Last week Tom Scheinfeldt (University of Connecticut) gave a talk at the 2013 ACRL/NY Symposium, whose theme was “The Library as Knowledge Laboratory.”
His talk, “Looks Like the Internet: Digital Humanities and Cultural Heritage Projects Succeed When They Look Like the Network,” addresses what he sees as a worrisome trend that is moving digital heritage content towards closed apps, instead of maximizing the potential of the open web. Scheinfeldt takes the end-to-end principle of network design, in which power is concentrated at the network’s nodes, and applies it to digital cultural heritage projects, both in the way they are managed and the distributive format they ultimately take:
Digital cultural heritage and digital humanities projects work best when content is created and functional applications are designed, that is, when the real work is performed at the nodes and when the management functions of the system are limited to establishing communication protocols and keeping open the pathways along which work can take place, along which ideas, content, collections, and code can flow. That is, digital cultural heritage and digital humanities projects work best when they are structured like the Internet itself, the very network upon which they operate and thrive.
Scheinfeldt points to the DPLA as one example of a hopeful development in libraries, concluding:
As I see it, looking and acting like the Internet—adopting and adapting its network architecture to structure our own work—gives us the best chance of succeeding as digital humanists and librarians.