Kim H. Veltman

A Front-end for Multi-valent, Multi-cultural Searching

ALT News 04, Applied Learning Technologies in Europe, (February 1994), pp. 8-9, 14. Those concerned with the emerging electronic highway are rightly concerned with establishing standards for interoperability among systems such that information from different sources can be pipelined. This important process rightly emphasizes authority lists with standard names of authors, places etc. However it carries within it dangers evidenced in the realm of international hotel chains which in their quest for standards independent of changes of space, have also led to an homogenization whereby the diversity and richness of experience through travel is undermined. In the case of databases, how can we create standards without removing the diversity and richness of conceptual navigation and thus keep alive multi-valent, multi-cultural approaches? One solution is offered by the System for Universal Media Searching (SUMS, Copyright 1992) being developed in the Perspective Unit of the McLuhan Program at the University of Toronto.

A prototype of SUMS uses off the shelf software including Toolbook and Windows for Multimedia, drawing on DBase and FoxPro and graphics packages such as AutoCAD, and Animator Pro and 3-D Studio. A working demonstration of 1.3 gigabytes includes text, pictures, diagrams, animations, video and sound. The programme is being translated into C++ in order to be hardware and software independent. In the short term SUMS will function as a shell or container with which individuals can produce their own knowledge packages that can be recorded on CD-ROMS. In the longer term it is foreseen that SUMS will serve as a front end to the emerging electronic highway.

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