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living archive workshops part 1,2,3  

Living Archives workshop part03
tuesday april 18, 2006
beursschouwburg, brussels
a). L-Atlas

Veronique from Citymin(e)d presented planned developments with L-Atlas,
as this report has an entire section on the outcome of this development,
this presentation is only summarised here.

The overall aim of the project was re-stated: to create a live map of the
relationships between people, organisations and projects. The visual
example Citymin(e)d were working from was this:

The aim by mid June was to have some degree of interactivity with a map
of this sort, with a web-based database back-end where Citymin(e)d
researchers could input information with simple web forms.

[This has now been accomplished, see section 2 of this report]

The decision at this stage was to limit the scope of this map to the
expression - by Citymin(e)d, of their own network of people, projects and

Issues that were revisited in relation to this presentation were:

- Controlled or malleable vocabularies / ontologies / categories
- Eventually, it is important to be able to add new data types, and
to do this in a useful and semantically coherent way. The
difficulties of this requirement were discussed.

Proposed solutions included use of Semantic Web standards and
formats (RDF) - for an overview see a short summary by Jo Walsh

The problem of how to combine different ontologies collaboratively
was also discussed, and the difficulties re-explored. For a
technical white paper examining proposed solutions to this issue
see Jo Walsh and Schuyler Earle's 'Epistomat' paper:

- Multiple views of the same things:
- If we allow people to add new things to the map, we have to deal
with the possibility that people might describe the same thing in
several different ways. We need to work out how to allow these
representations to co-exist. If the representation being built is
based on decentralized information sources (multiple websites,
different kinds of software etc..) this becomes even more

- Visibility in a network / privacy issues
- Some of the groups we're mapping are hidden, obscure, depend on
invisibility to operate. Mapping them could be a problem, unless
there's consent and understanding of the exercise. This can be
articulated technically as 'trust networks' (or 'distrust
networks' :) ie. "I'll let you see this information about me, and
I'll trust anyone you trust to see that information too". This
is a rather complex problem, with may practical issues that go
well beyond what can be speculated about technically or

This was discussed again briefly in the meeting
and Peter from Constant made the valuable point that since this
is Citymin(e)d's map - the fact that they know their network and
are sensitive to its specific issues so that ameliorates this
problem, although it may have to be addressed more generally at
some point.

It was suggested that we could have a new set of meetings specifically
about each of these tricky topics once a tool had been developed that
could be played with and tested against the ideas.

b). Report from Tagging workshop by Seth.

Seth Attended the Mediamatic Tagging Workshop in Amsterdam:

The workshop was interesting, and attracted an interesting group of

One interesting report by some Finnish researchers on how and why some
social networks function and attract participation. Their observations
were that it is important to have a common point of interest, or an
object that is central to the network. When you only have the relations
between the people as the content - people just won't find it useful.

The examples they used were:
- flickr: the common objects are pictures
- del.icio.us: the common objects are links.
- With friendster etc.. the real object is dating. Apart from that, there
is Limited interest and Popularity is short-lived.

So it's important to think about the intended object of the social
network when designing software or systems to support it.

Seth's more general observations from the workshop:

- Tagging as a semantic tool is limited - keywords aren't really deep

- When dealing with complex resources such as cultural objects, users
have to be able to contribute more than just a tag name.

- Mediamatic who organised the workshop had some interesting projects for
which they were developing tag-like categorization systems. In one of
them, people told stories about cultural phenomena or objects and then
applied tags. Mediamatic's experience of this project could be useful in
developing BBOT/BNA strategies.

- It might be useful to organise a meeting just on this topic: how we can
add a kind of user-interpretation to cultural objects, to facilitate a
dialogue between institutions and their users.

- Institutions usually provide a kind of database-like environment for
holding their knowledge. By inviting comments and tags, users could be
adding a kind of interactivity to the database, adding valuable context
about the cultural resources in question.

- Metadata is expensive to add to a large quantity of data, inviting the
public is partly a cost-saving solution. Quality control then becomes
the major issue.

- Having said that, tagging can be useful for simple things like links:
for guaging popularity...

__Discussion from Seth's presentation:__

- Perhaps we need to have a 'Tagging's not good enough' meeting - but
with a snappier title. Follow-up meetings could be based on the
issues raised above

- In terms of development physical meetings are important to maintain the
veracity of the relationships being expressed.

- Re: provocative titles.. such as 'tagging isn't good enough' - this
kind of tactic might attract a wider crowd who want to see what the
fuss is about- this is ok, but it might be best to wait until L-atlas
and other projects reach stage 1 - so we have an example to play with
that can help keep the project and the specific context associated with
the discussion.

c). Other News:

- other projects are underway, but possibly a bit stuck:
- BNA/BBOT - is halted due to lack of funding, but their
project/archive is online

- Bigoudis - is a group grown up around critiques of funding policy, who
are organising against proposed changes to cultural funding policy..
They might be an interesting group to work with.

----------------------- break ----------------------

d). Zinneke Documentation project

This presentation was prior to the Zinneke parade, which was apparently a
huge success, so well done Zinneke! An presented some of the ideas they
had about documentation - the deployment of blogs and other
communications tools in the run-up to Zinneke Parade, and some of the
issues they had with the technology and process.

__An Mertens:__

Firstly, There have been problems:

- Zinneke's website is trilingual - we noticed that people don't have the
time/skills/need to put their entries in multiple languages, so there's
an unbalanced representation of language groups.

- The temporary and unworkable solution we ended up using is that people
call us, or we see that their RSS feed has been updated so we go and
translate their post, but Zinneke Parade is too big now to stand behind
everyone making sure they're updating their blog properly!

- Zinneke's staff to participant ratio is 5:2700 - not a workable

- people might be able to update the blog, but then images are a real
problem. If we go on with this, we have to make the IT access aspect of
Zinneke into a proper project - to motivate and enable those who arn't
already skilled or have a vested interest (ie. artists and
photographers have been using it to promote their work.. but most people
haven't managed to get to grips with the technology).

- On a positive note, the fact that we had this blog/website idea meant
that people did contribute more than last year, so there has been an
improvement, but the 'plan' to generate real interactivity was very

- One other issue we had was that there are people participating in the
parade who have no papers - they don't want photographs, no names
associated with photographs, no media in the workshops - and expressing
oneself is very difficult as there's significant fear...

Questions / Discussion:

- Dirk: the idea was to use the website as a documentation tool - if it's
not been successful in this way, how do you document things then?

- An: we get sent CDs but we've got very limited time and resources for
this kind of activity (ie. I do it!)

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