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DigiCULT 17
Hungarian Science Academy was launching the
following month and, he joked: `I guess it will kill
me for the next twenty years.'
The encyclopaedia's entries would come from
the `first circle' of leading experts in the fields. Each
would be given separate shadow links to the best
Hungarian and non-Hungarian sources ­ the `second
circle'.The `third circle' would be user commentary.
Nyíri explained: `Imagine someone who believes that
the moon is made of green cheese. If our leading
astrophysicist has an entry that the moon is made
of rocks and so on, then, in the third round, our user
has the opportunity to say "no, it is made of green
cheese" and everyone interested can read it.'
Thus, the encyclopaedia would produce a virtual
community of users, he said, explaining: `Without that
feedback, all we have done is just put something on
the Web. But, with feedback, it becomes a kind of com-
munity with experts on the one side and non-profess-
ionals on the other, all sort of bound up in a healthy
interaction ­ at least this is what I am hoping for!'
He conceded that the idea had its risks, adding the
sobering thought: `As long as it is about the moon
and green cheese it's OK. But, when it is concern-
ing the reality of Auschwitz, for instance, then the
situation gets difficult. I have no good answer. I just
hope and pray that the crucial issues do not come
up too early.'
The Edinburgh 13 turned to its recommendations.
Virtual communities were not just luxuries, they
thought, but they needed clear visions of their pur-
pose.There was value in a fluid, but clear, division
between professional and non-professional commu-
nities with aims that the two should interact.
To begin, the institution must recruit its keenest
members, with passionate interest in their subjects
and skills to pass that on to their constituents. Users
must be left in no doubt about the subject under
discussion and its boundaries.There must be stern
observance of professional, academic and disciplinary
standards in order to earn and retain public trust. As
the Moderator said: `The only way to say something
is trustworthy is to have an institution in which
people have trust.'
G
REY
G
HOST OF
C
ULTURAL
H
ERITAGE
T
he Forum 13 was beginning to think its pur-
pose had been served. But then it grounded on
another seemingly insuperable obstacle.The Swedish
museum management chief executive Dr Karp raised
the spectre of the disinterested, resistant curator, chief
librarian or gallery boss with `deep physical traditions
that are resisting change and modification'. He con-
ceded that they did business through e-mailboxes and
Websites that they regarded as useful adjuncts to their
real activity but, he went on:
`What we as a group of renegades sitting here are
saying is, well, virtual activity can be as legitimate in
terms of our societal mission as the physical stuff.'
Warming to his subject, the museologist went on:
`Personally, this is the challenge I face. I know how
to put something up on the Web and identify it so
that a naive user will recognise it and hopefully
derive benefit from it.What I do not know is how
to get to the morons in the museum sector who
refuse to realise that digitality has a cultural value.'
Israeli curator Hazan tried to lighten the mood
with a cheerful `the good thing is that they retire',
but Dr Karp was not to be mollified. `The danger is
that museums become irrelevant in the meantime.'
The world was filling with young people who
knew how to meet physical and digital needs
without any institutional help, he said. If cultural
heritage institutions wished to retain relevance, they
must assume control of the situation not as they
wished it to be but as it really was.
The Doctor of Philosophy went on: `We need
to help our institution siblings despite themselves
because, if we fail, we are going to see our
institutional relevance dwindle.To continue being
perceived as important to society demands that
institutions address the issues that we are here today
to talk about.We are convinced about all this, but
how do we go about convincing everybody else?'
Fortunately, he had an answer.The Luddite radicals
could be convinced that `we are not turning our
backs on the living tradition, the bearers of which
we are', he said. `We are simply accommodating those
traditions to present today's circumstances which,
because they were inconceivable fifty years ago,
obviously aren't reflected in traditions.'
The Moderator was encouraging, too. Libraries
and museums had changed widely in the past 300
years, even in the last 20 years. He concluded: `The
changing communication environment obviously
induces changes in the functions of these institu-
tions ­ it would be strange if it did not.To put it
differently: it is silly to believe that it doesn't!'
The Edinburgh experts, communicators and
enthusiasts all hoped fervently that he was right.
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