Tallinn conference report, page four

After Kim Viljanen, Eetu Makela demonstrated the existing MuseumFinland semantic portal, where a production pipeline is described, in which individual museums can make the contents of their databases syntactically and semantically interoperable.

Tuukka Ruotsalo, UH and TKK researcher, showed us Culturesampo, an excellent sw site soon to be launched. Within Culturesampo, Tuuka showed some screens mashing up old maps and place names, which were old maps put over the top of Google maps: visually rich and very interesting indeed. CultureSampo is a publishing channel for heterogenous cultural heritage content with event-based knowledge representation using ontologies, and high precision interoperability across collections.

The Finnish work attracted questions about workflow in the museums – is it affected by the wealth of new possibilities brought up by this new technology/methodologies?

Such opportunities bring about new areas to explore – particularly in terms of interpretation; or a new metadata layer, maybe about things we agree to disagree about. Finally, I believe Eero said this: “Ontologies become diplomatic and are the real beginning of the discussion about cultural heritage,” which to this writer neatly summed up the exciting possibilities brought about by the SW.

Afternoon Keynote speaker Patrik Svensson, Director of HUMlab at Umea University in Sweden, then outlined his department’s interesting cross-domain approach. “We work with the big labs, in other fields as well as cultural heritage. It’s a good time to be doing this (sw) work. Cyber-infrastructure projects are big. Digital literacy is big.”

It’s so cool to see how other people work – a point neatly illustrated by Patrik’s talk, when he ran his presentation from his own laptop. His desktop was very messy, a patchwork of hundreds of individual files. I don’t use folders, he explained. It’s the way I work best, he insisted. And as he spoke, you got his point.

HUMlab is a meeting place for those interested in digital humanities. It’s close to the university library. Head of the steering group is a librarian. They had an old language lab but needed to get new money for equipment. The committee chairs decided to make a new lab happen. It’s an open and flexible meeting place.

“We try to make it a place where all kinds of people can relate to each other with respect,” said Patrik. It’s a place where new media, art, academia and the library meet, and are seen to be interesting and valuable. It’s about Web 2.0, mobile technologies, e-learning. There’s strong interest in trying new things with participative media.

Svensson told that he was first and foremost a linguist. What kind of interfaces do we want? We’re interested in the materiality of the ‘if.’ He showed the HUMlab blog, and within that, the Blog Opera project, made from UGC snippets of 100 words each. Participants could send in either a beginning, middle or end, through a web interface. Title, tags, keywords were included. Then some more students created more content on top of the existing stories. Then it was turned into a libretto – including lots of the stories from the kids’ writing.

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