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Empowering Learning — a UK perspective. Dr Paul Miller Interoperability Focus What is European Culture ?. Physical Tangible Enriching Inclusive National For us Finite Valuable. Digital Ephemeral Uncomfortable Divisive International

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Empowering Learning— a UK perspective

Dr Paul MillerInteroperability Focus

european culture is





For us








For our children



European Culture is…

European Culture is…

Where we come from

Where we are

An indication of where we are going ?

valuing culture
Valuing Culture…?

  • Cultural memory, which is documented in the collections of museums, libraries and archives throughout the world, is a vital part of the human endeavour. It represents the knowledge accumulated through the generations, and enables humanity to build on the achievements of those who have gone before us. Cultural memory:
    • Benefits individuals, by promoting a sense of identity through shared cultural values and by supporting the quest for lifelong learning;
    • Benefits communities, by promoting economic prosperity and fostering the understanding that leads to a civil and just society; and
    • Benefits humanity as a whole, by promoting the values we share as global citizens and by increasing our capacity to connect with one another to meet universal challenges.
  • Museums, libraries and archives—often called memory institutions—are trusted organizations that collectively document the entire range of human experience and expression. Memory institutions are engaged in the important work of:
    • Capturing, authenticating, and making sense of cultural memory;
    • Preserving the human record for future generations; and
    • Sharing knowledge to support education and learning.


a united kingdom
A ‘United’ Kingdom




Northern Ireland

Different funding

Different rules

Different curricula

Increasing linguistic diversity

a united kingdom england
A ‘United’ Kingdom - England
  • A National Curriculum for 5-16
  • Government’s Department for Education & Skills (DfES) setting overall agenda
  • Learning & Skills Council (LSC) driving and funding post-16 (non-HE) education
  • Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) driving and funding university education.
a united kingdom scotland
A ‘United’ Kingdom - Scotland
  • No real national curriculum for schools
  • Government’s Department for Education setting overall agenda
  • Scottish Further Education Funding Council (SFEFC) driving and funding further education
  • Scottish Higher Education Funding Council (SHEFC) driving and funding university education.
general trends
General trends
  • A Joint Information Systems Committee
    • funded by all of the funding councils, and supporting IT infrastructure, content, and use for Further and Higher Education
  • Increasing university attendance, and targets to improve further
  • A general emphasis upon Lifelong Learning, Widening Participation, Social Inclusion, and delivery of e-Services.
memory institutions
Memory Institutions
  • Museums & Galleries, Libraries, Archives…
    • Hold the memory of the Nation in trust
    • Actively interpret
    • (Usually) under sell themselves
    • Possibly perpetuate organisational structures irrelevant to the user
    • Offer a ‘human’ side of Government ?

Some facts

  • In the UK, more people visit museums than go to theme parks and pop concerts
  • Visiting libraries is more popular than going to the cinema
  • There are over 4,000 public library branches in the UK
    • The vast majority will be connected to the ‘Peoples Network’ by 2003
    • 70% already are.
culture online
Culture Online
  • Placed online, large parts of our Culture can become:
    • available to the Nation/Continent/World, 24/7
    • accessible
    • ‘democratised’, and available equally to the inhabitants of Maastricht, and of a small village on the Outer Hebrides
    • a powerful advert for Europe
    • comparable to similar resources from elsewhere
    • viable as enablers and facilitators of Learning, both formal and lifelong.
some assumptions
Some assumptions
  • Having access to digital surrogates of cultural heritage material is ‘useful’ and desirable
  • The public sector has a role to play in this, beyond simply granting digitisation rights to Microsoft
  • Availability of regional/national/international corpora of material is more useful to the user than hundreds or thousands of individual sites
  • Metadata is key to making the vision reality.

What is ‘Metadata’?

  • meaningless jargon
  • ora fashionable, and terribly misused, term for what we’ve always done
  • or“a means of turning data into information”
  • and“data about data”
  • andthe name of a person (‘Tony Blair’)
  • andthe title of a book (‘The Name of the Rose’).
what is metadata21
What is ‘Metadata’?
  • Metadata may be applied to almost anything;
    • People
    • Places
    • Objects
    • Concepts
    • Web pages
    • Databases.
what is metadata22
What is ‘Metadata’?
  • Resource Discovery Metadata fulfils three main functions;
    • Description of resource content
      • “What is it?”
    • Description of resource form
      • “How is it constructed?”
    • Description of resource use
      • “Can I afford it?”.
metadata is
‘Metadata’ is
  • Cataloguing made cool
    • But still a bit geeky?
  • An important driver for the information economy ?
  • A panacea in the battle against information overload ?
  • Potentially useful as an affordable and cost–effective means of unlocking a wealth of resources ?.
some assumptions24
Some assumptions
  • Having access to digital surrogates of cultural heritage material is ‘useful’ and desirable
  • The public sector has a role to play in this, beyond simply granting digitisation rights to Microsoft
  • Availability of regional/national/international corpora of material is more useful to the user than hundreds or thousands of individual sites
  • Metadata is key to making the vision reality.
some more assumptions
Some more assumptions
  • Distribution is better than centralisation
  • Portals are good
  • Thick portals are better
  • A single portal is bad
  • Shared middleware services play a key role
  • The problem is bigger than the UK or Europe.
level 7
Level 7
  • An activity in need of a name!
  • Organised with support from CIMI and Resource
  • Recognised growing synergies between content creation activities globally
  • Gathered funders and programme managers in London
  • Reported in issue 5 of Cultivate Interactive.


