Musings on Open Data, MineCraft and Libraries

This is a vision I had a few weeks ago, that I shared with colleagues at the Technoculture Art and Games (TAG) research group at Concordia University. It also fits with a conversation I’ve had with Marius Buliga on his blog chorasimilarity about
data visualization, apps and open data (and much more).

It is a bit of a rant, but I wouldn’t want it stuck in some old email folder, not with this blog begging for this kind of weird, pie-in-the-sky, waking dream… essentially, this is a broad sketch of using MineCraft as a data visualization tool…

I love to be handed vague & seemingly impossible challenges. These usually involve plugging random tidbits together so that something can emerge. So, I’ve been trying to figure out something simple yet awesome to do with the […] Library project. Also, someone on this list (who shall remain nameless) said in passing: “it would be great to use minecraft for data visualisation” and that somehow stuck.

Granted, I did not quite know what minecraft was (my bad, Lynn’s lecture fixed that). But since the e.SCAPE conference, I’ve dabbled in gamification of libraries as well as experiential learning (which are related somehow). I’m also reading about the history of books, swarms and how games were used to figure them out, as well as my regular score of copyright stuff (must-write-phd-thesis). Also, something impossible happened in the past 12hrs, both my daughters slept a consecutive 7 hours, and my train was delayed long enough for me to make myself a 2nd cup of coffee. All these sources, sleep and stimulants gave birth to an epiphany (a good friend of mine would call that a brain fart, but let’s not get graphic here).

The […] library system is releasing its datasets in an open format (a friend told me that) – which means that you can download their entire catalogue via an open protocol. So, if librarians construct an intellectual edifice with the books they buy, this analogy can deliver an evolving structure in MineCraft. For example, you could use the Dewey decimal code (which is a proxy to the subject of the book) as well as the location (branch library, a proxy for neighbourhoods) to devise a form of city scape or structure. Collections evolve over time – books are bought or weeded – which makes it into a living thing as this incorporates the concept of time. Also, the library system uses standards to manage its collections (which translate into fields in the catalogue), these rules can be transposed in a virtual representation.

Now, if you think this is cool, imagine if we could get the (anonymous ) data-feed from individual loans made to patrons – we could incorporate a whole new level to the game (swarms of people borrowing swarms of books). In fact, this would allow people in the city to “play the game” by borrowing a book! I don’t know if Minecraft has en engine to run critters in its environment, but we could have a swarm of critters walking all over the place based on the book-loans… or more simply, the structures in the system could somehow change with loans as well.

I feel Borges would have been pissed off if I did not share this fascinating living evolving vivid virtual representation of a library, its use and its impact on a city with such fine folks as yourself. I will let people more adept than me explore the ramifications of such a representation on identity, institutions, swarms, gamification, representations…

The idea is that as a Librarian, we learn how to evaluate a collection – a living organism which evolves over time based on constraints (space, budget, degradation of the material with use). People read books from librarians and librarians read collections. The collection as “edifice” is a strong analogy of how I perceive librarians do their work. MineCraft can be a tool to share this vision of a librarian’s professional work with others.

I call this the Edifice ™ project (which also works nicely in French).

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4 comments

  1. Pingback: Jeux vidéos éthiques à Concordia « :: CultureLibre.ca ::
  2. Pingback: I’m back | chorasimilarity

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