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Dan Norton

Winner's blog post

Submitted Entry for 2013 Competition


Disc Jockies (DJs) have worked professionally with large digital collections since mp3 file sharing began in the early 90's. The DJ's collection has to be functional. The DJ has to frequently build and publically present new coherent sets of material, live from the collection. This requires a system of interaction that supports learning and the development of personal memory, and facilitates creative interaction in the material.

The DJ provides a model of information interaction that is creative, and capable of working with large volumes of material (Norton 2013). Their process gathers from multiple sources and enriches the collection in it's organizational structures and metadata. Enrichment builds personal memory, which enables the DJ to explore relationships and links between articles in a creative flow. New narrative sequences are then played live. These are built from the reuse of digital content and by the authorship of links and connections between articles, i.e., by selecting and mixing. These are the two key creative information behaviours that enable new material to be authored from the digital collection.

The model of information interaction is fully described in Norton's recently submitted doctoral study entitled: "Mixing the Library: Information Interaction and the Disc Jockey." The study is affiliated to the current RCUK research project: SerenA; Chance Encounters in the Space of Ideas, which develops a semantic platform for supporting serendipitous encounters in research (www.SERENA.AC.UK).

The BLLabs residency will be used to apply the DJ's model in an interface design study to develop a prototype/ "toy website," for working with multiple data-representations from BL digital collections. This practice-led investigation will be used to describe the interface requirements for collecting, enriching, mixing/linking, and visualizing information from large digital libraries. The prototype/ "toy website" will combine the two essential interface features of the DJ's model: Continual visual presence of the collection as a writeable menu system; and a "mixing screen" that allows two (or more) data fragments from the collection to be presented, combined, and linked.

Two earlier interfaces developed by Norton during the doctoral study can be viewed at the accompanying URL: http://www.ablab.org/BLLabs . These demonstrate aspects of the DJ's interaction applied to handwritten material, and video.

The interface requirements thus described may also be evaluated and incorporated into future research, to extend links to the RCUK SerenA project in collaboration with newly developing European partners. This will aim to integrate a semantic engine, such as the system that has already been developed for the SerenA project, with the prototype interface developed in the BL Labs residency. Thereby, prototyping a fully functioning platform for use in digital libraries, which enables the DJ's process of selecting, mixing and linking data fragments, to operate as a powerful scholarly interface for learning in digital collections, developing material, and sharing annotated semantically rich data.


The research question / problem you are trying to answer*

Please focus on the clarity and quality of the research question / problem posed:

The DJ's model of information interaction builds unique material from the collection by selecting and mixing. What interface requirements facilitate the processes of selecting and mixing, to produce new knowledge from digital collections of all kinds; valuable for insight, learning, authorship of data-visualisations, and publication of annotated resources?

Please explain the ways your idea will showcase British Library digital collections*

Please ensure you include details of British Library digital collections you are showcasing (you may use several collections if you wish), a sample can be found at http://labs.bl.uk/Digital+Collections

The following four disparate collections will be used:

EAP012: Salvage and preservation of dongjing archives in Yunnan, China: transcript, score, ritual and performance -

Survey of English Dialects

Freedom and Rights legislature

Maps (hand drawn)

These collections are exemplars. Should any difficulties arrive regarding access or copyright, it will be a simple matter to re-negotiate content, or to use other collections. The important task is proof of concept; that the DJ model of interaction provides valuable methods for exploring and building links between previously unrelated material.

The material from the four British Library digital collections will be showcased in the resultant newly developed interface, as collection, within an interface that functions as a 'remix' tool. URLs from the original source metadata will be used in the new interface, and most likely continue to point to the BL domain.

The material in the new interface will be enriched with comments, tags, and by mixing/linking to the material from other collections.

Please detail the approach(es) / method(s) you are going to use to implement your idea, detailing clearly the research methods / techniques / processes involved*

Indicate and describe any research methods / processes / techniques and approaches you are going to use, e.g. text mining, visualisations, statistical analysis etc.

A practice-led approach will be employed to implement and test the theoretical model developed during the author's doctoral study. This practice-led method has been previously employed, and two examples are shown in the screencast available at the supplementary URL (http://www.ablab.org/BLLabs/ )

The practice-led research process will integrate the DJ's model of information interaction, as a process of retrieval, enrichment, and mixing material from the BL collections. The 'steps' are described as follows:

1. Collect from information sources (BL digital collections) into a local 'personal' collection (metadata or copy of information).
2. Organization of material into groups. A personal classifications system developed to explore meaning and relationships within the collection. Comments and tags and metadata is added.
3. Interface development begins; a read/write folder structure, to make the developing classification system of the personal collection easily accessible, and to enable multiple readings to be explored through the material.
4. Interface development of the 'viewing area' to enable two or more articles to be viewed simultaneously. This allows many mixes and links to be explored between material. As library scientist Swanson states in his Theory of Undiscovered Public Knowledge:

“The significance of the “information explosion” may lie not in an explosion of quantity per se, but in an incalculably greater combinatorial explosion of unnoticed and unintended logical connections.”

[SWANSON, D. A. S., R (1996) Undiscovered Public Knowledge: a Ten-Year Update. Data Mining:Integration and Application.]

