One of the most enduring lines in William Gibson's oeuvre is
You can't let the little pricks generation-gap you.--a passage I keep handy for topical application (and used as the epigram for a prescient 1999 posting [alas, the graphs link doesn't work]).
(Molly, in Neuromancer, pg 59)
Those with geospatial and visualization interests will nod their heads right off as they read Peter Brantley's summary of "The Sensing Earth", via O'Reilly Radar. Some bits:
Everywhere I look in the natural sciences, there is a sudden, significant maturing of large-scale distributed science projects that involve active real-time sensing of one of more aspects of the physical planet and its environs...
The insight that my friend Brian brought back from the ISDE conference [5th International Symposium on Digital Earth] is that there is an increasingly visible "bright line of digital information" that -- like a great river -- cuts between two wholly different ranges of data. On one side, there is already extant (either actively digitized, or digitally prepared) data gathered, harvested, and presented for discovery and use. This is the land of Google and other search engines, grabbing the world's available online data, indexing it, mining it, integrating it with other data sources, and provide compelling windows into a comparatively static and viscous digitized world. That's where a good measure of CS/EE and IR attention rests now.
The other side of the Bright Line are the data lying latent upon the earth, sky, and space, sleeping quietly until they are woken with sensing, and now flooding real-time like a sea, imminently bursting forth across our international network of high speed science grids.
There are tremendous opportunities here, new ways of thinking about data, about how to develop usable interfaces on a wide range of devices. GEOSS [Global Earth Observation System of Systems] requires us to rethink systems design from the ground up. Scales are refactored: hundreds of large-scale distributed systems, with thousands of sensors linked in community networks, each producing gigabytes or more per second, continuously delivered, and susceptible to combination.
GEOSS projects are seeking radically new forms of systems architectures for data management, on the very edge of science. All of these projects are a click away.
An update on musical Leviathan progress, mostly for my own interest and later retrieval, but with not a little bearing upon the social nature of the enterprise. The project is sort of background activity, something I think about amongst other interests and activities like fence-building and being Designated Shopper for my sister's household, so progress consists of little steps and not great strides.
I started looking again at MusicBrainz and (instead of reading the documentation) fell immediately into messing about with making an entry for a record in my collection that seemed to be missing from the database: Paddy Keenan's 1975 Gael-Linn release. No big deal, but one has to experiment with things to gauge what their importance might be. This morning, just 12 hours or so later, I had email indicating that somebody had found my addition and edited it to link to the original liner notes (by Seamus Ennis) on Paddy Keenan's site, which include mp3s for a couple of the tunes. There's also a new link to the Wikipedia page on Paddy Keenan. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised to find that I've wandered into an active community, though blundered is more the style of thing.
One of the nicest things about being Retired is the greatly increased latitude to choose amongst the things one might do, but there are still nagging reminders of things one has been meaning to get to Real Soon Now. In the last couple of years I've been pawing at various collections [Nova Scotia Faces, my various Webstuffs, a friend's grandfather's jazz 78s (digitized and databased on a DVD), my own photographs from various eras, a whole lot of file drawers of remnants from my several academic careers, etc.], imagining glorious ways to organize their contents and transform them into distributable resources, and experimenting with assorted media and technologies that might help me realize my heart's desires. Those desires seem to come down to telling the stories contained in the collections, for whatever audiences might find them interesting.
The Elephant in the Room is my vast musical holdings, the vinyl and CDs and tapes that I've been working with and augmenting for most of my life. How can I make Sense out of that, and how can I make its wonders into a distributable resource? Or even a resource more accessible for my own use? The obvious impediments are (a) sheer size of the task and (b) copyright restrictions, and there are daunting questions of format (mp3? audiophiles may sneer) and approach (review Nick Hornby on the subject).
Case in point: I think I can reconstruct the sequence of my fascinations with several European folk music streams (Celtic, Scandinavian, Hungarian, Greek, Klezmer...) through about 30 years of collection, right down to the order of acquisition of records/CDs and the uses I made of their contents. And likewise with American guitar and mandolin, and with blues. And similarly with the various World Musics that fed into courses I taught. Most of those recordings have liner notes, reading of which was essential to my musical education. Wouldn't it be nice to make all of that accessible, ideally on the Web but perhaps more realistically as private-distribution DVDs with html interface... surely a MegaProject.It seems pretty obvious that a landscape of hyperlinks would grow pretty quickly once construction was begun, and that it would be wise to think carefully before plunging in, in order to minimize the amount of hand-coding and repetition. I probably need to develop some database and CSS skills that I dimly grasp. I certainly don't envision digitizing all the vinyl and tape --just the truly significant bits, those that help to tell the story and/or epitomise something. It would be desirable to implant lots of metadata into the headers of those mp3 files, and to ensure that items can be tagged as seems most useful, and that tags can be displayed and searched, and augmented too. It would be convenient to find models to build upon... but I don't know of any.
What else should I be thinking about as I design this Leviathan?