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Semantic web & 'data about data'
The semantic web will use metadata to make it easier to bring similar documents together during information retrieval. Metadata will help search tools find and collate similar documents much like what we see in our medical databases and library catalogues. Metadata is defined simply as 'data about data'. One of the major metadata standards is Dublin Core. Health librarians can think of metadata as the kind of information used in bibliographic records in our catalogues, information that describes documents or other intellectual works based on professional standards. The Dublin Core metadata element set is defined by NISO Standard Z39.85-2007. For more background, see the Semantic Media wiki.
Improving web findability through semantization
The semantic web (and its associated semantic aware applications) attempts to address the problems associated with poor integration, findability and organization on the current Web. Interestingly, the semantic web and Web 3.0 are often used synonymously because they share many of the same goals and objectives. However, the semantic web is a specific set of trends and technologies that will reach maturity in the next ten to fifteen years. This period of time is seen to be the third decade of the web's evolution from 2010-2020, which is why it is referred to as web 3.0. Web expert Nova Spivack has come up with his predictions of features of web 4.0 already. A 2001 Scientific American article by Berners-Lee describes a vision for the web that is quite different from the one that we have presently. A recent article from Berners-Lee and colleagues stated that: "This simple idea is still in process. Perhaps intelligent agents - smarter 'bots' that crawl websites for useful information and connect it - that have been touted for ages will finally materialize."
Interesting quotes by the semantic web guru
"People keep asking what web 3.0 is. I think maybe when you've got ...[the] semantic Web integrated across a huge space of data, you'll have access to an unbelievable resource [in web 3.0]." - A 'more revolutionary' Web - Sir Tim Berners-Lee "I have a dream for the web [where computers] become capable of analyzing all the data on the web – the content, links, and transactions between people and computers. A ‘Semantic Web’, which should make this possible, has yet to emerge, but when it does, the day-to-day mechanisms of trade, bureaucracy and our daily lives will be handled by machines talking to machines." "Semantic publishing will benefit greatly from the semantic web. In particular, the semantic web is expected to revolutionize academic and scientific publishing, such as real-time publishing and sharing of experimental data on the Internet. This simple but radical idea is now being explored by W3C HCLS group's Scientific Publishing Task Force."
Why should librarians care
Librarians need to articulate a vision for change and find a secure place for themselves in the digital age. (See Fiona Bradley's Semantic Library). A web built on the principles of description and analysis will be vastly different from what we know today. It may be where much of human knowledge is built into the web itself. What's remarkable about semantic technologies is that they will not affect the look or feel of our 'web experiences', and will probably perform tasks behind the scenes, without our users' knowledge. In other words, users will be unaware of any filters or tools we have devised to connect them to the vast networks of information across the world. Given our users' expectations for seamless delivery of information age and their demands for instant access via handheld technologies such as the iPad, it's not a matter of if this will happen - but when.
See also Semantic search