National Digital Forum (Day 2)

December 1st, 2006

I spent the day down at Te Papa, attending the second day of the 2006 National Digital Forum. This was the only day I was able to attend, because I was teaching yesterday.

My original plan to do some live blogging from the sessions was thwarted by the apparent lack of wireless access inside Soundings (the Te Papa theatre), so this will be a short report, with a few comments.

The day started off with a bang, as Toby Travis, a web developer at the V & A Museum in London, talked about using Web 2.0 and interactive technologies to engage visitors. The Museum clearly has enthusiastic web developers who aren’t afraid to try new things. Their initiatives include podcasting, blogs (the Artist in Residence one was the most successful), several projects to encourage user-generated content, and RSS. My favourite user-generated project was the ‘create your own arts and crafts tile’ project, but naturally I have a soft spot for their knitting-related one as well. Toby had some good tips for people wanting to move into this area, including the suggestion that they try to engage existing online communities. That approach certainly worked for the knitting project. They are now apparently moving on to having people share their stories about how they learned to knit. If I could remember mine, I might contribute it — I vaguely think my mother taught me when I was about 7, and I remember some bright red plastic knitting needles.

The next session involved 4 speakers:

  • David Smith talked about a project involving mobile phones preloaded with audio files, using QR codes at specific places (like 2-dimensional bar codes) to trigger the correct one (I assume the phone’s camera was used to capture these), as part of the interpretive programme at Pukaka Mount Bruce.
  • Richard Hulse from Radio New Zealand, discussed their relatively recent implementation of streaming and downloadable content. As one might expect, the biggest issue is to to with rights, which limits what they are able to offer. I liked his final comment, that a major challenge of the future will be liberating content legally as well as physically.
  • Hiroyuki Arita-Kikutani, from the National Science Museum in Tokyo, talked about an experiment using Sony PSPs to provide a mobile guide system. These were relatively successful, but the content definitely needs to be optimised for the device being used.
  • Kiyoka Fushimi, from Hiroshima Kokusai Gakuin University, described about a project that used mobile phones to provide users with information and interaction with art collections. One of her findings was that older users tended to have problems when the phones used in the trial were different to their own, while younger ones were more flexible.

I was interested to see that both of the Japanese speakers were Macintosh users.

In the afternoon sessions, we had two groups of three speakers, followed by a final summary session.

The first group was:

  • Seb Chan (another Mac user!), from the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney. They are doing very interesting things with user-generated tags (in conjunction with more traditional controlled vocabularies and taxonomies), and have also implemented enhanced search tracking and a recommendation facility. One of their developments is a synonymiser, which is available for other sites to use.
  • Susan Chun, from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York talked about the project. This is an open source project, hosted on SourceForge (, intended to provide a ‘cataloguing by crowd’ facility. The project has received IMLS funding for 4 phases of research into tagging, and is definitely one to be following.
  • Joann Ransom, from the Horowhenua Library Trust, Levin, gave us a Kiwi perspective. The Kete Horowhenua project is currently in development. It is based on the Trade Me model, with distributed content creation. The idea is that volunteers will be able to create and upload content about the local history of Horowhenua from their homes, in their own time. Initial testing showed that users will need training — many did not recognise the ‘2.0′ features being incorporated into the software. It is due to be launched in early March 2007, and has been funded by the Community Partnership Fund of the New Zealand government’s National Digital Strategy.

The final speakers were: Tony Boston, from the National Library of Australia, discussing PictureAustralia’s Flickr pilot project; Bruce Ralston, from the Auckland War Museum, who talked about the development of a database of New Zealand’s war dead; and Tom Norcliffe, from Archives New Zealand, covering a project to produce digital resources to support school students studying history.

Entry Filed under: NDF 2006


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