UKSG Conference Report, part two

'Open, social, linked' content and the future of library collections discussed at UKSG's Harrogate event.

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This is the second part of Information Today Europe's coverage of this year's UKSG conference. Informed bewilderment, destructive creativity, filter failure and discovery deficit were some of the buzzwords of part one of our coverage - what did the remainder of the conference have in store?  

Andy Powell explores the importance of content which is open, social, and linked

Content should be 'of' the web rather than 'on' the web, said Eduserv's Andy Powell who kicked off Day 2 of this year's UKSG conference. 'Think of content as a platform on which other people can build stuff,' he advised. Powell's thought-provoking session took its cue from the distinction made by David White  of the University of Oxford between web 'visitors' - individuals who uses the web as a tool in an organised manner whenever the need arises (for example to buy a book or check a train time), and 'residents' who 'live a percentage of their life online'.

Digital libraries, according to Powell, have tended to focus on 'visitors' rather than 'residents'. Libraries focus on content, and descriptions of content, and are good at standards, particularly those that focus on metadata. Because content has not generally been freely available, libraries also tend to focus on access control. 'Identity issues normally focus on "that's you, that's what you're allowed to do", but on the social web the emphasis is different - it's "this is me, this is what I've done."'  

Powell contrasted the typical characteristics of social websites (such as exposure at the item level, and a focus on social interaction within and across networks) with repository activity with its emphasis on shelving content, rather than on social behaviour. This creates an uncompelling value offer to end-users which in turn drives the need for mandates forcing people to deposit material.

If the web teaches us anything, it is the power of URIs, and that openness and 'linkedness' provide a platform for social interaction which can in turn drive content creation. But they are not sufficient on their own. Increasingly, libraries need to understand the social activity of users, and in particularly ‘resident' behaviours. The conclusion? 'We need to think: platform on which we can build stuff, rather than channel to deliver stuff'.

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