Friday, 24 October 2008

Finding problems for QR tags to solve

QR tags (square or 2D barcodes that can hold up to 4,296 characters) are famously 'big in Japan'. Outside of Japan they've often seemed a solution in search of a problem, but we're getting closer to recognising the situations where they could be useful.

There's a great idea in this blog post, Video Print:
By placing something like a QR code in the margin text at the point you want the reader to watch the video, you can provide an easy way of grabbing the video URL, and let the reader use a device that's likely to be at hand to view the video with...
I would use this a lot myself - my laptop usually lives on my desk, but that's not where I tend to read print media, so in the past I've ripped URLs out of articles or taken a photo on my phone to remind myself to look at them later, but I never get around to it. But since I always have my phone with me I'd happily snap a QR code (the Nokia barcode software is usually hidden a few menus down, but it's worth digging out because it works incredibly well and makes a cool noise when it snaps onto a tag) and use the home wifi connection to view a video or an extended text online.

As a 'call to action' a QR tag may work better than a printed URL because it saves typing in a URL on a mobile keyboard.

QR tags would also work well as physical world hyperlinks, providing a visible sign that information about a particular location is available online or as a short piece of text encoded in the QR tag. They could work as well for a guerrilla campaign to make contested or forgotten histories visible again - stickers are easy to produce and can be replaced if they weather - as for official projects to take cultural heritage content outside the walls of the museum.

The Powerhouse Museum have also experimented with QR tags, creating special offer vouchers.

Here's the obligatory sample QR - if your phone has a barcode reader you should get the URL of this blog*:

qrcode

* which is totally not optimised for mobile reading as the main pages tend to be quite long but it works ok over wifi broadband.

[Update - I just came across this post about Barcode wikipedia that suggests: "People would be able to access the info by entering/scanning the barcode number. The kind of information that would be stored against the product would be things like reviews, manufacturing conditions, news stories about the product/manufacturer, farm subsidies paid to the manufacturer etc." I'm a bit (ok, a lot) of a hippie and check product labels before I buy - I love this idea because it's like a version of the ethical shopping guide small enough to fit inside my wap phone.]

[Update 2 - more discussion of a 'what are QR codes good for' ilk over at http://blog.paulwalk.net/2008/10/24/quite-resourceful/]

Thursday, 23 October 2008

BCS: Is It Time For Copyright 2.0?

The British Computer Society (BCS) asks, Is It Time For Copyright 2.0?

The piece summarises and links to Lawrence Lessig's WSJ article, In Defense of Piracy and says:

In the meantime, I think the best way forward may also benefit from the idea that, in a global digital content economy, (where content flows easily across national boundaries), we should seek to implement and embrace a global framework for copyright, in order to lessen the reliance on national systems that far too often add undue complexity to the notionally simple concept of Intellectual Property. This is, in many ways, similar to Prime Minister, Gordon Brown's call for an overhaul of the global financial regulatory system that would better serve the needs of a global financial economy. Perhaps the copyright system should also take heed before it suffers a similar fate.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Nice summary of web 2.0 for the digital humanities

It's an old post (2006, gasp!) but the points Web 2.0 and the Digital Humanities raises are still just as relevant in the digital cultural heritage sector today:

In summary:
  • Give users tools to visualise and network their own data. And make it easy.
  • Harness the self-interest of your users - "help the user with their own research interests as a first priority".
  • Have an API -"You don’t know what you’ve got until you give it away", "Sharing data in a machine readable and retrievable format, is the most important feature. It lets other people build features for you"
  • Embrace the chaos of knowledge - "a bottom-up method of knowledge representation can be more powerful and more accurate than traditional top-down methods".

Art is everywhere

Described as 'a project of awareness to stimulate the imagination through "art"',
Art is everywhere finds some interesting pieces, including empty art frames on city walls that make the wall underneath appear as possible art, and invisible monuments. I like their statement, 'To seek for the beautiful in the daily things it undoubtedly helps us to... live better'.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

UKOLN's one-stop shop 'Cultural Heritage' site

I've been a bad blogger lately (though I do have some good excuses*), so make up for it here's an interesting new resource from UKOLN - their Cultural Heritage site provides a single point of access to 'a variety of resources on a range of issues of particular relevance to the cultural heritage sector'.

Topics currently include 'collection description, digital preservation, metadata, social networking services, supporting the user experience and Web 2.0'. Usefully, the site includes IntroBytes - short briefing documents aimed at supporting use of networked technologies and services in the cultural heritage sector and an Events listing. Most sections seem to have RSS feeds, so you can subscribe and get updates when new content or events are added.

* Excuses include: (offline) holidays, Virgin broadband being idiots, changing jobs (I moved from the Museum of London to an entirely front-end role at the Science Museum) and I've also just started a part-time MSc in Human-Centred Systems at City University's School of Informatics.

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'.