points to a yawning gap between the expectations and preferences of academic staff depositing their output in an institutional repository and those of the information professionals tasked with supporting the process. The former invariably wanted only their final finished version to be available while the information professionals wished to store all available versions. It was apparent that depositing academics had major concerns about such an approach; yet, ironically enough, the information professionals were equally committed to assuring the most complete version was exposed, while seeing the means to that end from the entirely opposite direction. So different is each perspective, or culture, that their common aim becomes potentially mired in mutual distrust [4].

I have no doubt but that social tagging might very well be regarded as anathema by traditional cataloguers and researchers into ontologies. Yet the rationale of such an activity, also known as collaborative tagging, is that provided researchers can identify a large enough body of tagging of Web resources, it is possible to create a useful folksonomy that could actually support traditional ontologies. Emma Tonkin, Edward M. Corrado, Heather Lea Moulaison, Margaret E. I. Kipp, Andrea Resmini, Heather D. Pfeiffer and Qiping Zhang report on research presented on a panel at the American Society for Information Science & Technology (ASIS&T) 2007 Annual Conference which investigated the use of social tagging in communities and in context. Their article, Collaborative and Social Tagging Networks, offers a view of studies around the world investigating the manner in, and extent to, which users reflect their communities of practice in assigning their tags. It supplies overviews of work in the China, France and the United States. What becomes evident is that the not inconsiderable amount of work undertaken in this area to date is worthy of further effort.

I am grateful to Eddie Young for supplying us with a further Get Tooled Up article on a topic that is unlikely to go away for the rest of our professional lives. Of course by Saving Energy in the Workplace we are keeping an organisational grip on the running costs but as is immediately apparent, the wider intention goes deeper. Eddie provides us with a wealth of information on useful kit for dealing with this undertaking, for example addressing the frequent difficulty of having no access to the electricity meter for statistics. However, in addition to providing a helpful strategy for organisational self-improvement, Eddie points to an aspect that has marked this overview from start to finish. Whatever the impact of clever technology, ultimately the strategy outlined will falter and fail without the consensus of the staff within the energy-saving organisation. In other words there has to be a culture change within any organisation if the aims of radical energy savings are to be realised.

As usual, we offer our At the Event section, as well as reviews together with news and events.

I hope you will enjoy Issue 54.


  1. Broadband reveals digital divide, BBC News Web site, 26 April 2005 http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/4483065.stm
  2. MORI survey uncovers major new trends in UK web use, British Library news release, 3 February 2005 http://www.bl.uk/news/2005/pressrelease20050203.html
  3. MLA Programmes: People's Network Service http://www.mla.gov.uk/homeprogrammes/peoples_network/peoples_network_service
  4. This issue of potentially conflicting perspectives also arises in "Collecting Born Digital Archives at the Wellcome Library", Christopher Hilton and Dave Thompson, January 2007, Ariadne Issue 50 http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/issue53/hilton-thompson/

Author Details

Richard Waller
Ariadne Editor

Email: ariadne@ukoln.ac.uk
Web site: http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/

Return to top