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April 3, 2008

[topicmaps] Alexander Johannesen on digital libraries

Alexander Johannesen talks about digital libraries. [Caveat: Live-blogging ahead.]

Libraries traditional have had ideals: To secure a significant record, meeting needs of users, access to collections, etc. He states “the bleeding obvious,” beginning with “Oonly the library can save us all.” Libraries are in a unique position. Libraries are trusted, they are the keepers of knowledge and order, librarians care about truth. Librarians are “nice but firm.” And it’s a global institution: Librarians from different cultures understand one another

But what will happen when we have digital books, he asks. The vendors are “small potatoes,” he says, which means they don’t have a lot of time or resource to refashion libraries and save the library world. The infrastructure is aging. There’s fear about the future. MARC is not the right format for the future. For one thing, it’s untyped and it’s unvalidated. And there’s no model except for the cataloging rules.

Topic maps are a perfect match, he says. They’re all about metadata, enable merging and sharing, provide a model, and a global identity.

What should libraries do? Jump in! Get past “not invented here.” Prototype big solutions. Grow “balls of steel.” [And ovaries of Formica? Jeez I hate the “balls” trope. d]

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[topicmaps] Sam Oh on FRBR

Sam Oh teaches at Sungkyunkwan U in Korea and heads the ISO committee responsible for Topic Maps (among other things). (I had the pleasure and honor of having dinner with him last night.) [Caution: Live-Blogging]

FRBR tries to capture the various levels of abstraction of our works. Group 1 consists of: work, expression, manifestation, and item. “A work is realized through an expression” that is “embodied in” a manifestation and “is exemplified by an item.” E.g., Othello is a work which may be expressed in English or in Korean. A particular edition of a book is a manifestation, while a particular copy is an item.

Group 2 consists of people and corporate bodies responsible for creating Group 1.

Group 3 are the subject entities that “serve as the subjects of intellectual or artistic endeavor” Concept (topical subject heading), object (name for an object), even (name for an event), place (name for a place). Sam says that FRBR adopted these from topic maps.

There are some defined relationships among these three grups: A work is by a person, a manifestation may be produced by a corporate bdy, etc. Ad there are work to work relationships such as successor, supplement, complement, translation, etc.

Currently, everything is focused on the manifestation level. That’s at the center of the map, so to speak. A future direction for library systems: Applying FRBR in services to present search results, to streamline cataloging, and to express new insights into works. FRBR can “naturally” be rendered in topic maps, he says.

Sam talks about mapping MARC (standard bibliographic records) to FRBR. The OCLC has an algorithm for converting these.

He shows some examples of pages and maps. He also notes that FRBR’s terms for talking about these levels of expression aren’t clear to a general public. E.g., most people don’t talk about “manifestations.” He’d like to see better terms, especially as FRBR gets exposed more widely. He also thinks the library community should come to know topic maps better.

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[topicmaps] Lars Helgeland on Topic Map-driven Web sites

Lars Helgeland says that Ted Nelson called Web sites “decorated directories.” The Web has failed the expectations of the Web’s visionaries, Lars says. Topic Maps can help.[Caution: Live-blogging]

Web sites have become reflections of their technical structure, which is usually hierarchical. Knowledge is not natively hierarchical. Knowledge works through people associating ideas.

Lars shows examples of sites redesigned using topic maps; they use the knowledge representation of topics maps without using the familiar circles-and-lines display. “We need to see portals as layered architecture, where content is independent of both presentation and the underlying technology structures.”

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[topicmaps] Alex Wright

Alex Wright is keynoting the Topic Maps conference in Oslo. [I’m live blogging, getting things wrong, etc.]

Europe has been thinking about organizing information for a long, long time, he says. He goes basck to Thomas Aquinas who thought the two pillars of memory: Association and order. He likens “memory palaces” to topic maps. [Hmm. The associations weren’t topical, as I understand them.] He fast-forwards to Charles Cutter who invented a book cataloging system and foresaw in 1883 the day when clicking on a reference would retrieve the object. [Cutter numbers are routinely added to Dewey Decimal numbers in library catalogs.] H.G. Wells in 1938 foresaw an infrastructure for sharing info electronically. Teilhard de Chardin wrote about the “noosphere.” [It’s been a long time since I read him, but I recall the noosphere as a spiritual realm, not a tech realm. I could be entirely wrong.]

Alex points especialy to Paul Otlet, a Belgian who thought libraries were too fixed on books. Rather, we should be thinking about the structure of information within and across books. There’d be an underlying classification scheme, represented in index cards, pointing to books. He tried to actually build this, starting in 1921. He invented the “Uniersal Decimal Classification” scheme. The UDC was designed to classify the info inside of book. Auxiliary Tables marked relationships between topics, i.e., typed links. [The Web only succeeded because it let the typing of links be accomplished by the words around it.] He also had the idea of a social space around information.

Alex visited the Mundaneum — an Otlet museum — a few days ago and shows photos. Very cool. They’ve only managed to catalog a tenth of the collection in the past ten years.[Pretty good argument against Otlet’s idea. It doesn’t scale.] He shows pictographic representatives showing how info can be remixed and browsed.

Alex points to facetag, an Italian project that uses faceted classification that are established at the toplevel. Within that, users assign their own tags. Also vote-links puts meaning into hyperlinks.

Next Alex turns to Vannevar Bush and “How We May Think,” the essay that proposed the memex. In some ways, it was more sophisticated than the Web, he says. E.g., whe you made a link, it was visible in both directions. And the trails should be public so there could be collective intelligence.

Eugene Garfield was inspired by Bush and founded the Science Citation Index, which ranked citations. Doug Engelbart was also inspired by Bush. (He recommends Englebart’s “mother of all demos” demo, which is indeed truly amazing.) Engelbart was concerned with tools for group colaboration, process hierarchies, and multi-level nesting of organizational knowledge. He points quickly also to Xero PARC’s “note cards,” Apple’s Hypercards, Ted Nelson, Andries van Dam, and others. When the Web became dominant, Alex says, a lot of promising prior research dried up, which is a shame.

Thje Web that wasn’t” Tying top-down taxomonies with bottom up social space; two say linking; visible pathways; typed associations…

[Terrific talk. Great to hear some history. [Tags: ]

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