The vision I have for the Web is about anything being potentially connected with anything…that provides us with new freedom…unfettered by the hierarchical classification systems into which we’ve bound ourselves…. bringing the workings of society closer to the workings of our minds.
Tim Berners-Lee, in Weaving the Web: The Original Design and Ultimate Destiny of the World Wide Web by its inventor
Many of us take for granted capabilities afforded by the World Wide Web (WWW), what its inventor Tim Berners-Lee described on the world’s very first website as an “information retrieval initiative aiming to give universal access to a large universe of documents.” Starting in 1989, amazingly by October of 1990 he had developed three technologies that remain the foundation of today’s Web:
- HTML: HyperText Markup Language, for formatting Web documents.
- URI: Uniform Resource Identifier, a unique “address” for each resource on the Web. The most common form of URI is the Uniform Resource Locator (URL).
- HTTP: Hypertext Transfer Protocol, allowing for the retrieval of resources from across the Web.
Since that time the Web has grown considerably larger and more complex, dramatically changing the way we learn, work and socialize. Within the academic world libraries like mine at Cornell University have helped develop a variety of robust web accessible resources including online databases and catalogs (WorldCat), digital repositories (HathiTrust) and expertise discovery systems (VIVO), transforming scholarly research, learning and dissemination. We’ve also been strong advocates of open, interoperable solutions wherever possible, in support of an informed and democratic society. Collaborative efforts like Linked Data for Libraries (LD4L), semantic web technologies and Linked Data are supporting the sharing of information in a highly flexible and extensible manner across the web.
These enabling technologies, standards and policies are changing the very nature of knowledge, including how its created, managed and shared. The locus of intelligence is shifting away from individuals and institutions, toward “smart networks” and “distributed intelligence”, from an emphasis on building stocks to maintaining flows. This network revolution is also enhancing our ability to sense and respond to crisis and change much more rapidly, often in real time.
The result, as David Weinberger from Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society writes in Too Big to Know, is that:
Knowledge is [no longer] something that gets pumped out of the system as its product… The hyperlinking of science… links knowledge back to its sources [and] into the human contexts and processes that produce, use, debate, and make sense of it.
Our task is… to build networks that make us smarter
As a vital part of the Land Grant system supporting knowledge with a public good, Cooperative Extension has an important part to play in this network revolution. Yet many have not fully embraced this role, lacking the skills, resources or guidance to do so.
Dedicated to promoting Innovation and Impact in response to key Issues, including climate change and food security, eXtension has partnered with the USDA and GODAN (Global Open Data for Ag & Nutrition) to support the development of such competencies through a new fellowship. Individuals interested in this exciting opportunity to support innovation and impact within and beyond the Extension system are highly encouraged to apply.
Over the next several months, I’ll be sharing insights and reflections from my own “Land Grant Informatics” fellowship. Sponsored by eXtension and Cornell University Library, I’ll be investigating how we might more effectively and collectively link and leverage digital resources and expertise in support of our research, learning and outreach mission. Stay tuned! [The first post of that Solving for Pattern series can now be found here]