1 Illustrating the Semantic Web

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The Semantic Web with a capital S and a capital W’

Mike Lowndes illustration above shows a digital object with its associated data and metadata, mapped to taxonomies and ontologies which can then be read and understood by the Semantic Web, it also draws on the users profile and then produces relevant, accurate and meaningful actions for each user.

Explaining this further, the Semantic Web is a means to add logic to the web, turning it into a global database which could find, sort, classify, interpret and present relevant content in context, vastly improving browsing for users. He also offered the following interpretation from Tim Berners-Lee:

‘The Semantic Web is an extension of the current Web in which information is given well-defined meaning, better enabling computers and people to work in cooperation.’ TBL adds the information that it contains must be structured in a logical, comprehensible and transparent fashion.

‘it’s not about user but it’s about use’ Jennifer Trant

Problems with this then arose among some members of the group who were concerned with the lack of consideration of the end-user in these descriptions of the Semantic Web. Paul, Phill and Stephen Brown emphasized the diversity of end-users while Jennifer and Jeremy focused their attention more on use, with Jeremy’s comment, ‘it’s about helping the machines to help the end user’, emphasizing the idea that the Semantic Web doesn’t have to be transparent, that users or markets don’t need to be aware of what they are using. This was also illustrated through Dan Zambonini’s diagram below which shows the Semantic Web as an evolution of the web that sits above it.

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Jeremy and Mike pointed out that it is often the museum itself that is the end-user, and that before the Semantic Web can be used it has to be marketed to them as well as to potential funders. Jennifer talked of the dangers of marketing specific technologies and software, instead stating:

‘What we want them to buy into is the vision of interconnected, interoperable, easily integral resources that exist in multiple places and are used by multiple people to support different functions. You want them to buy into a vision of a shared, useful, integrated information environment in which museums play a robust part.’

Jon Pratty concurred, saying that funders and museums don’t have to buy into the format of it, stating:

‘it doesn’t have to be a format it has be a series of agreed goals – its that series of interconnecting agreed relationships and its those agreements those policies that we should have a strategy for.’

Mia gave the perspective from the museum’s web department, explaining that her department is usually funded for content and outcomes and that they have a choice about how that is implemented Often the way they choose to implement it can result in the Semantic Web as almost a by-product of moving towards this idea of reusing and reintegrating material.

‘…its not about content its about what we do with it’ Jennifer Trant

‘its an opportunity to do it better than we were asked to do’ Jeremy Ottevanger

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