Our digital future 3: Semantic Web

Smart eXtended Web - adapted from the work of Nova Spivak
Certainly, distinctions between versions of the Web are artificial. A decade ago, when Tim O'Reilly wrote about 'Web 2.0' and others intoned effusively about the 'Social Web' or the 'Read/Write Web', they were remarking about emerging features of a vast and ever expanding technological infrastructure, rather than any physical compartmentalisation. As the Web grew, and people discovered more ways to develop its capabilities, they naturally built into it their human essence - sociability and the need to connect with people, rather than simply with information. The Web evolved to embrace digital repositories of text, images and sound that could be discussed, added to, edited, shared and repurposed. In effect, Web 2.0 became the digital totem around which humanity gathered to share their stories.

If we were to continue to apply versioning to the Web as it evolves, we might talk next about Web 3.0 - or the Semantic Web - a version that connects not only information and people, but also knowledge and ultimately, intelligence. In its current trajectory of development, the Web is advancing on both social and information axis, as  depicted by the map above. e-Learning 3.0 (if there is such a beast) would feature several developments beyond what is currently practised.

Adapted from the work of Francesco Magragrino
I'm predicting that these would include new forms of distributed computing which would extend further the current capabilities of smart mobiles and other ambient forms of computing. At the social/technology interface, smart tools would combine with collaborative intelligent filtering and recommender systems (based on big data from your previous online behaviour) to create personalised pathways for learners within any infrastructure, and 3D visualisation and interaction would become a common aspect of human computer interfaces.

The Semantic Web would extend beyond the current Web into every aspect of our lives within a richly connected environment, where pervasive technology make the virtual and physical combine and where Web meets world. Touch and non-touch (voice and gesture activated) surfaces would ultimately replace keyboards and mice, and connected computational capability would be more or less woven into the fabric of our clothing and environment. Although this commentary is speculative, much is already in development and in some cases is already available for use.

Previous posts in this series
1: Gazing down the corridor
2: Smart clothing

Graphics by Steve Wheeler

Creative Commons License
Our digital future 3: Semantic Web by Steve Wheeler was written in Plymouth, England and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.


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