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Cultural Units of Learning
Tools and Services (CULTOS)
CULTOS is an RTD project, co-funded by the
European Commission under the Information
Society Technologies (IST) Programme, which will
run until October 2003.The application domain of
CULTOS is intertextual studies in literature and arts.
The project is developing a multimedia authoring
and presentation environment that allows scholars to
make the different relationships between cultural
works explicit in a way that approximates
contextualisation in interpretative processes.The
result of the authoring processes is multimedia
objects called `intertextual cultural threads'.These
are based on `EMMOs', a novel type of structured
multimedia object containing expert knowledge
conforming to current and emerging standards
such as XML/SMIL (with interactive extensions),
MPEG-7 and RDF.
ontology themselves should then use it to combine
multimedia assets with each other?'
The Dutch had doubts, too. Dr Janneke van Kersen
is an art historian with Digital Heritage Netherlands
(Digitaal Erfgoed Nederland,,
where an XML-based content management system
is being combined with a Resource Description
Framework (RDF) to join databases from several
cultural heritage institutions. She told the experts:
`I need to be assured that we will be able to build a
layered structure that is equally applicable to each
knowledge domain. Furthermore, I think that the
cultural heritage sector is too much of a niche
market to develop this.'
Her countryman, Dr Frank Nack, from the
national research institute for mathematics and
computer science, CWI (Centrum voor Wiskunde
en Informatica, in Amsterdam,
works with a multimedia and human computer
interaction group. His concern: `Our group believes
in the Semantic Web, but we needed some
mechanisms to structure the information so that
various groups can work with it.What we came up
with was the belief that you can classify the user at
a particular time. But that was simply not good
The group had found that users change their
requirements widely and these shifts were invisible to
a system. `Humans can look at material one day and
the next day they look at the same stuff differently
and describe it differently because they are in a
different mood', he said. He characterised the
problem as: `Now I would like to see something for
my work, and now I want to be entertained.Which
means I would like to access the information
He had one other worry:Webised mixed media.
He said: `This discussion has been heavily linguistic
based which I can understand because most people
do still think of the Web as text driven.The issue of
describing various media items that are not text will,
I think, very soon become important for the
Semantic Web.We had better start thinking about
that too.'
The Institute and Museum of Science History
in Florence, Italy, has tried to create an ontology
around the works and sciences of its city's famous
son, the revolutionary astronomer, mathematician
and physicist, Galileo Galilei (1564-1642).
But it
ran into difficulties when it came to the radical
changes in theory that he created.
Institute relational database expert, Andrea Scotti,
told the Forum: `Galileo's scientific theory negates
another scientific theory.This negating or develop-
ment of theories was very difficult to represent in
the ontology when dealing with the time factor.
That is central to historical documentation but
representational time was not part of the process
available to us.'
Dr Costis Dallas, the Athens chairman of the
European communication and technology group
Critical Publics, thought the Florence museum's
project was very ambitious.The time argument
was difficult because `of course, it isn't possible to
represent time properly within a relational database'.
But there were mechanisms - he mentioned software
by the Virginia, US, IT group Telos
- that better
represented issues of time.
Italian National Research Council's Nicola
Guarino chipped in: `The CIDOC
reference models
have partial answers to these questions.'
Dr Dallas went on `I do not believe that the whole
exercise is futile but we found that in practice you
cannot make a subject language for everybody. It has
to be for a community of users. If you provide them
with a richer representation, for instance if they can
know that this is a person and this person lived in
a place, then users will have a much richer
The museum and Web site
are rich resources for the
life and work of Galileo,
Telos Corporation,,
Ashburn,VA, US.
CIDOC: International
Committee for Documentation
of the International
Council of Museums,
(ICOM-CIDOC). Forum for
documentation interests of
museums and related
organisations, one of 25
international committees
of the International Council
of Museums (ICOM).