"Digital Libraries began as systems whose goal was to simulate the operation of traditional libraries for books and other text documents in digital form. Significant developments have been made since then, and Digital Libraries are now on their way to becoming 'Knowledge Commons'. These are pervasive systems at the centre of intellectual activity, facilitating communication and collaboration among scientists or the general public and synthesizing distributed multimedia documents, sensor data, and other information.
Digital Libraries represent the confluence of a variety of technical areas both within the field of informatics (eg data management and information retrieval), and outside it (eg library sciences and sociology). Early Digital Library efforts mostly focused on bridging some of the gaps between the constituent fields, defining `digital library functionality', and integrating solutions from each field into systems that support such functionality. These have resulted in several successful systems: researchers, educators, students and members of other communities now continuously search Digital Libraries for information as part of their daily routines, decision-making processes, or entertainment.
Most current Digital Library systems share certain characteristics. They are content-centric, motivated by the need to organize and provide access to data and information. They concentrate on storage-centric functionality, mainly offering static storage and retrieval of information. They are specialized systems, built from scratch and tailored to the particular needs and characteristics of the data and users of their target environment, with little provision for generalization. They tend to operate in isolation, limiting the opportunities for large-scale analysis and global-scale information availability. Finally, they concentrate on material that is traditionally found in libraries, mostly related to cultural heritage. Hence, despite the undisputed advantages that current Digital Library systems offer compared to the pre-1990s era, the above restrictions limit the role that Digital Libraries can play in Knowledge Societies, which will serve as important educational nuclei in the future.
Together with the general community, the DELOS Network of Excellence on Digital Libraries has initiated a long journey from current Digital Libraries towards the vision of 'Knowledge Commons'. These will be environments that will impose no conceptual, logical, physical, temporal or personal borders or barriers on content. They will be the universal knowledge repositories and communication conduits of the future, common vehicles by which everyone will access, analyse, evaluate, enhance and exchange all forms of information. They will be indispensable tools in the daily personal and professional lives of people, allowing everyone to advance their knowledge, professions and roles in society. They will be accessible at any time and from anywhere, and will offer a user-friendly, multi-modal, efficient and effective interaction and exploration environment.
Achieving this requires significant changes to be made to past development strategies, which shaped the functionality, operational environment and other aspects of Digital Libraries. Knowledge Commons will have different characteristics. They will be person-centric, motivated by needs to provide novel, sophisticated, and personalized experiences to users. They will concentrate on communication and collaboration functionality, facilitating intellectual interactions on themes that are pertinent to their contents, with storage and retrieval being only a small part of such functionality. They will remain specialized systems that will nevertheless be built on top of widely-available, industrial-strength, generic management systems, offering all typically required functionality. In general, they will be managed by globally distributed systems, through which information sources across the world will exchange and integrate their contents. Finally, they will be characterized by universality of information and application, serving all applications and comprehensively managing all forms of content."
The French Anthropologist Marc Augé uses the expression non-place to describe the effect on an environment that is caused by programmed use. Where instructions for use determine our engagement with a space, where the complexity of interaction is reduced to symbolic meaning. For Augé main roads no longer take travellers on cultural excursions, they facilitate expedient traversal and cultural detachment. In short they transform places designed to be occupied into transport conduits. In environments where there is a sustained use and inhabitation of a space fixed regional character exists. Group and personal identity are established via association with geographic and cultural sites. Places appear to exist as dynamic and vital entities, with ownership and belonging. Environments that are exclusively defined as being operational tend to lack clearly attributable character or identity. They are spaces that are used for their purpose and act in reference to other places. ATM machines, airports and motorways all function in this way. They are single-minded spaces that elicit simple directed use. As regions grow they tend to instigate more and more ways for their occupants to travel, transforming points-of-departure and destinations into methods of transport. At the same time they tend to erode established regional identities and associations. Extended choice tends towards homogenous and generic identity.
Augé, Marc. 1995 Non-Places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity, London/New York, : Verso.
I am a citizen of Charles De Gaulle Airport. -Marham Karimi NasseriDue to a bureaucratic glitch a airline traveller, Mr Nasseri was trapped in the non-place of the transit lounge in the Charles De Gaulle Airport at Roissy, France. For 11 years Nasseri shaved and washed in the passenger facilities, and kept himself occupied watching the eb and flow of the airport traffic. Despite intentions to settle in London in 1988 he was forced to make-do in a bubble of fast-food stores and gift shops until being freed by the actions of a human rights lawyer in 1999.