Innovation, Outreach and Access for the Time Machine Organization

In this Time Machine Conference Warm-up Session Sander Münster explores research dissemination and innovation support of the TMO

Torus Time Lab
Sep 25, 2019 · 11 min read

Leia em Português aqui

The Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris burned down in April 2019. The fire destroyed part of one of the oldest buildings in our history. More than 800 years have been reduced to ashes. Not long ago we could say that this fact would have definitely erased this part of history, but in recent years the cathedral has gone through a detailed process of digitization. All of its exterior and interior have been 3D scanned and it is precisely this innovation of the digital replica that much of the cathedral restoration process will use.

The technology that enables this fact changes our relationship with history. What if we could have access to everything we built and produced in centuries of history? Natural and unnatural accidents such as fires, earthquakes, the destructive erosion on objects, or even the arbitrary and authoritarian choice of certain governments to intentionally erase certain facts that do not benefit them would be factors that would no longer endanger our memory.

The is a new relationship with history and time that enables a whole new potential for insight.

“Approaching the present, the past and the future as an integral lens” —

Time Machine Project and its pillars

We saw in the previous text that Time Machine Project has some key areas of action, which they call the “pillars of research and innovation” which, in this case, there are 4:

  1. Address the scientific and technological challenges of AI, robotics, and ICT for social interaction, development the big data of the past, and further advancements in these core technologies (Pillar 1).
  2. Implement the constituent parts of Time Machine infrastructure and management principles and processes for sustainable Time Machine communities in Europe and elsewhere (Pillar 2).
  3. Create innovation platforms in promising application areas, bringing developers and users together to explore scientific and technological achievements and thus leverage Time Machine’s cultural, social and economic impact (Pillar 3).
  4. Develop favorable conditions for reaching all target groups and guide and facilitate acceptance of the research results produced during the initiative (Pillar 4).

In that occasion we dealt with Pillar 1, focused on Science and Technology. In this text we will talk in more detail about Pillar 4: the area of action dedicated to Innovation and Dissemination.

At the third meeting in a partnership series between TORUS and Time Machine Europe, welcomed Sander Münster to a conversation. (Register here for upcoming warm-up meetings).

Sander Münster is the Head of Department at the Technische Universität Dresden, and Professor of Digital Humanities at the University of Jena, also in Germany. With a background in economics, history, social sciences and media computing, his research fields range from 3D mobile interfaces and scientometrics to HD and heritage research methodologies. The Time Machine Project works extensively in the areas of research dissemination and innovation support.

Sander Münster

Main Questions

Sander explains to us that the main questions posed when we think about digitizing the entire cultural heritage of a continent are the same as they pose as challenges to be answered. Basically there are three:

  1. How to implement a mass scan? How can we digitize the most diverse amount of historical data sources and materials from our entire past?

2. How do we gain significant knowledge of history? How can we use all the accumulated knowledge of the past to our advantage?

3. How to make all this content available? How to make it accessible to everyone and available on platforms, applications, VR, AR and IA?

“I make a comparison of this project with big companies like Facebook or Google. The production of a huge and heterogeneous database about our past that can change the lives of us all. The difference here is that we assume that this data must be available for access and research by any of us.”

In short, the Time Machine Project is an international collaboration to bring 5000 years of European history to life, digitizing millions of historical documents, paintings and monuments. It is the largest computer simulation ever developed. A strategic alliance of industry, governments, foundations and academics on a European and global scale with 500 organizations. All to create open access, interactive and participatory resources.

“What is most important to me in this work is this effort based on transparency, inclusion, openness and participation.”

What is innovation and outreach?

Time Machine Project’s innovation and reach pillar is divided into 3 main sections:

  1. Research: dedicated to the continuous movement of finding and developing solutions;
  2. Operations: dedicated to maintaining and finding organizational ways for research activities to continue;
  3. Exploration: dedicated to thinking about ways of using resources researched in real life;

Sander, however, tells us that engaging in these sections is also addressing the practical and bureaucratic issues inherent in any research and development project. What are the legal restrictions? Where does the money come from? How to store data? How to tell people about achievements? Such questions are challenges and are part of the daily life of the project.

How to identify emerging research and innovation topics?

Every day we are bombarded with an immense amount of information from various places in the world and on the most diverse subjects. Information production in what relates to innovation is not small either. As you read this, research is being done in countless laboratories and institutes around the world. Just to give you an idea, do you know how many scientific articles are published per year on average? About 2.5 million.

Such a huge volume does not materialize into greater knowledge for us. And it does not necessarily mean that they are accessible to the majority of the population.

So how can we keep track of what interests us about this amount that is produced? What is important to keep up with? It is in this sense that Sander points out the importance of developing AI-based tools that help with “trend mining”. Along with the experience in developing research and innovation roadmaps co-created by thousands of researchers and innovators from the network of academic institutions, industries, SMEs, international organizations and so on.

