OSCON Day 5: Maps as Culture

Today is the last day of OSCON, and the conference will be over at noon today. It’s been an amazing week, and I have tons of notes to write up, but I’m ready to be home.

This morning’s first keynote was entitled “Open Content: How Online Digital Libraries will Provide Access to Cultural Information in the 21st Century” and presented by David Rumsey. David Rumsey presented an amazing talk on the online map and culture collection he maintains. David presented an overview of how he believes libraries will evolve in the world of the Internet, and how the Internet can help libraries present collections.

Starting from a position of a private, comprehensive collection of cartographic information, Rumsey looked at how he could provide access to his information to researchers and the general public. He said he considered donating to a University library, but realized that they would put the works in a vault with his name on the door, and only a handful of people would see the works yearly. So he chose the Internet, providing high resolution scans and Java-based software which allows researchers to compare, overlay and examine maps. And he drew direct comparisons between Open Source software and libraries and access to information. Some choice points (I’m paraphrasing, I’m sure), which resonated with me:

  • “we can have access to the source code of culture”
  • “the growth of online library content will be accelerated by allowing participants to build open content collaboratively”
  • “california was shown as an island in this 1731 globe, some people still think it is”
  • “the english understood that information is power and that sharing information increases power”

And finally, “the 19th century was really into documentation.” It seems to me that what Rumsey is doing and what CC is doing are really trying to regenerate that fascination with documentation and documenting culture.

The second keynote, David Patrick of Novell (nay, Ximian), was a real snooze comparitively. I wouldn’t have wanted to follow Rumsey, but Patrick showed himself to be incredibily incapable at capturing the crowd’s imagination. Maybe I’m too focused on aesthetics and imagination, but a talk on “The Business of Linux” wasn’t that interesting. Maybe I’m just having flashbacks to hearing a Novell exec pitch Netware back when I worked for a VAR.

date:2004-07-30 12:14:40