Kim H. Veltman

“Trends towards Networked Culture and MEDICI”

Tenth Anniversary of MEDICI, Milan 2008 (In Press).


The vision of access the whole of knowledge has a tradition that goes back at least to the Library of Alexandria. The 20th century added two new ideas: 1) that networked access to knowledge and culture would lead to a World Brain and 2) that collaborative sharing of such knowledge could lead to new research design and creativity. This essay reviews these and related trends that led to a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), the MEDICI Framework and the vision of networks of excellence in culture. Although successful, the framework did not receive official support as expected. An assessment of recent European developments offers five possible reasons.

These two ideas were initially related and have since evolved in parallel. In Europe, for instance, there is now a curious dichotomy. One part of the Commission is pursuing networked access to knowledge (idea 1) and striving for an information society with the European Digital Library as a flagship project. Other parts of the Commission are pursuing networked collaboration (idea 2) in the form of grids, an European Research Area and speak of Knowledge Europe. Needed is a reintegration of these two ideas, a) to align our information systems with knowledge systems; b) to integrate enduring knowledge of memory institutions with emergent knowledge of our research councils, institutions of learning, design and creativity; and c) to develop systems that allow multiple ways of knowing, which Francis Bacon called “knowledges”. This integration of the two ideas could become one of the key challenges for the 21st century (idea 3). In retrospect, while the original visions of a MOU, MEDICI Framework and networks of excellence in culture need revision and expansion in scope, the need for them remains.

Read full article