Saturday, March 31, 2007

JeromeDL and Semantic Museums

I would like to follow up (finally) on my ideas, which were crowding on my mind map since I came back from London, on how solutions, such as JeromeDL, can be used to build Semantic Museums.

One of differences between digital libraries and museums, which can be easily spotted, is less restrictive and probably, more open-minded approach presented by the museum community. The same technologies presented at DL meetings are either not understood at all or rejected as 've been there, done that already, didn't work ; while museums are more willing to allow semantic web technologies into their domain.

There is another, I think, very important difference: there is clear distinction between library and digital library; this distinction, however, tends to disappear when it comes to museums. The support semantic solutions can offer is not constrained to virtual tours delivered through museum portals. What many museums do, at the moment, is building their existence on the Internet; with technologies, such as Second Life,  we can imagine aforementioned virtual tours to come to existence. What is interesting about museums, is that new technologies can, and in my opinion should, support visitors in the real life.

A simple scenario: when I visit a museum, I usually try to be very precise in reading and listening all auxiliary material delivered along with the exhibition items. Depending on particular solution provided by the museum I am at the moment, I can usually read short, sometimes very short, descriptions of, e.g., paintings I am looking at. Sometimes, the audio guide, synchronized with my tour, gives me better understanding of what I am  looking at, at the moment.
And usually this is where all it ends. Unless, I have a very broad and deep knowledge of the topic, and can track most of important exhibitions related, somehow, to the one I am at the moment, there is no way I can get any further with my visit. It is like all that interesting information is veiled before me, so that I could not find it.

Now imagine, that instead of just an audio guide for my tour I would have a ubiquitous guide; I could it access with my, or provided by the museum, PDA or a smart phone. The sensors, such as camera, GPS, or accelerometer, build in or delivered along with my device, can track my current position and my current subject of interest. Now, looking at a painting and moving my smart phone camera in front of it, I can see regions of interest (similar to those we know from Flickr), overlayed on the view presented by my device; this ROIs are heavily annotated with information I can be interested in. If my device holds my profile, it can even filter out those that would I would not be interested in, or those I already know. These additional information bits can also allow me to start a virtual tour from the place where I am at the moment. I can browse through a picture of a dog, an allegory of trust-fidelity, to other paintings where the same allegory is presented. My personal guide, running on my mobile device, can also tell me if any of these paintings are being now on display anywhere near to where I am at the moment. I can also share my thoughts, knowledge, ideas with other people that will come across this painting.

Semantic Web, Web 2.0, adaptable interfaces, ubiquitous computing, all these technologies come handy to develop a service as described in my scenario. I was puzzled at first, when I  heard about soft and hard semantic web, but I was glad to know that JeromeDL was already addressing these, and similar, requirements. We work at the moment, to deliver similar browsing features, as presented in the scenario, in JeromeDL. So far they are constrained to the Web, but who knows maybe one day I will managed to gather a consortium of other research institutes and museums, willing to deliver a museum x.0 platform, where an average user would finally make real use of the Semantic Web, ... in the real life

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Argey said...

For personal digital libaries have you looked at Topicscape?
( ?)

Sebastian Ryszard Kruk said...

If we consider Social Museum (not just semantic one) this can be of interest:

(just learned that from Alyssa Glass during my talk at DERI Stanford)