For the last two days, I have been attending the annual meeting of NFAIS. This year’s conference theme is “Taming the Information Tsunami: The New World of Discovery“, a natural fit with my evolving interest in context.
The program is stocked – stuffed, actually – with speakers offering real-world examples of the implications, challenges and opportunities of content abundance. The discussion, which I will summarize after the conference ends later today, reminds me of a central them in my extended post, “Context first“:
As low- or no-cost authoring, repository and distribution tools and resources become freely available, it is axiomatic that ours has become and will remain an era of content abundance. Simply: content abundance is the precursor to the development (and maintenance) of context.
When there was only the Gutenberg Bible, we didn’t need Dewey. When booksellers were smaller and largely independent, we didn’t have much need for BISAC codes. And before online sales made almost every book in print evident and available, ONIX was an unattended luxury.
Digital abundance is pushing us to create much more than title-level metadata. To manage abundance, we can (and do) use blunt instruments, like verticals, or somewhat more elegant tools, like search engines.
But when it comes to discovery, access and utility, nothing substitutes for authorial and editorial judgment, as evidenced in the structural and contextual tags applied to our content.
Among participants in this conference, the value of well-structured content is undisputed. The implications for discovery, access and utility are all clear.
Professional, academic and scholarly publishers have been at the leading edge of digital change for a decade or more. They were early, but they are not unique. In an era of content abundance, events like this one should rank much more highly among publishers who think of libraries as something to be more tightly controlled.