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Mapping on the Internet

Tim Mackey of Geoscience Australia is next, speaking on maps and the impact of the Internet. His organisation has a significant amount of data (some 500 terabytes, growing by 150 TB per year), and aims to make a significant quantity of this material available online. Historically, of course, such spatial data would have been available in hardcopy and updated on a yearly basis, while now it is electronic and Internet-accessible and updated almost daily. Archive and versioning management therefore become crucial issues. Every client of Geoscience Australia, in effect, will receive a different map.

Science and the Web

Up next is Australian Chief Scientist Robin Batterham, speaking on the use of the Web by Australian scientists. The nature of science is changing, not least because of the impact of the Web. The best direction for it isn't quite clear yet.

The is now a significant level of information on the impact of scientific research, and Robin shows what's called Australia's research footprint (measured in terms of output, citations, researchers as percentage of the workforce, etc.), where Australia rates well, but not necessarily at the very top. However, the nature of scientific work has changed towards much larger-scale collaboration across national boundaries, as well as towards a concentration of research around a small number of particularly excellent institutions. The information used to measure such outcomes is itself a result of the information revolution which the Web and other related tools have brought about. Science is also increasingly cross- or transdisciplinary.

Preservation vs. Accessibility in Audiovisual Materials

Paolo Cherchi Usai, the Director of ScreenSound Australia at the National Screen and Sound Arcive, begins the next session. He points to what he calls the death of cinema - the move from traditional audiovisual to digital production in screen and sound. Thus, most of the material produced today can be viewed electronically, via Websites. Audiovisual materials have never been this widely accessible before. This raises problems as well as opportunities, however:

  1. Is it true that the Web is going to make accessible more moving images and audiovisual works?
  2. Is the Web going to improve the quality of access?
  3. Is the issue of accessibility going to interfere with a mandate of preserving materials?

The first answer ist yes; however, the growth of Web archiving will exacerbate the conflict between the urge to create material and the imperative of legal ownership. Archives are being strangled by legal frameworks here; today, their right to archive is being challenged (or indeed besieged), and openly contested. A possible solution for the future may be in the library rather than archive framework; in libraries, freedom of access has been protected from the implications of copyright and legal ownership.

Challenges for Web Archiving

The keynote speaker this morning is Malcolm Gillies, the DVC (Education) at Australian National University. He provides a brief history of cultural transmission, from remembered oral tradition to the emergence of the written word (which suffered its first tragedy with the demise of the library at Alexandria). Massive duplication through printing made text less vulnerable to loss, and gave information a tangible form. Now, however, digitisation has made information intangible again, as well as flexible and ephemeral.

Forms of communication have multiplied and diversified with the new electronic and digital networks, and only a few of these are being covered by archives and libraries so far. This may constitute an 'archival dark age', Malcolm suggests. (This, indeed, already started with earlier electronic forms - the thermal fax, early digital music recordings, etc.). The Web only intensifies this problem - and there is also a problem of overlap between it and other forms of communicaton.

Archiving Web Resources

The conference begins with a welcome from Jan Fullerton, the Director-General of the National Library of Australia. She sets the scene by noting the relevance of Web materials as yet another slice of contemporary culture which needs to be archived by national libraries - but of course the archiving of such material is complex and unprecedented, especially also because of the significant increase in the volume of material. Therefore, cooperative approaches to archiving are required.

The NLA's PANDORA archive of Web resources is now being recognised as a significant resource by UNESCO, and has been nominated for the UNESCO world register for the memory of the world. This is a significant achievement and points to the significance of what the NLA has already managed to do. Other national libraries around the world are also involved in Web archiving now, of course, with often some very different approaches to the process - this variety is interesting in itself. Now, of course, there is the International Internet Preservation Consortium (IIPC), which aims to interoperate such approaches.

Peace in Canberra

Mower MagicWell, here I am at the National Library in Canberra - and the first thing that greeted me is a large peace sign mowed into the lawns across Lake Burley Griffin from Parliament House. Nice work.

The Contemporary Web and I

I'm heading off to Canberra on Monday, where I'm speaking at a conference on Archiving Web Resources organised by the National Library of Australia. My topic is "Contemporary Culture and the Web" - not an easy area to summarise in 30 minutes! This conference follows on from the IIPC meeting at the British Library which I attended in Septemb

M/C Revamped

I've spent the weekend updating the site of M/C - Media and Culture, for which I serve as General Editor. Phew - a lot of work, even though the placement students who designed the upgrade have done a fantastic job updating the look and feel of the site. The next step now is to upload the new issue, 'fame'; this should happen tonight, I hope.

Update Complete

Well, that's that, more or less. The update is done and trackback should work now. Still a few minor things to iron out, but things should work OK...

Updating...

I'm going to try update my site to the latest version of Drupal today - skipping a few generations from 4.1 to 4.4.2... Let's hope for the best. If all goes well this will mean I can do trackbacks on the blog as well!

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