What Every Librarian Should Know About the Semantic Web


The past few days I’ve been seeing this video tweeted all over. Basically, it’s gone viral, at least for geeks, and despite not being on Youtube! It is from Kate Ray, a recent student at NYU. Kate sifted through hours of interviews, identified themes, clipped snippets, sorted and reorganized the content, grouped them in significant clusters, did some editing, and generally made a significant intellectual contribution as part of an assignment. (Educators, take note – video can be a great way to show you’ve done your research!)

The video is called, very simply, Web 3.0. This is about as meaningful as Web 2.0, i.e. not very, however the way Web 2.0 has come to mean roughly social media & technologies, Web 3.0 is being used by some to mean semantic technologies and the semantic web.

Semantic technologies are, to oversimplify dramatically, tools to allow real people to easily find, aggregate & make use of web content. I almost said “make sense of”, but I think sense-making is still pretty much limited to wetware (as in brains). Most of the geeks I know best working with semantic tech are librarians. YAY, LIBRARIANS! They aren’t the only ones by a far cry, but I think librarians are absolutely core to making semantic tech really pay off in useful ways. I said something pretty similar in my 1988 article on expert systems.

P.F. Anderson, Expert Systems, Expertise, and the Library and Information Professions. Library and Information Science Research 10 (October 1988), pp. 367–388.
Abstract: “The research problems of expert system development are of potential interest to librarians for two reasons. One, artificial intelligence has increasingly moved into the library and information field, both as a tool for library applications, such as technical services and reference, and as a potential information medium. Two, the professionals involved in creating expert systems have targeted increasingly needed skills for development among their cohorts, some of which dramatically overlap with long standing interests of library and information professionals.”

The basic idea then, around the time of the birth of expert systems, was that expert system research was asking questions about topics like knowledge domain organization and reference interviews that are areas librarians have researched, taught and practiced professionally for over a hundred years. The idea now is similar. Semantic tech is more of the organization / categorization / sorting type of questions with which librarians have hundreds of years of experience. In conversation, I’ve found many librarians think I am a geek and they are not. FALSE. Librarians are far far geekier as a profession than popularly believed. So, for the librarians who aren’t sure what the semantic web is, who the leaders are, what the views and problems are, take a look at this short video (about 15 minutes) one time to see what the buzz is about, and then a second time, listening for those core librarian concepts mentioned above.

Kate Ray: Web 3.0: http://kateray.net/film/

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One response to “What Every Librarian Should Know About the Semantic Web

  1. Pingback: Web 3.0 (Librarian 3.0?) | michael steeleworthy | mlis

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