In the field we are dealing with, Digital Cultural Heritage, innovative research is very much triggered by the technologies available. It turns out that most innovations in this field end up being underestimated, viewed as hyped by the scientific community, and not realistically evaluated. Most recent computing technologies are in principle over 40 years old — they need decades to become publicly recognized, usable, and so on.

Sander tells us that the Time Machine Project has found two ways to monitor and identify emerging research and innovation topics:

a) “Trend Counting” and Consulting: Time Machine has invented text mining tools to identify upcoming topics in the field of Cultural Heritage that could be used to identify and evaluate new global and international trend topics.

b) Project monitoring: Time Machine has developed tools to highlight topics currently under development in other projects and to avoid duplication of funding, increasing synergies between funding schemes.

How to provide legal support?

We said earlier that legal aspects are an important part of what the Innovation and Outreach Pillar needs to be aware of. Even more so in a project that involves different national legislations. After all, as Sander says, it is important to know “what to do to not have to go to jail if you’re working with data?”

The legal challenges that lie in the field of cultural heritage are many. The copyright of a work, for example, to whom it belongs: to the author? To who digitized it? To the owner of the work? To the national authorities? To who posted it? After all, how to follow national and European law across borders?

According to the 2018 Open Data Maturity report, Europe still has only a few open datasets.

And since we are talking about cultural heritage, wouldn’t the idea that copyright exists be a hindrance in this regard?

“There are still a lot of open-ended questions in this area. And what we are looking for to do is get closer to practice and find purposeful solutions.”

Time Machine thus sought to create:
. A legal hub that provides support services for legal issues.
. At the same time, it proposes to create a Universal Declaration on Digital Cultural Heritage Data Set Rights.

How can we spread the word about the researches?

In this part we will address the challenges of how to disseminate innovation. The task is not small. Sander asks us, for example, if we know how many academic institutions, museums, galleries, libraries and archives are in the top 100 sites visited? And the answer is the surprising fact that none.

Time Machine’s way of communicating and disseminating the results of its research was as follows:

. Establishing communication structures and connections with major international newspapers, TV stations and periodicals.

.Designing workshops with existing and potential industry partners, joining academic research to discuss AI, robotics and ICT topics and to promote technology transfer and identify positions of common interest.

.Developing ICT training programs for Cultural Heritage as a way to broaden access to the technical skills they have been developing. They now have more than 20 programs.

For Sander, the idea of increasing dissemination of research results is a way of sharing a memory. The fact that we are dealing with a cultural heritage, with the common good that is history, offered through platforms of access and interaction, is a way of collective construction of our lives, in which the past becomes present.

“I find this aspect of Time Machine one of the most interesting. It is about making this information about the past accessible, but in new ways. It is not a reproduction, but the encounter of new possibilities” — Gustavo Nogueira

The goal here is that, in fact, these data from the past provide us with information for a new dimension of our reality, a reality in 4D, made possible by technological innovations.

“It is as if people can now have a personal and accessible framework of history and its memories. Their house, their street, their city, etc. And through these platforms this memory can be built collectively, within everyone’s reach.”

Some partnerships

Interest in the potential of research produced by the project appears on many different business fronts. Sander cites two interesting examples:

. Ubisoft, the maker of video games (from the famous Assassin’s Creed, which was developed with contributions from history and architecture experts). Ubisoft’s experience in creating immersive digital content can help transform the data obtained from the Time Machine project into a format that is accessible to the general public, for example, making the story “playable” and interactive.

. FlixBus, a road transport services company in Europe and the United States. Unusual partnership that enables both the production of data related to roads, maps and landscapes, among others, as well as the educational aspect about the local history for passengers and employees.

“It also seems to me that it is a way for these companies to understand the potential of this project and to explore new branches of the market, new ideas about entertainment and education. The effort that begins with the digitization of cultural heritage and enabling the connection between different areas of society as industry, organizations and citizens, using this data in completely new ways that are not even known to us yet. We can still invent them in the future.” — Gustavo Nogueira

In this meeting, we realized how much the field of digitization of cultural heritage enables us not only a relationship with our history from a new perspective but also new ways of building it. Time Machine presents the experience of producing a Big Data from the Past made possible by technological innovations with the mission of a common good.

“These are joint efforts for the purpose of building and maintaining our common data in a way that is useful and free to all of us.”

As part of a partnership between TORUS and Time Machine Organization, and seeking to broaden access to Time Machine Conference 2019 learnings, throughout September every Thursday, we will hold a live online meeting with the keynote speakers who are part of the conference schedule. Meetings will be in English and you can access them by registering here:

Register here for free for our online Conference warm-up sessions. Every Thursday, next session on September 26th.

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