The interface requirements for mixing or linking information are anticipated to include the following:

1. Visual / audio juxtapositons. The simple aesthetic 'bringing together' in the same visual field of material for comparison.
2. The functionality to notate, and add comments, to sketch/draw/add images, 'between' data represtentations. Also the ability to reference other resources in the link.
3. The functionality for the user to add the necessary knowledge representations for annotating resources as RDF. These requirements have been developed during the SerenA project, and will be implemented here to test and model information requirements for, in future developments, publishing new knowledge to the SerenA engine, and thereby to the semantic web.
4. The functionality to record "histories," so that sponteneous, 'in the flow' forays through the collection can be recorded and repeated.

The development during the residency will be most likely employ Actionscript as a scripting language. This will NOT be the language of any future development, however, it is a useful tool for exploring design parameters, and sketching an interactive prototype.

The outcome of the residency, the final prototype/'toy website,' will be 'hardcoded.' I.e., the functionality to add further comments, to rearrange and relabel folders, and to retrieve further information from the BL collections will be removed. However, the end-user will be able to interact in the final interface to explore the resultant links and connections between articles in the collection. This will facilitate a degree of user testing, and act as a template for future development. 

Please provide evidence of how you / your team have the skills, knowledge and expertise to successfully carry out the project by working with the Labs team

E.g. work you may have done, publications, a list with dates and links (if you have them)

The supplementary evidence available at the URL http://www.ablab.org/BLLabs shows a number of interface developments published by the author. These developments were undertaken as part of the practice-led investigations into the authors doctoral research. Alternatively they were developed and published as artworks by the author, developed during 'museum and archive' projects. The examples at the URL demonstrate that the author has the expertise to carry out the project.

Furthermore, technical support and advice will be provided by the SerenA development team and particularly by Jamie Forth (Research Asssistant on the SerenA project, based at Queen Mary, University of London). His advice will particularly be in regard to the knowledge requirements for publishing semantic annotations, and to prepare for future integration the SerenA engine.

A number of papers that evidence and describe the SerenA engine can be found at http://www.serena.ac.uk, and two are referenced here :

Aylett, R., Bental, D., Stewart, R., Forth J. and Wiggins, G. Supporting Serendipitous Discovery. Digital Futures (Third Annual Digital Economy Conference), 23rd – 25th October 2012, Aberdeen. UK. - See more at: http://www.serena.ac.uk/papers/#sthash.twQP5LMe.dpuf

Forth, J., Wiggins, G., Stewart, R., Bental, D., Aylett, R., Maxwell, D., Shek, J. and Woods, M. (2013) SerenA: A Multi-Site Pervasive Agent Environment That Supports Serendipitous Discovery In Research. PAAMS2o13. 11th International Conference on Practical Applications of Agents and Multi-Agent Systems. University of Salamanca (Spain) 22nd-24th May 2013. - See more at: http://www.serena.ac.uk/papers/#sthash.QytjpOj9.dpuf

I am in discussion with the developers of the Pundit web annotation tool (www.thepund.it). The Pundit tool demonstrates knowledge requirements, and interface solutions for publishing semantically structured data, and it is hoped that this dialogue will provide valuable insight and reference.

Please provide evidence of how you think your idea is achievable on a technical, curatorial and legal basis*

Indicate the technical, curatorial and legal aspects of the idea (you may want to check with Labs team before submitting your idea first).

The residency at the BL Labs provides sufficient time to develop the prototype/'toy website' that presents the proof of concept for further development.

Metadata associated with the selected collections provides the URL's to the online content, and these can be used to redirect the respective content into the new interface context. The content can remain hosted in the BLLabs domain, thereby limiting any legal issues.

The project will reuse material already published online, or that is agreed upon in discussion with the curators of the collections. Discussion with the curators of the collections is the primary task in the first weeks of the project.

The technical challenge lies in creating an interface for proof of concept, and supporting further development. The BL collections material will be used as examplars, and as such, all curatorial or legal aspects can be negotiated.

Please provide a brief plan of how you will implement your project idea by working with the Labs team

You will be given the opportunity to work on your winning project idea between July 6th - October 31st 2013

July 6 - Onwards
Weeks 1-2 : Discussion with curators of collection to prepare material for in situ examination. Also discussin with technical lead of BL Labs to determine support and technical acces.
Weeks 3: Resident in BL. Discussion with curators, and technical lead. Examination of materials that are not online, which may be of value. Begin the collection of material and metadata that is only accessible in situ.

August 2013
Week 1-2: Continue collection of online material. Begin organisation of groupings within collected data. Begin interface development, especially working on organisation and classification of collection, and access via folder structure.
Week 3-4: Begin development of 'mixing' screen. In communication with Jamie Forth (SerenA, QMUL) and Pundit team (www.thepund.it) regarding knowledge representation for integration requirements for the future publishing of semantically structured annotations.

September 2013
Week 1-4: Interface development.
October 2013
Weeks 1-2 offline and online testing
Week 3. Return to BL for presentation of final prototype/'toy website" in Labs

Expression of interest:

Name of Person(s): Dan Norton
Date: 15 May 2013
Affiliation: None
Description (optional): To explore implementation of a Disc Jockey's model of information interaction as a system for working in large digital collections of all kinds: Using DJing as a read/write platform for accessing and developing data to facilitate learning, scholarship, and presentation/publication. Develop a template for an interactive platform for stimulating creative use of large collections.
Research method(s): practice-led/interface development
Tools to be used :
British Library digital collection(s) being used:
Other data to be used:
Other notes / help needed: Understanding formats and systems of access to collections. Discussion regarding platforms for annotating resources.
More information (optional) [link to separate page on wiki]