Other contact info:
Eleanor E. Fink
Senior Cultural Heritage Specialist
Global Development Gateway http://www.developmentgateway.org
Eleanor E. Fink is a senior cultural heritage specialist in the Development Gateway initiative that is being launched by the World Bank in partnership with institutions around the world. Prior to the World Bank she was the Director of the Getty Information Institute (GII) in Los Angeles where she led the development of model policies, tools, and methods needed to link cultural information globally. While director of GII, she conceived and launched Object ID -- an internationally recognized information standard that helps recover stolen objects; and Los Angeles Culture Net --- a Web based gateway to collections in institutions across the greater Los Angeles area. Under her leadership GII also produced the Art and Architecture Thesaurus, the Union List of Artists Names, the Thesaurus of Geographic Names, the Museum Educational Site Licensing Project, and American Strategy. Prior to the Getty, she was Chief of Research Support at the Smithsonians Museum of American Art where she conceived and initiated SOS (Save Outdoor Sculpture): a nationwide computer based inventory that contains information on the condition and history of sculptures and monuments as reported by trained volunteers throughout the United States.
Information from the proposer:
Future of Online Culture
In the past decade advocacy efforts, particularly in Canada, Europe, and the US, pointed to the need for the cultural sector to participate in the planning and development of national and international telecommunications systems. A case, now reflected in many national telecommunications policies, was made for the importance of providing all people with electronic access to their nations cultural heritage. White papers and Memorandums of Understanding were launched that created a strategic focus for bringing culture into the digital environment. Thousands of web sites were formed around institutional collections. Efforts were initiated to demystify intellectual property rights and open the way for global access to art and culture. Meta data standards emerged as a means of providing integrated access across collections. Demonstration projects around community culture nets provided a better understanding of the potential of the World Wide Web to simplify access to who we are and what we do. New business models emerged for providing educational access to images of art and culture. Alliances were formed to build virtual digital libraries, online exhibitions, and electronic calendars of cultural events. Innovative approaches such as Net Day in the US helped to wire schools across nations. New organizations were formed that could provide an ongoing voice for policies and methodologies to harness technology for better access to art and culture.
In the coming decade, where are we headed in respect to online culture? What are the issues, policies, and information requirements for the 21st century?
While the information revolution began as a dominant force in the worlds industrialized nations, it has now grown to global proportions. The growth and global impact of the information age was recently pronounced in the Okinawa Charter on the Global Information Society, on the occasion of the recent G 8 meeting in Okinawa, Japan, July, 2000:
"Information and Communications Technology (ICT) is one of the most potent forces in shaping the twenty-first century. Its revolutionary impact affects the way people live, learn, and work and the way government interacts with civil society. It is fast becoming a vital engine of growth for the world economy. The essence of the IT-driven economic and social transformation is its ability to empower and give voice to civil society and community groups as well as to help societies and individuals to use knowledge and ideas. In promoting global participation, countries that succeed in harnessing its potential can look forward to leapfrogging conventional obstacles of infrastructure development, to meeting more effectively their vital development goals, such as poverty reduction, health, sanitation, education, and to benefiting from the rapid growth of global e-commerce."
As an outcome of the meeting, the G 8 leaders established a Digital Opportunity Task (DOT) Force to search for ways to fuse the gaping information technology (IT) split between industrial and developing countries.
"Everyone, everywhere, should be enabled to participate in and no one should be excluded from the benefits of the global information society," the G8 said in an IT charter.
It is no wonder that an organization such as the World Bank devoted to helping the poorest nations improve their economic status has launched an ambitious Internet initiative that provides a common space for stakeholders to work collaboratively in helping to reduce poverty (www.developmentgateway.org).
The international World Wide Web Conference (WWW10) May 1-5 to be held in Hong Kong provides an opportunity to look towards the latest developments in Web technology and discuss the issues and challenges facing the Web community as it moves into the 21st century. The conference includes a Culture Track session that can identify new models and visions for how the art and cultural community can optimize the Web for the future.
The questions about the future of online culture that will frame the session are as follows
- Much of our thinking about online culture and research has been driven by western concepts for how we document collections and how we relate objects historically. The venue for the WWW10 conference in Hong Kong provides an opportunity to learn how non-western cultures use a resource such as the Web for the sociology of knowledge about their cultures. What are the characteristics of non-western uses of the Web? Are there new paradigms we can build upon?
- As we become an increasingly knowledge and information based economy, the value of content driven applications will continue to increase, which in turn creates an ongoing demand for tools and services that can support delivery of high quality and relevant cultural content. What kinds of new applications are emerging and what tools and services are needed to support these cultural applications?
- The technology that many fear will erase or dilute culture may promote the opposite by serving as a vehicle to give voice to local and indigenous cultures and by preserving identity. For example, in the Amazon jungle, the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) is helping a village of indigenous Asháninka, called Marankiari Bajo establish connection to the Internet by high-powered radio. The remote village located more than 500 meters above sea level and 400 kilometers from Lima did not even have a telephone connection before it began to use the Internet. Now they are connected by network to other Asháninka villages. In the process of telling their own story to the world, they bypass outside news media and governments, which they think tend to marginalize them. What innovative methods can be used to help indigenous cultures participate on the Internet?
- More and more e-commerce applications for marketing culture are appearing. While these applications help to bring the culture and crafts of developing countries to a global market, how are intellectual property rights going to be protected. What international mechanisms for registering rights are being or need to be developed? What opportunities are being or can be created for establishing rights cooperatives in developing countries?
- Over the past decade meta data standards helped to pave the way for access across many types of collections, in a global driven information society the need for better search engines that can address multiple languages becomes more urgent. What developments are taking place that will lead to multilingual pathways to culture? What institutions are taking responsibility for leading this development?
- The concept of a museum without walls on a global scale brings many ideas to mind. Such a museum could produce virtual cross-cultural exhibitions; the public could participate in providing points of view and in telling stories about objects on display; the collection could be catalogued by virtual curators from around the world; the museum shop could contain the most unique e-commerce items; the education programs could draw people into building, exhibiting, and curating the collections. What is the likelihood that the future of online culture will drive dramatic shifts in museums as we currently define them? What new policies are needed to work in the online environment of the future.
- Interoperability has led to more fluid interchange of data. But we also need standards and tools that promote "interworkability" in order to build and sustain online culture. Interworkability centers on stakeholders using a common space on the World Wide Web to collaboratively build a resource such as a portal, gateway, database, thesaurus, etc. Simply linking, hosting, and/or exchanging information is not interworkability. What tools are being developed and tested that support interactivity in building online culture? What new services are needed to enhance working globally?
- The methodologies for documenting cultural collections have not kept pace with the rapid changes in technology. We are still applying manual concepts to how we catalogue our collections. How can we influence the development of new tools that can help streamline the process of documenting our cultural heritage?
- Rapid changes in technology also raise the issue of preserving our digital heritage. How can we become better curators of the digital domain and drive industry to become more sensitive to the value of digital continuity?
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