the cultural content forum
The Cultural Content Forum !
  • Met in Washington in March
  • around 40 representatives from Europe, Canada, USA, Australia, New Zealand and Taiwan
  • Clear interest in a user focus
  • new work item to gather and explore existing user evaluation work, in order to develop a better picture of what users want
  • Reported in issue 7 of Cultivate Interactive.


common standards
Common Standards
  • Commonality of approach enables interoperability, and facilitates access.
  • Good standardisation is a foundation for good service, not a straitjacket to innovation
  • Increasing moves towards common standards and guidelines
  • NOF-digi
  • JISC
  • Canadian Cultural Content Initiative
  • e-GIF
  • RLG Cultural Materials Initiative
  • etc.
common standards31
Common Standards
  • Work underway to standardise/harmonise
    • Resource capture/creation
    • Resource description
    • Resource discovery
    • Resource use
    • Resource reuse
    • Resource preservation
    • etc
  • Best/Good Practice and Community Building as important… if not more…
metadata for education
Metadata for Education
  • Metadata for Education Group (MEG)
  • open forum for debating the description and provision of educational resources at all educational levels across the United Kingdom
  • Founded upon a set of fundamental principles enshrined in the MEG Concord
  • intends to establish itself as an authority in the application of descriptive metadata to predominantly UK educational resources
  • seeks to become the first point of call for policy questions.


the meg concord34
The MEG Concord








The current picture


(local and


  • Many different services
  • Each has own user interface
  • Each has a learning curve


Slide by Andy Powell of UKOLN

towards an architecture
Towards an Architecture
  • Need for contextualisation
  • What are people doing
    • And what are the best technologies to help them?
  • How can we move towards the appearance of seamless service?
  • No one-fit solution.


towards an architecture38
Towards an architecture
  • Search
    • Z39.50 and the Bath Profile
  • Harvest
    • OAI
  • Alert
    • RSS
  • Shared Middleware Services
    • Authenticate, Authorise, Collection Description, User Preference, Institutional Preference…


jisc s information environment
JISC’s Information Environment

Content providers


Shared services






Collect’n Desc

Service Desc






Inst’n Profile


Slide by Andy Powell of UKOLN


Architectural summary




















citation linking


Slide by Andy Powell of UKOLN


Building the IE

  • Construction of various Portals in the Presentation Layer
    • ‘JISC Portal’ ?
    • Data Centre Portals (EDINA, MIMAS…)
    • Subject Portals (the RDN, ADS, etc.)
    • Data Type Portals (images, movies, sound…)
    • Institutional Portals
    • Personal Portals (Paul’s web!)
  • Also providing other access to discrete resources.


national or local
National or Local?
  • JISC building various national services, including portals
  • Institutions also building portals, Managed/Virtual Learning Environments, myLibrary services, etc.
  • Where do we see the role for all?
a premise
A premise
  • We want to provide useful services toour users.
    • These should be
      • Usable
      • Functional
      • Fit-for-purpose
        • yet cool and attractive
      • Sustainable
      • Interoperable
    • And could be
      • Informational
      • Transactional
  • Technical standards are the dull but necessary reality for making this happen.
in search of solutions
In search of solutions…
  • A common approach
    • Mandated as a condition of grant?
      • nof–digi technical standards and guidelines
        • Although evidence of voluntary adoption…
      • DNER Learning & Teaching Programme technical guidelines
      • Canadian Digital Cultural Content Initiative technical guidelines
      • e–GIF
  • An open approach
      • Avoidance of proprietary solutions
      • Based on emerging or established standards
      • XML based. Mappable to Dublin Core….
in search of solutions53
In search of solutions…
  • A consensus–based approach
    • Need community adoption and understanding
    • Data creators and providers need a sense of ownership
  • An evolutionary approach
    • Channels
    • New standards
    • New user requirements
    • Remember preservation.
an architecture
An architecture
  • Integrated information environment is complex
    • An overarching architecture helps to place individual features in context
      • searching
      • harvesting
      • alerting
      • Shared middleware
      • Common identifiers, etc.


part of a model
Part of a model
  • Placing detailed descriptions of all cultural artefacts online infeasible?
    • Expensive
    • A big job!
    • Leads to information overload
  • Collection Level Description a way forward
    • Pointers into collections
    • Easier to harmonise across domains
    • Achievable.


the big issue s
The Big Issue(s)
  • Language
    • Whether ‘technical’ or vernacular
  • Terminological control
    • Shared subject terms
  • Certification/ Authenticity
    • How do I know it’s an authoritative description of the Mona Lisa ?
  • Infrastructure
    • How to enable cross–search?
  • Meeting the requirements of new users
    • Largely let down by our current offerings.


  • The Heritage matters
    • a digitised Heritage may be exploited in new ways, by new and old markets
  • Effective exploitation requires
    • Cooperation, collaboration, and consensus building
    • shared vision
    • new ways of working
    • institutional and organisational change
      • is ‘library’ a meaningful concept to the learner?
      • is ‘museum’?
    • an interoperable technical base
  • We need to be responsive to the needs of our users
    • cultural tourist, student, lifelong learner, professional… .

Empowering Learning— a UK perspective

Dr Paul MillerInteroperability Focus