September 30, 2014

Of Mashups and Makers

I’m afraid I must interrupt my series of posts on “Being Different”, which begins here, for this important message.

Yesterday I participated in a panel that I arranged, and that my employer (OCLC) sponsored, on linked open data at the ALIA Information Online Conference in Brisbane, Australia. The drawing in this post was created by Mal Booth during the event, and shared afterwards via Twitter. He has kindly assented to my using it here. Feel free to follow him, I do.

The panel consisted of myself, Jon Voss from HistoryPin, and Ingrid Mason from Intersect. Thanks to Jon, we quite literally rocked the house, as our talks were musically introduced with clips ranging from Derek and the Dominoes to Belinda Carlisle. Jon brought that all together at the end with a song mashup that included those clips and others. The point he was making with this is that linked open data enables our creativity to blossom.

By having a growing collection of open data sets linked together in a world wide web of structured information, all kinds of creativity can be enabled and enhanced. It feeds, in other words, a mashup culture.

Before I participated in the panel, I had toured the State Library of Queensland. Besides an impressive facility and set of collections that one would expect of such an institution, they also have a space called “The Edge” that is designed specifically for young people to learn about digital arts (music, film, photography, etc.), entrepeneurship, and creating things.

It was the latter that was on parade yesterday, as they had a full-day seminar going on “additive manufacturing” or 3D printing. They had a wide variety of 3D printers on display (see photo for just a couple), as well as the objects that had been created using them. I had never seen so many 3D printers in my life.

Then we were taken to the basement below, and shown the space that will soon be their “makerspace” with 3D printers, tools of various kinds, and staff to assist. The stories they told of kids who had found themselves outside of the normal path to success who found another way through their services literally brought a tear to my eye.

So for me, yesterday was all about creativity, mashups, and makers. Many of us are laboring to make new things possible, from making data more available, linked, and mashable, to creating spaces that foster creative works of construction — whether with music, film, or plastic.

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Roy Tennant About Roy Tennant

Roy Tennant is a Senior Program Officer for OCLC Research. He is the owner of the Web4Lib and XML4Lib electronic discussions, and the creator and editor of Current Cites, a current awareness newsletter published every month since 1990. His books include "Technology in Libraries: Essays in Honor of Anne Grodzins Lipow" (2008), "Managing the Digital Library" (2004), "XML in Libraries" (2002), "Practical HTML: A Self-Paced Tutorial" (1996), and "Crossing the Internet Threshold: An Instructional Handbook" (1993). Roy wrote a monthly column on digital libraries for Library Journal for a decade and has written numerous articles in other professional journals. In 2003, he received the American Library Association's LITA/Library Hi Tech Award for Excellence in Communication for Continuing Education. Follow him on Twitter @rtennant.

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