The workshop began with an introduction by Seamus Ross, director of HATII at the University of Glasgow, who opened the discussion by articulating for the group the strengths and weaknesses of the semantic web. Seamus is one of the early theorists about the sw in the cultural sector. His work as part of the Digicult organisation has been reported in a series of influential reports.
Starting, positively with the strengths, Seamus summarised his view of the semantic web as being:
* Participatory – cultural heritage and academic institutions can participate as well as students allowing for growing interconnections of knowledge.
* Interactive – it is possible to trace different pathways, contribute to the process of knowledge development and learn by watching how others are adding to these interconnections.
* Retentive – the semantic web has the property of retaining knowledge links and being functional so both people and machines can continue to use them in different ways.
* Trans-disciplinary – in the cultural sector, not only do we think of content as being the curator’s input but we can also build up interconnections of knowledge and stories that other people have and build those into other datasets in other cultural institutions.
* Trans-cultural – building in the cultural interconnections between, for example. Picasso’s work, when heavily influenced by African art, and the pieces which influenced him and other cultural activities that were going on at that time.
For him, however, the negatives surrounding the Semantic Web loomed largest.
* Lack of standards – in cataloguing and documentation, in particular when looking outside of the UK.
* Lack of skills – no semantic mark-up training – in academic institutions or in museums.
* Not enough investment in the cultural sector
* Lack of immediate reward – like being environmentally friendly reward only comes when a lot of people do it over a long period of time.
* No really strong case studies