Diplo 2010 output version


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Mike Powell, Director of IKM Emergent, a research programme looking at the use of information and knowledge in the international development sector, shares his notes on his presentation about the use of the semantic web in diplomacy.

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Diplo 2010 output version

  1. 1. DIPLO 2010 To introduce myself, Director of IKM Emergent, a research programme looking at the use of information and knowledge in the international development sector. Nothing directly to do with diplomacy but many overlaps and commonalities. Our programme puts a lot of emphasis about information and relationships, about barriers to communication so, like many of you, we think about • the large and the small • the rich and the poor • specialists and generalists and we think about whether and how new information technologies help or hinder communication across these gaps, which is why I was interested in coming to have a conversation with you today So ' The use of the semantic web in diplomacy?' Difficult as it does not yet exist BUT Something of the sort is beginning to emerge A semantic web may mark a more significant difference with what came before than did the world wide web
  2. 2. Will explain why some people think that in a minute but First however a bit of context/ history We have been here before Meetings discussing the potential implications of text only citinets The G8 Osaka meeting The sudden prioritising of a new issue The lack of critical analysis of whose interests – political, governmental and commercial – might lie behind it all And the questions posed - Is there value in getting involved with the first, in trying to shape what happens? Should we just stick with doing whatever it is – health, agriculture, water - we do best? I don't know but I would suggest it is worth thinking about: And that is what we intend to do today – to explore and to think. • Not here to promote the semantic web • Not here as a technical expert but to explain and discuss what there is to know so far and to explore with you potential issues for
  3. 3. diplomacy in where it may be going Will do this in outline now. Very happy to talk about it more later within our sessions or outside. So what is the semantic web about? “The semantic web is not a separate Web but an extension of the current one, in which information is given well-defined meaning, better enabling computers and people to work in cooperation. The first steps in weaving the semantic web into the structure of the existing web are already under way. In the near future, these developments will usher in significant new functionality as machines become much better able to process and “understand” the data that they merely display at present' (The Semantic Web by Berners-Lee, Hendler and Lassila, May 2001). Example of one dimensional nature of web pages – limitations of text e.g. 'there may be gender implications in the introduction of this new technology but I will not explore them today' This statement would show up in any key word search for gender. By contrast example of resource identification, specifying ‘resources’ in more detail (person, organisation, place etc.) and the relationships
  4. 4. between them Knowledge Models | agropedia 2010 and the 'near future' is still with us. Also there has been the massive growth of social media in the mean time. But over the last 2-3 years there has finally been some impetus to the Semantic Web in the fields of - A growing set of tools and of standards and rules led by W3C consortium - Search – both as new search engines and as new incorporations into existing ones - Linked Data – marking up data in a way that one data set can incorporate and use data originating from another About the Linking Open Data dataset cloud Still only a fraction of the information available on the web but perhaps getting to a tipping point where it becomes a norm So what are the issues for diplomacy? Opportunities Open and shared information environment
  5. 5. • Historic problem of finding stuff, of knowing who has done what, especially from a range of sources e.g. consultations in Sheffield, or DFID funded research • Differences from Open data Raise profile (internal and external) through participation New ways of analysing information Potential for new perspectives • Visualisation Gapminder World Worldmapper: The world as you've never seen it before Potential to link with social media e.g. simultaneous 'official' and 'unofficial', not either/or Data & Research Offences Sudan VoteMonitor Risks Benefits larger/ richer organisations Potential barriers to having your data accepted Restrictive ontologies Bad science eg. Geneva least healthy place for UN staff Unknowns Unanticipated outcomes Loss of control MPs Expenses: Travel Expenses Continuing process Qualitative Information e.g. Southampton work on Mountbatten archives Finally one issue which I want to touch on now but go
  6. 6. into in more detail in the workshop is that of visualisation. There is no direct link between the semantic web and the visual presentation of information but the former makes the latter easier. They seem to both be strongly emerging and converging trends. Personally, I am very interested in visualisation but as I said at the beginning, I think we should take a critical stance to all of this. So I will end with a cautionary story..... When I was visiting Liberia towards the end of the civil war, a young media liaison person working for a British NGO handed out printed graphs about the disarmament process which, from memory, looked something like this… L ib e r ia Potential issue: Visualisation E s ti i m a te d o v e r a l l s i z e o f a r m i e s C h a rl e s T a y l o r P ri n c e J o h n s o n N a tio n a l A rm y N o rth e rn A l li a n c e O th e r L ib e r ia S iz e o f e ffe c tiv e a r m ie s a t c u r r e n t s ta g e o f d is a r m a m e n t C h a rle s T a y l o r P ri n c e J o h n s o n N a tio n a l A rm y N o rth e rn A l li a n c e O th e r The point was that the disarmament process, by proceeding at different rates with different groups, was in danger of undermining the military balance which had led to the agreement to disarm in the first place.
  7. 7. The other point was that this liaison worker found that when, previously he had presented this information in verbal form, he was always bombarded with questions about where it had come from, how reliable it was. When he presented it in a nice 3D graphic, printed off a spreadsheet all the hardened war correspondents just accepted it at face value. Which is the reason why it is necessary for us to maintain a keen but critical interest in developments in the capture, sharing, presentation and interpretation of information. Mike Powell m.powell@pop3.poptel.org.uk www.ikmemergent.net Malta, June 2010,