Friday, 28 March 2008

For richer for poorer

One of the buzz terms flying around at the moment is RIA (Rich Internet Applications). Put briefly, this is the sort of application that would previously have had to be installed locally on a users machine, but can now be run in a browser. I suppose Turning the Pages is a RIA (as opposed to a ria, which I seem to remember is a drowned river valley...).

In one sense this is nothing new. Shockwave and Flash developers would claim they've been building these sorts of things for years. So what's changed?

Well one is the potential hybrid approach whereby data can be stored locally or on a web server, another is the amount of bandwidth and storage that is now cheaply available to deliver these sorts of apps, and another is the tools that are emerging.

When Adobe launches it's AIR platform, Microsoft launches Silverlight, and even Director/Shockwave gets a first new release for 4 years, all in the space of a month, you know something is up.

A compelling platform to deliver all sorts of collection assets, image, audio, video, 3D with a friction-free and engaging user interface opens up exciting possibilities for libraries and museums. Especially when you can hook it into your existing digital asset management system.

One thing comes back to haunt me though, and that is the number of appalling websites that appeared when developers got hold of Flash for the first time.

With great power comes great responsibility.

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Time, place and work

I just came out of a meeting to figure out how to explain the affect of spatiality on literature. I guess that's an academic way of saying that place and time affect composition. We studied a diary of a writer and looked at data whereby a walk he undertook had been mapped using GIS data against Google Earth. You could see how far he had walked and over what terrain. In fact on one day he'd covered 26 km over some of the hilliest parts of England. I queried that if you could also find out meteorological data, you could work out his calorie burn for the day. How he would have felt at the end of that day could therefore be guessed and fed in to the research about what he wrote at the end of it in his room.

A year or so ago, we were working on James Joyce's diaries. Each page was dated and we knew his age and habits. Constructing a three-dimensional model of his diaries, in the software we lit the manuscript using known data about his latitude and longitude (Paris) and the date (17th February 1907). We had to guess on the time of day (we guessed a late start to the working day - 11am), and lit the book with data we had about the position of the sun at that time, on that day at that place.

So the question is, how does where you are affect what you do?

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Let's start at the beginning...

My company develops software to help museums and libraries provide access and interpretation for their collections. Turning the Pages is one of the things we've developed.

I get to work with an unreasonable number of fascinating people, whether that's down in the stacks at the Royal Society or in the corridors of Microsoft in Redmond.

This blog is to be a way of highlighting some of the great things I come across and maybe even spark some discussion about how we might best use emerging technologies to help people understand their past, and also, thereby, their present.

So expect to see some technical stuff, some collections stuff, some comment on events and people and a little idle speculation. 

Just don't expect me to post every day. I do have a day job to be getting on with...