Monday, 10 November 2008

Global, not institutional, repositories FTW

In Some (more) thoughts on repositories, Andy Powell writes about academic repositories of research publications, but I think it's applicable to the cultural heritage sector too. Particularly when he writes on 'fit with the web':
Global discipline-based repositories are more successful at attracting content than institutional repositories. ... This is no surprise. It's exactly what I'd expect to see. Successful services on the Web tend to be globally concentrated (as that term is defined by Lorcan Dempsey) because social networks tend not to follow regional or organisational boundaries any more.

Web architecture
Take three guiding documents - the Web Architecture itself, REST, and the principles of linked data. Apply liberally to the content you have at hand - repository content in our case. Sit back and relax.

Resource discovery
On the Web, the discovery of textual material is based on full-text indexing and link analysis. In repositories, it is based on metadata and pre-Web forms of citation. One approach works, the other doesn't. (Hint: I no longer believe in metadata as it is currently used in repositories).
The museum sector has already created cross-institutional repositories (broadly defined, I don't care if it's a federated search or a big central pot of content), but are they understood and championed well enough? Are they maintained and integrated into on-going content creation and editing processes? Are their audiences encouraged to personalise and re-use the content?

Sadly also still relevant:
Across the board we are seeing a growing emphasis on the individual, on user-centricity and on personalisation (in its widest sense). ... Yet in the repository space we still tend to focus most on institutional wants and needs. I've characterised this in the past in terms of us needing to acknowledge and play to the real-world social networks adopted by researchers. As long as our emphasis remains on the institution we are unlikely to bring much change to individual research practice.

Lots of people working in digital cultural heritage get it - but they're not necessarily the ones at the decision-making levels, and they're not necessarily in on projects from the start to help make the project design user-centred and the content (technically and semantically) interoperable.

FTW, by the way, stands for 'For The Win', defined by Wikipedia as 'Of something which completes a process in a successful manner'.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Mia
    I think you're quite right! We've done a reasonalbe job across the sector of creating cultural networks. These have, as you have identified, a somewhat limited audience. I think the real challenge is in creating 'value networks' which build on these initiatives and enable new audiences to connect in ways which are meaningful to them. Still much to be done!