It’s all about connections, we realize as we read the final section of the newly-released (first ever) New Media Consortium (NMC) Horizon Project educational-technology report on libraries. Skimming that section about technologies “very likely to drive technology planning and decision-making” in academic and research libraries four or five years into the future leads us through concise discussions of the state of the Internet of Things and Semantic Web/Linked Data developments—two technologies that are firmly grounded in connections.
The Semantic Web/Linked Data section of the NMC Horizon Report > 2014 Library Edition has plenty to say to anyone involved in libraries and other training-teaching-learning organizations: “Semantic applications and linked data have the potential to be immensely powerful educational resources” that allow us to “more effectively sift, query, and gather relevant information,” Horizon Report lead writer Samantha Adams Becker and her New Media Consortium colleagues remind us.
As is the case with big data, the semantic web “might be able to help people solve very difficult problems by presenting connections between seemingly unrelated concepts, individuals, events, or things—connections that it would take many people many years to perceive, but that could become obvious through the kinds of associations made possible when the semantics of the data are exposed” (p. 44).
For libraries and those who staff them, the implication is obvious: as organizations and people dedicated to providing access to information—and, more importantly, helping others find meaningful uses for that information—they become even more dynamic in their roles as community partners and resources when tools like a semantic web speed up the search process. For other trainer-teacher-learners, the implications are a bit more subtle, but no less important: semantic-web applications almost certainly would facilitate the training-teaching-learning process in ways we can’t even begin to imagine and change the way we support the process of change/transformation that is at the heart of successful learning.
The 2014 Library Edition does not paint an unrealistic picture of where we are in terms of developing and employing a semantic web in our work: “While the evolution of the semantic web is still in its infancy for libraries, the worldwide linked open data movement is just beginning to adopt international standards for digital repositories that contain bibliographic information” (pp. 44-45). It is equally blunt about the state of development of the Internet of Things: “While there are many examples of what the Internet of Things might look like as it unfolds, it is still today more concept than reality, although that is changing rapidly” (p. 42).
But the fact that the report does help us focus on what is possible and what is being imagined—and provides examples of current semantic-web and Internet of Things initiatives—does help us understand some of what is currently happening and, more importantly, what may be possible within the four- to five-year adoption horizon described in this section of the report. Looking back over more than five years of reading and being involved in Horizon Project work, I realize how quickly those four- to five-year horizons become today’s horizons—and how important it is for all of us involved in training-teaching-learning to keep up with what is developing in the world of educational technology if we don’t want to be left behind the learners we are attempting to serve.
NB: This is the final set of reflections in a six-part series of articles exploring the NMC Horizon Report > 2014 Library Edition.