Informare! 'Knowledge and understanding' at German information conference

At the the debut of a new information community conference in Berlin the conversations covered linked data, social media and research in corporate environments.

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Linked data, ebooks and tablets

This sounded like a very philosophical talk, judging from its title, 'Information in Space and Time', but Werner Kuhn, Director, Institute for Geoinformatics, University of Münster, actually talked about how publishers can create value.  He believes that location and time are key enablers and that spatial and temporal information can interact to create new knowledge. After all, he noted, "everything happens somewhere at some time." Kuhn sees innovation happening when data is linked but he thinks archiving data is an activity declining in importance. He did evince some concern about quality, given that information in time and space is not static. What happens if you base conclusions on a Google Earth representation that is several years old?

Even more practical was Rudolf Mumenthaler, head of innovation and marketing for the ETH library in Zurich, who proclaimed 2010 the year of ebook readers and 2011 the year of tablets. Although ebooks are not as prevalent in Germany as they are in the US, demand is growing. At the ETH, librarians tested various types of ereaders and, like many others, prefer ebooks with no DRM (digital rights management) attached.

Research and business development

Not all the speakers came from academia. Sabine Graumann, who is the director of business development for TNS Research GmbH, reported on her company's use of secondary market research. At TNS, they look at desk research, which includes Google searches, to help in decisions about entry into foreign markets. Barbary Flügge, senior researcher at the SAP Research Centre in St. Gallen, talked about how the internet of services and use of social media affects business development. One key principle cited by Flügge was preparing for 'business by coincidence'. Network design, she said, "steers the economic potential". She also reminded the audience not to overlook ad hoc user groups, welfare organisations, and special interest groups.

Gaming, workshops and late night discussions

On the last day of Informare!, delegates walked into the conference room to see computer gaming stations set up in the rear of the room. Following a talk on the importance of gaming for libraries and literacy, given in tandem by Christop Deeg, a consultant and training for online marketing, cultural management and game studies, and the ETH's Mumenthaler, delegates moved to the stations to try out the games for themselves.

The Informare! conference offered thought-provoking content in a variety of formats. Not only were there traditional lectures - usually with the obligatory PowerPoint slides - but also workshops where lecturers expanded upon their topics, incorporating a great deal of interaction with their audience. The first evening of the conference was dubbed 'The Long Night of Search Engines' and it did, indeed, stretch late into the night. Not only were many search engines displayed and evaluated (primarily by myself and Dirk Lewandowski), but a trio played 1930s music and a comedian entertained. The second night, Informare hosted a Bar Camp. Again, it was a late night as conference delegates selected and discussed topics of interest. Among them were Science 2.0 (science as a wiki), artificial intelligence and pattern recognition, multichannel publishing and linked open data.

Overall, this first Informare conference went off without a hitch. The level of engagement on the part of the delegates was high and they seemed very pleased with the content. The next Informare! Conference is scheduled for 8-10 May 2012 in Berlin.

Marydee Ojala is an Information Consultant at Ojala Associates and Editor at Online: Exploring technology and resources for information professionals.

[Image courtesy of Nigel's Europe, via Flickr.

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