Oct 24 2012

Oh no, not another poster!

Steve Hitchcock

Back in the early days of the Web there were fears that content would lose value through ease of sharing, copying, and piracy. It was then suggested by John Perry Barlow, co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights organisation, that value would instead accrue to services and performance. Since then we have seen, for example, the transformation of the economy of the music industry from recording to performance, and growth in performance art. The same idea underlies academic poster papers (minus the art in our case).

Posters are performance. Above is the DataPool poster for a meeting of the JISC Managing Research Data (MRD) programme. We can post it here without fear of diminishing its value (!) because the Web reader

  1. can’t appreciate the scale (although if you ‘View on Slideshare’ you can see a slightly larger full-screen version)
  2. doesn’t get the performance or the interaction

As you can see from the poster, even the version here, we’ve thrown everything at it from the DataPool project. While I tend to be fairly comfortable with narrative storytelling, I am less confident with visual storytelling, as you may, just, be able to tell. Among all the posters at the meeting, I wonder which aspect will win out and attract most viewers. That’s probably obvious – with posters the visual wins every time, but the key is turning that attention into dialogue and shared understanding.

The meeting at which the poster will be displayed, a mid-term progress workshop, is for JISC projects in the MRD programme and selected invitees. If you will be at the workshop on 24-25 October in Nottingham, we will see you by the DataPool poster where we will be on hand to explain the project’s progress, and our curious, although probably not unique, scatter art style.

Oh no, not another poster! Why would we have thought that?

Oct 23 2012

Datapool presents at SxSC Creative Digifest

Gareth Beale

I recently presented the Datapool project’s plans for 3D and imaging data management research at #SxSC2 Creative Digifest. The event (organised by the University of Southampton Digital Economy USRG) was held with the aim of better understanding the impact digital technologies have upon our lives. Participants from several institutions came together to talk about their work, but also to talk more generally about the impact of digital technology on communities and individuals. It was the perfect place to present, but also to reflect upon, our work with the Datapool project.

The 3D and imaging strands of the DataPool project, led by Steve Hitchcock and administered by Gareth Beale and Hembo Pagi respectively, aim to develop a better understanding of how 3D and imaging data are currently handled at the University of Southampton: how they are created, how they are shared, how they are archived, and what this means for research and research culture.

A diverse range of technical and theoretical work was presented at #SXSC 2. The presentations served to highlight the highly innovative nature of contemporary research on digital themes, but they also placed repeated emphasis upon the need to understand how the growth of digital technology is affecting the way we live, think and work.

This need to understand the implications of digital technologies and to work in ways which are not only creative but also sustainable represents one impetus behind the Datapool project. It was fantastic to see so many people talking about how we manage our digital lives and to consider how different strategies might lead us in very different directions. It was important for the Datapool project to be at the centre of this discussion. We are left considering how some of the themes raised at the conference may relate to our digital working practice throughout the University.

Two of the talks which I found particularly interesting were Les Carr and Ramine Tinati talking about the Web Observatory. The idea that the web is sufficiently complex and poorly understood that it requires observation, as we might observe a complex natural phenomenon, is highly significant in thinking about relatively small scale data management on an institutional level. While we do not face many of the challenges faced by those seeking to understand the dynamics of an inherently social and dynamic global network, we must be aware that we are not simply looking at how people stucture their files. As research culture becomes increasingly digital and connected our data becomes socially significant. It will be very interesting to see, as we conduct our research, what the social landscape of Southampton’s 3D and imaging data looks like and whether as participants and observers we can develop a better understanding of the changes which are taking place.