In 1994, I was fortunate enough to land a scarce registration for the hot conference of the year – The first international World Wide Web conference, held at CERN, birthplace of the Web. Everyone at that event understood it as a singularity of sorts – an inflection point that would change our futures. I began this post sitting again in the conference room where early discussions of extending that singularity took place (next steps, future conferences, the beginnings of what would later become the W3C). Eleven years later, the aging infrastructure of CERN’s main building is witnessing another conference that may not be quite as buzzy as WWW1, but is exciting and revolutionary in its own right. OAI-4 has its roots in the geeky domain of the Open Archive Initiative, a topic of high visibility and clear importance for technical librarianship. OAI, in tandom with OA (Open Access) has emerged from its technical chrysalis.
The geeks here are sprinkled among policy types, librarians, deployers, and the odd funder, publisher, and copyright lawyer. Many, if not most, of the attendees are here as actors with feet muddied in the realities of planning, supporting, or growing institutional repositories of one sort or another – and dealing with the policy issues that sprout everywhere from this fertile soil.
If the A in OAI is for Archives, the A here is Access. Day one was largely given over to the geeks, led by OAI -Ubergeek Herbert Von de Sompel. And while there were plenty of eager listeners to hear about the latest repository federation architectures, persistent identifiers, and a raft of quite novel applications, including my colleague Jeff Young's elegant work on WikiD (Wikis for structured data and collections). But clearly the hundred and a half attendees are more concerned with ‘takers than makers’ (as Lorcan Dempsey is wont to say). This is good.
Day two has been about a movement, not an application, and that movement has the feel of an irrepressible here and now. Conventional wisdom about conferences is that most learning takes place between sessions. While that sort of learning is no doubt happening here, the biggest frustration thus far is wanting to hear more from many of the speakers. Particularly notable were presentations by SURF’s Wilma Mossink on copyright, and Alma Swan, whose What’s New in OA talk was full of numbers, insight and wit. Rare cases of regret on both sides of the podium for the tyranny of the conference clock.
More from CERN soon... I need to pay attention to the podium.
Apologies that some of these links go to the Agenda page, not directly to the presentation... the conference linking at this writing is a bit inconsistent.
A note about CERN. The physical plant of the older, main buildings has a familiar shabbiness that many university habitues will recognize. It feels not a whit different than a decade ago, but the people are effusively helpful and the hostel has the virtues of spare cleanliness and crawlability-from-the-restaurant (oh... and its inexpensive). CERN is the World's largest particle laboratory, and bustles with erudite anticipation for the opening of the latest version of the world's largest particle accelerator. Stuck as I am in the image of the Bohr atom, color me awestruck.