FRIDAY Fast Five: NDF recap

1. First thing's first - it's all about people. The two days were filled with talk of data and pixels and digitisation and VR/AR. But there's a common thread that link all of these things - each are a vehicle to bring about human interaction, to augment human experience and to bring stories to the surface. To use the magic of digital (coz some kind of witchcraft must be involved somewhere) to connect people across time and space; to make communication easier and to bring stories to the surface. This was evident from the outset, with Richard Foy, Director Digital Strategy, Department of Internal Affairs, discussed his epic-ally creative digital strategy comic, designed to communicate a usually dry topic in a visually stimulating and engaging way. And even data is all about people, as Figure NZ's surprisingly stimulating talk made clear. Founder Lillian Grace made clear that numbers tell stories and behind every data set is a very human tale:


2. So yes, people. People drive what we do. Nowhere was this more evident than in Takerei Norton's keynote on the Ngai Tahu Cultural Mapping Project:

"The Ngāi Tahu Cultural Mapping Project is using the latest Geographical Information System (GIS) technology to record, map and transmit traditional Ngāi Tahu knowledge. With the aid of GIS technology the stories and place names that record Ngāi Tahu history in Te Waipounamu are being mapped onto a virtual landscape for future generations.

GIS integrates computer technology for capturing, managing, analysing and displaying all forms of geographically referenced information. It allows the user to view, understand, question, interpret and visualise data in many ways that reveal relationships, patterns and trends in a variety of mediums."

The group have now mapped 4500 place-names in Te Waipounamu - by harnessing the knowledge of their communities in combination with extensive primary resources they have reclaimed their land by giving it its names back. It's worth reiterating what Takerei said regarding their sources - that all but one of the hundred (maybe thousands?) is held in Crown ownership or by an organisation external to Ngai Tahu. 

3. There was lots of talk around linked open data and the power to, well, link and be open. Auckland Museum's Adam Moriarty not only has a great last name but also gave one of my favourite talks of the conference, making clear the fact that linked open data is all about finding hidden connections, telling expansive stories and connecting with diverse collections, unhindered by geography or institution.

4. I also completely dug the short presentation given by Tim Jones, Librarian and Archivist at Christchurch Art Gallery. Tim spoke of the re-opening of the gallery post-quake and the desire of the staff to do a different kind of audio tour beyond the usual curator-led route. Instead they decided to let the works speak for themselves, literally. He spoke of Tom Chadwick's The Donkey, an engraving actually based on a poem by G.K. Chesterton. So the gallery paired the work with the poem, letting Chesterton's original words guide the viewer/listener. Tim himself revealed that he had found new meaning in the work from this interpretation. I love the simplicity of this approach. It's not high tech or shiny and new but it's deeply human. 

5. Finally, the incredible Robyn Hunt reminded us that while digital is a profoundly positive thing for access, it isn't all rosy, In fact digital in the GLAM sphere can be an incredibly exclusionary for people with disabilities. Which Robyn reminded us is actually 1/4 of New Zealand's population. Robyn talked through practical, inclusive solutions and importantly asked how different decisions can be made about whose history and culture is preserved. She spoke to the invisibility of people with disabilities and how digital could be a part of the solution by considering accessibility from the start of ANY project.

So yes, let's always remember it's all about people. Digital is a means to an end; a vehicle that allows us to connect, to reclaim knowledge, to be inclusive and expansive, to defy boxes and to build bridges between people and people/people and objects/objects and objects.