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Editorial Introduction to Issue 37: Monocultures Threaten More Than Species

Richard Waller introduces Ariadne issue issue 37.

These days zoologists view with increasing alarm the disappearance of species in this world, to the point where they fear their extinction will predate their discovery. This is no less true for linguists who are witnessing the same phenomenon in terms of dying languages and dialects. A parallel therefore can be drawn with the situation as detailed by Deborah Anderson. She is most concerned by the progress made by historic scripts such as Egyptian hieroglyphs towards inclusion in the Unicode Standard and fears that unless efforts in this area are maintained, certain historic scripts may fall into the abyss, being denied exposure to the many through the enormous access afforded by the Internet. It may be possible to discern an interest in preservation here in the broadest sense of the word. However the other point that Unicode and Historic Scripts makes is very much about access - the universal access to that which the linguists would stoutly maintain is at the very heart of our cultural development and heritage, digital or otherwise: language.

As I pointed out in my last editorial, the topic of portals was unlikely to go away. Conscious of discussions on what exactly constitutes a portal, I welcomed a contribution from Paul Miller who felt compelled to respond to the urge, as he puts it, “to ‘portalise’ everything”, by offering his own point of view. In so doing, he is by no means out to evangelise, but in Towards a Typology for Portals he does attempt to draw boundaries around Web sites, gateways, portals and what he is pleased to call ‘thingummies’, his term for an aspect which deserves closer attention.

In the same vein, I suppose, I should not apologise for the likely continuation of the theme of scholarly communication. In this issue Theo Andrew casts some light upon current Trends in Self-Posting of Research Material Online by Academic Staff within his own institution. He points out however that the uptake of digital media for research dissemination is not confined to organisations. Theo provides and analyses statistical evidence and offers a number of conclusions, some worrying, some more encouraging. William Nixon is also involved in scholarly output and has a story to tell of DAEDALUS: Initial experiences with EPrints and DSpace at the University of Glasgow. The opportunity to make comparisons originates in the history of the project and William provides information on both types of software. Providing a context in which both were considered, he offers detail on their implementation, covering a variety of issues including installation and submission features. Moreover he supplies a useful reminder: software choices are not just about perceived technical superiority; proper consideration of the intended services, purposes and content, among other things, should be a major determinant.

If choices are something of a matter of horses for courses, then such an opinion would appear to be supported by some of the points made by Penny Garrod when she writes on Ebooks in UK Libraries: Where are we now? It would appear that the focus is gradually shifting away from ebooks as devices towards ebooks as content. Libraries in the UK are starting to adopt a variety of ebook models but pricing mechanisms and appropriate content remain ongoing issues. Penny addresses this issue as well as providing the most recent chapters not only in the story of the technology itself and its associated platforms, but also, and more importantly in my view, recent developments in terms of collections, suppliers and services. In the latter regard she also details which hardware libraries are using. In this comprehensive overview the author highlights a telling point in the debate about the future of ebooks: their longevity and usage are more likely to be determined by perceptions of their relative flexibility and usefulness than by mere technological developments.

Doubtless there will be those who, along with denigrators of ebook technology, will maintain that RSS is a largely insignificant development. Nonetheless Roddy MacLeod demonstrates quite clearly in his EEVL News column that RSS has something to offer his service users and Monica Duke underpins this theme by writing about Delivering OAI Records as RSS: An IMesh Toolkit module for facilitating resource sharing through the delivery of subject gateway records as a newsfeed. In addition to information on RSS and the use of the Module, Monica addresses related interoperability issues including the structure of attendant metadata records.

In an article with a Scandinavian context, Kjell Jansson, Jessica Lindholm and Tomas Schönthal describe their Experiences of Harvesting Web Resources in Engineering Using Automatic Classification. In relating the history of their work, they provide us with a comparison of approaches, namely between a Web index using automatic classification and another that is robot-generated. Meanwhile Emma Beer advises that Updated JISC Guides Are Now Available and provides a rapid overview of what is now on offer.

Once again I am indebted to the writers of our regular columns and also to those of this issue’s bumper crop of at the Event articles, where for example, Lesly Huxley and Michael Day provide the general and particular of the deliberations of ECDL2003. In his article Crime and Punishment, Andrew Charlesworth, owing more to William Gibson than to Dostoyevsky, details the many and strange issues related to the protection of not only individual ICT users and their information against computer crime and abuse, but also more importantly, from my perspective, the institutions supplying them the ICT services. Manjula Patel provides an overview of OAI: The Fourth Open Archives Forum Workshop, Pete Johnston writes on DC2003 in Seattle and Metadata and Interoperability in a Complex World, while Linda Humphreys and Andy Powell join Frances Boyle in a three-handed description of the recent JIBS-UKOLN OpenURL Meeting.

All these of course flanked by contributions from Web Focus, News and Reviews, where in the latter case we have been fortunate to garner opinions from three information professionals on recent books on the information society and information services.

As before, this issue comes to you courtesy of the enthusiasm and dedication of its authors together with support and advice from colleagues at UKOLN. I hope you will enjoy it.

Author Details

Richard Waller
Ariadne Editor

Email: ariadne@ukoln.ac.uk
Web site: http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/

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Editorial: “Editorial Introduction to Ariadne Issue 37: Monocultures Threaten More Than Species”
Author: Richard Waller
Publication Date: 30-October-2003
Publication: Ariadne Issue 37
Originating URL: http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/issue37/editorial/