Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Open data, the BBC, and 'the virality and interconnectedness of the web'

Not surprisingly for an article titled 'The BBC can be an open source for all of UK plc', there's a particular focus on possible commercial applications or start-ups building services around BBC content or code, but it's also a good overview of current discussions and of the possibilities that opening up cultural heritage content for re-use and re-mixing might provide.

The article acknowledges the 'complex rights issues' around the digitisation of some content, and I suspect this one of the main issues that's preventing the museum sector opening up more of its data, but it's not the only one.

How do we move forward? Can we develop a UK-specific licence that allows for concerns about the viability of commercial picture library services and for objects without clear copyright and reproduction rights statements? Should we develop and lobby for the use of new metrics that make off-site visits and engagement with content count? Do we still need to convince our organisations that it's worth doing this, and worth putting resources behind?

How do we strike a balance between the need for caution that prevents the reputation or finances of an organisation being put at risk and the desire for action? Will the list of reasons why we're not doing it grow before it shrinks?

On to the article, as the BBC's work in this area may provide some answers:
The [BBC's] director general Mark Thompson has directed the corporation to think beyond proprietary rights management to a new era of interoperability that offers consumers wider choice, control and benefits from "network effects" - the virality and interconnectedness of the web.


Steve Bowbrick, recently commissioned to initiate a public debate about openness at the corporation, thinks empowerment could be as important as the traditional Reithian mantra, "Educate, inform and entertain."

"The broadcast era is finished," he says. "The BBC needs to provide web tools and a new generation of methods and resources that will boost [its] capital, but that will also use the BBC as a platform for promoting the individuals, organisations and businesses that make up UK plc."
This post is very much me 'thinking out loud' - I'd love to hear your comments, particularly on why we're not yet and how we can start to expose museum collections and information to the 'virality [vitality?] and interconnectedness of the web'.


  1. Hi Mia

    There is a similar discusion on the Musem 2.0 blog about museums moving from being authorities to being platforms. http://museumtwo.blogspot.com/2008/10/future-of-authority-platform-power.html



    RAMM Digital Media Officer

  2. Thanks Rick, I'm quite behind on my RSS feeds so a pointer is always useful. I tend to bang on about authority and openness quite a bit, if you haven't already seen some of the posts (e.g. http://bit.ly/3Es57s) I'd be interested in your thoughts.

    Are you from the RAMM in Exeter?

  3. Hi Mia

    Yes, I am from RAMM at Exeter.

    I am busy with a collections database, a new museum website, and perhaps more related to this theme a Facebook Pages site for the museum.

    Using the Internet as a platform for a dialogue rather than solely as an information/brochure medium is a new way of working here, but people are being very positive about the change.