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Web 2.0: Collaborative Conservation-Restoration?
On June 11
the conservation community received shocking news: Conservation DistList and CoOL(Conservation OnLine) were coming to an end, mainly due to the harsh economic times we are all experiencing. For those who are not aware, ConsDistList is an e-mail distribution list created in 1987,nowadays with just under 10,000 registered users from all around the globe, and CoOL is a resourcewebsite online since 1993, both maintained with the support of Stanford University Libraries. In fact,the list has proved to be the most efficient means of world wide communication between conservatorsup until now. I take the chance to thank Walter Henry, the brain behind this project, for his continuouswork and professionalism over the years. Fortunately, soon after Stanford announced the discon-tinuance of CoOL support, AIC stood up and took the responsibility for both CoOL and ConsDistList,saving this important tool from disappearing.We all are glad that the eminent loss was prevented but it surely raises some questions we shouldaddress. The presence of the internet in the last decades has greatly affected our lives, becomingindispensable. ConsDistList is a perfect example of an early collaborative tool that was (and is) still running because it worked effectively. Meanwhile, the internet has evolved and so our perceptionand use of it. Although I am not apologist of using catchy terms like Web 2.0, I do have to confess it translates well the new paradigm that the internet has come to. And, while we are still struggling tounderstand what Web 2.0 is, a 3.0 is already on its way.So, what is Web 2.0 and what can it do for conservation-restoration? Web 2.0 is a new approach tointernet content that could certainly do more for conservation than what it is doing now. Whilst beforethe web was dominated by static websites, nowadays we have dynamic content, weblogs, podcasts(a 2.0 term for sound recording files), video broadcasting, dozens of social networks, forums, wikis,RSS feeds, and more recently micro-blogging, CC licensing and so many other tools. Of course, noneof these is focused directly on conservation but an enormous potential is out there to build new para-digms. Organisations are now adopting new approaches to their projects. This year, the theme of AIC’sAnnual Meeting was ‘Conservation 2.0 - New Directions’ and participants had shared their experienceonline, using tools such as Twitter and blogs. Indeed, the most important advantage that these toolshave is the extraordinary ability to allow in real-time free and open dissemination of knowledge.To my understanding, to integrate and profit from the advantages that internet offers to our domainshould be the next step of a necessary evolution. The future of conservation-restoration will have astrong online presence, unquestionably based on virtual collaborative tools.Still, it is not that we haven’t tried before: there are dozens, if not a few hundred initiatives around,like forums or wikis, but an effective collaboration is still to be achieved. There are initiatives that proved successful, like ConsDistList, but there are also dozens of other smaller projects that havefailed one way or another in bringing conservator-restorers together into a community until now. So,in the end, we do know that we need these tools and that we have the means to use them. However, Ioften ask myself what is actually lacking in this equation?The end of ConsDistList and CoOL would have been a shame but perhaps this incident will somehowprove useful. Naturally conservatives, we should raise some concerns about the best ways to profit from these new technologies we literally have in our hands. We should reflect on it, we should discussit, but most important, we should do something about it.
Rui BordaloEditor in Chief