Ignite talk - Kevin Novak

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Opportunity to Inspire

Video: "Opportunity to Inspire" an Ignite talk by Kevin Novak (2040 Digital), for the Openlab Workshop Unconference, December 1, 2015, in Crystal City, VA. Published June 30, 2016

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Kevin Novak, CEO & Founder 2040 Digital


We have an opportunity and a mission, an opportunity and a mission to be a catalyst, a navigator, and a curator. To recognize the need for access, for discovery and ultimately for providing the opportunity to inspire.

The world continues to move physical content into the World of Digital but there is still so much more content that sits in repositories and archives that has yet to see the light of day.

More content that needs to be brought forward in the light of relevance. Content that sits in physical buildings, physical archives, and digital wells. Content that needs to be brought forward out of the cold, defrosted and made part of the story.

It is all important and impactful content that offers opportunities to inspire, to create learning, and to promote knowledge. Our mission, intent, and purpose is to be the catalyst, the curator and the navigator and to tell the story and ultimately inspire.

We must seek to: Inspire a young child to become a lover of science, history and the arts. Inspire a young child to gain knowledge from playing educational games with primary source materials.

Inspire a teenager who potentially is so taken by the materials that it guides their choice in life to be an Author, Doctor or Scientist.

Inspire an adult to gain context and knowledge from the content and make their idea known in the world.

Results in any of these regards is elusive. How can you possibly quantify or qualify? Our access is denied. To me, it is always and simply just knowing that the inspiration was possible and that that something was happening somewhere, or everywhere in the world.

There is still significant content to digitize and that which is available still has to be made “accessible”. Access in terms of availability and the story. The major challenges remain discovery and context. Ensuring the content is “accessible” to the minds of those we want to reach.

Accessible via multiple screens, form factors and interfaces and experiences. Also in terminology known and understood by the masses we seek to reach. Most content still reflects metadata of Library subject headings, data in finding aids and the like.

The aim of some tends to be archiving and preserving, not access. Of critical importance is the demonstration of content with context. It isn’t enough to simply make the content part of the archive. One needs to tell the story of the content and act as a curator who is helping teach and inform and of course inspire.

Even in digital, a catalyst, a navigator and a curator is needed to guide and ensure the significance and importance of the content and the story is told. We hold the “lightbulb” and material in our hands. Can you turn on the “light”? We can get caught up in the technology. The sheer thrill of taming the technological beast. We get caught up in ontologies, architectures, and structures that seem right and comfortable for only those in the “know”.

We forget the familiar looking glass of our eyes are drawn to. We forget the 12 year old student searching for content who doesn’t have a deep vocabulary reflecting the terminology a researcher might use. We forget the grade school teacher who needs content that is easily understood by her pupil. We forget the life long learner who seeks to explore new subjects but doesn’t think in library and archive terms.

In this regard, we still have much to learn and explore. Those in and surrounding the dynamic world of digital are still paving and exploring the way of the Wild Wild West. What seems mature really isn’t. What seems cooked still is very raw. Raw in what is still unknown. Raw in what is soon to be possible. Raw in creating the connection and context for those we seek to inspire. What seems best practice and the norm is only a tip of a much larger iceberg.

What seems comfortable dismisses what cant be seen under the water. We don’t know what we don’t know, but we must stay focused on our mission. The mission to inspire.

Despite the challenges of multiple screens and fast and changing constituent preferences. Despite the challenges of size and scale. Despite the challenges of multiple paths and directions. We must stay focused on the mission to inspire.

Our higher purpose must always be to create the opportunity. We must all recognize that we remain the stewards and leaders to create inspiration through content and via the medium we know best. What we know is much more than most. What we know can impact the present and create the future.

We see the possibilities and know when and how those possibilities can take form in reality. We are included in those who we seek to inform and inspire. Our children, our family, and our friends are those who look to us to create the opportunity.

We must stay focused on our higher mission and purpose. We must take the role of a catalyst, a curator, a navigator. We must tell and story and take the opportunity to inspire. It is our mission and it’s our imperative! Thank you.