“If an item does not appear in our records then it does not exist!”

The abovementioned words are spoken by Jocasta Nu, Chief Librarian of the Jedi Archives when Obi-Wan Kenobi is searching for the location of the Kamino planetary system…

However, this is a very 20th century view of a library or archive; ongoing development of the Semantic Web is pointing to a future where certain information may only exist as as an entity when created by a user.

The Semantic Web: a web of data

I first came across the term “Semantic Web” when I was researching the changes to cataloguing standards 12 months ago for a previous module.  It is something that that has been of interest to me since then.  Working in a library and studying on this course has highlighted how the library community appears to be struggling to adapt to changes in the information environment.  The Resource Description and Access (RDA) cataloguing standard has been developed to encompass digital resources but will not be fully embraced by the British Library until 2013 (CILIP, 2012).  In my opinion, RDA can only be a stepping stone to the adoption of a new standard which will embrace Linked Open data in the Semantic Web, as discussed by Dunsire (2011).  Given that the related issue of ontologies is now being openly discussed on programmes such as “Woman’s Hour” (BBC, 2012) I can only hope that the slow adoption of newer standards does not lead to libraries erasing themselves from the information map!

Some of the principles which underlie this third iteration of the Web are visible in my everyday interaction with websites.  For example, the John Lewis website offers suggestions aimed specifically at me based on the “saucepans” and “table linen” which I have previously viewed:

These suggestions consist of linked metadata from within the John Lewis website and similar examples can be seen on other websites.  However, it was not until this week’s lecture where we discussed how tailored content can be fed into a fully live web page that I was suddenly struck by the fact that static web pages will no longer need to exist in the future.  By linking all forms of an item across all resouces, what will be the implications of this to website design?

This is a complex and evolving field in which I have no technical expertise.  However, I can see that some issues will affect design.  For example, given that searching will become more refined and personalised, the field of information retrieval will probably focus more on “filtering out” irrelevant information.  Designers will therefore need to find more creative ways of ensuring that their site content is accessed by the target market.  The second implication that comes to mind is that users will be able to access content more flexibly.  The traditional hierarchical structure of websites is already being reconsidered by designers so that all pages on a sitemap could have equal importance; reducing the amount of navigation on a site is discussed by Bradley (2012) who examines the development of single page websites.  It is clear that these sites reflect a desire to draw information together into one location, enhancing usability of the website and making it more dynamic.  (Site does not function as well on iPad.) However, I think that this style of website is in preparation for a time when the retrieval of individual web pages will become inefficient and uncompetitive.  Thus, a single page website would help to ensure that the entirety of the organisation’s information would remain unfiltered in a Semantic Web search.

The Synaptic Web: A web of “live” connections

The lecturer discussed a second model for the Web – the Synaptic Web.  My limited reading on this subject seems to suggest that this approach focusses on a folksonomical approach to the future development of the Web.  Thus, proponents for this model discuss the Synaptic Web as being descriptive rather than prescriptive.   However, having examined the transfer of information between different fields, for example, between film archives and academic libraries, it is evident that common standards or a high level of interoperability is necessary to achieve the initial fast, accurate connections prior to developing “plasticity” that is, the connections between the connections, as described by Loux and Blantz ( 2011). Thus, whereas HTML was the common standard for the first incarnation of the Web, Resource Description Framework (RDF) could provide the platform for a more descriptive Web.  My current thinking is that there will probably be a convergence between the two models to create the the Web of the future.

REFERENCES

BBC. 2012. Woman’s Hour: Power list expert witness: science and engineering [online].London: BBC. Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p010v47s [Accessed: 14 November 2012].

Bradley, S. 2012. Exploration of single page websites [online]. Freiburg: Smashing Magazine. Available at: http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2012/11/05/navigation-patterns-in-single-page-websites/#more-142481 [Accessed: 14 November 2012].

CILIP 2012. Implementing RDA in the UK: strategies and lessons learned [online]. CILIP: London. Available at: http://www.cilip.org.uk/rda2012/Documents/3.%20Alan%20Danskin.pdf [Accessed: 14 November 2012].

Dunsire, G. 2011. Web resource management and semantic web [Online]. Ahmedabad: INFLIBNET. Available at:htt p://ir.inflibnet.ac.in/dxml/bitstream/handle/1944/1605/15.pdf?sequence=1 [Accessed: 14 November 2012].

Loux, K. et al. 2011. The synaptic web [online]. San Mateo: PBWorks. Available at: http://synapticweb.pbworks.com/w/page/8983891/FrontPage [Accessed: 14 November 2012].

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