Every story has a beginning

Every story has a beginning is the text of a keynote by Tim Sheratt that nicely weaves individual stories together as an example of what we can do with information technology. I highly recommend it; he quotes Steve Ramsay and Tim Hitchcock to the effect that what is important are the stories of individuals like those he paints through the digital archives he has access to. He sets this humanistic view of how we can use the technology against the Culturomics approach which is trying to turn history and its archives into grist for cultural science. Sheratt calls the culturomic vision “barren” and I tend to agree. He ends by asking,

But who defines the problems?

His answer is Linked Data which “gives us a way to present an alternative to Google’s version of the world. We can argue back against the search engines, defining our own criteria for relevance, and building our own discovery networks.” (And his talk has a link for those who want to view the triples…) I would say that we can also build tools like Voyant (formerly Voyeur, which he uses) to help us begin to tell the stories.