Thursday, May 1, 2008

An Interesting Talk: Peter Brantley and the DLF

I just came from a very interesting talk given to the U of M Library staff by Peter Brantley, executive director of the Digital Library Federation. There was so much in his talk that I won't do it justice. Here is a summary; before the time (and my memory) slips away I wanted to try and capture a few of the ideas and thoughts that he gave us. Peter was in town for the DLF Spring Forum and the Libraries took advantage of his presence and brought him to campus for his presentation and interaction with the staff. Like I said, it was a very engaging talk with lots to think about. Peter's blog, by the way, is something I've just added to my rss feeds; I'm going to want to continue to read what he's got to say.

If Peter's talk could be summarized in one image, it was of two people sitting on a subway in Japan. The older man on the right, well-dressed, was reading a book. The younger man on the left, equally well-dressed, but in a different fashion, was reading his mobile phone. (I wish I had the image, but didn't make note of the photographer in his presentation). Anyway, this gets to the gist of his presentation, or at least one very big facet, that information needs to operate in a mobile world and not tied to a desktop. Most of what people want and need is (and will continue to be) coming to them through mobile devices. (Actually, I did remember the photographer in Peter's presentation: Joi Ito. A quick search of the web found his Flickr site and a quick search through his photostream found the image: "Generation Gap." Oh, man, was this just an instructive little bit of learning on the value of Web 2.0!!) Here's the picture:

This brings to mind a second major point that Peter made: people come first. It's not all about the content, it's about the people: the kinds of information they need, how they're using it, where they're using it, etc.

I'm kind of doing a data dump here (I wish I had taken notes!) to get through other elements in Peter's talk. Excuse the randomness. He started out talking about the kind of scientific data that's out there and how this data is created, manipulated, analyzed, etc. All kinds of data are there, from space probes and satellites to remote sensing devices on Earth. From there he went on to talk about virtual worlds and moving images. With moving images (video) the bar is lower in terms of entering into that data, of accessing it, than it is with text, and yet it offers a very rich and rewarding experience. In the case of virtual worlds, what is happening here, in a way, is a big huge mash-up with stuff in the VR and stuff in the Real World, so that you could be having a virtual experience (in 3-D) that is pulling in stuff from real world data to create an even richer experience and the allowance (in the case of space data) to move through spaces that would be impossible in the real world.

There were a number of video clips that were part of Peter's presentation. One, which combined the power of mobile devices with networks, was the ability to use a mobile phone to take video of a place or event. The video clip he showed was of someone traveling on a bus through Beijing, filming Tiananmen Square. He pointed out how this could be a powerful tool for someone working on human rights issues, or reporters in the field who, without lots of video equipment (and personnel) could clandestinely film important events as part of reporting a story and how this could go to the web in real time.

Another clip that Peter showed was how someone could walk into a store and take a picture on their phone of a DVD cover (in this case "Finding Nemo") and then send that photograph to a site that would recognize the visual image of the cover on the DVD case (even if the photography was not optimum) and then throw an e-mail back to the user with all kinds of information about "Finding Nemo" including a clip on YouTube, purchasing information, and lots of other info. This demo of a virtual search engine was done using an Apple iPhone, again pointing out the power of the mobile device to provide a person with information at the point of need (it's all about putting people first). Interesting, Peter also noted that ATT had not provisioned its own infrastructure to handle the huge growth in web traffic that was flowing back and forth with each iPhone. Here's the video that Peter shared with us on this demo of a virtual search engine.

Another clip that Peter shared with us was a conceptual design for a Nokia device called Morph. Here's the shorter version of that video from YouTube:

There's a lot more that Peter shared with us. This just scratches the surface. But it gives you some idea of how he wanted us to think beyond the walls of our libraries and wrestle with concepts that put people first and don't get all wrapped up in our content creation and associated tasks such as metadata.

That's probably enough of a brain dump for the moment. If other things pop back into my mind from this morning's presentation I'll post them here.

1 comment:

Lynne Thomas said...

I really wish I could have heard this talk. It sounds fascinating...