Kim H. Veltman

The Need for a Cultural Grid

“Abstract: “The Need for a Cultural Grid,” Nederlands ICT-Kenniscongres <2001>, 6 en 7 September 2001, Nederlands Congres Centrum, Den Haag, p. 39.

In the first decades of the Internet there was a vision of supercomputers. It was assumed that these machines at research labs (Sandia, Los Alamos, Livermore) would solve all the problems of the day. The past decade has seen the rise of distributed computing. By 2000, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) project, which uses the energy of over 2 million home PCs while they are in screen-saver mode, produced almost as much computing power as the world's most powerful supercomputers. Thus the notion of grids is now accepted as an important key to the future in high-energy physics, and manufacture. This paper claims that such a grid is also necessary in the realm of culture.

The past decades have seen an enormous rise of digital cultural content. Museums such as the Louvre have terabytes of information about their collections of painting and sculpture. Libraries such as the Bibliothèque de la France are scanning in the full text of 80,000 books. The Coalition of Networked Information is speaking of scanning in the full text of 10 million books. In the realms of art history and archaeology, universities around the world and particularly in Europe are reconstructing hundreds of sites. These range from individual rooms (e.g. the Stanze of Raphael), to buildings (such as the Vatican), cities (Bologna in the NUME project) and even whole regions (such as Galicia in the SANTI) project. These projects typically range in size from 50 megabytes to 200 gigabytes and at present are usually only visible in national supercomputing facilities (e.g. Bologna, Madrid). On the everyday Internet one tends to find only a few slides about these projects. If we are to prepare students for the future we need to make them aware of the best in the past and the present. We need high-bandwidth access to these materials.

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