MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. --
There are reasons why the founders of the university planned the physical layout of the campus as they did – grouping the original major buildings in a circle with the schools facing inward, reinforcing the idea they were all equals. As part of that master plan, Air University leaders placed the library at the center of the circle for the symbolic emphasis that it was a connection to all the schools and it was there to serve all.
This past week, the symbolic center was in full-gear during the kickoff of the Knowledge Constellation Code Jam, bringing in people from all around the circle, and beyond, to assist in developing a platform that will allow a higher-level of interactivity with library resources.
Cosponsored by the library and Integration Cell, the new initiative is designed to take the holdings of the library in catalog format and add a real-time connectivity layer. The result is a network of associated resources that visually appear like a constellation of stars with each “galaxy” a nerve center of information.
While data visualization has been around for a long time, the ability to use the data interactively to connect to actual embedded information, link it with related resources and discover other individuals or communities of interest who are conducting similar research, is growing. This latter feature provides a level of social collaboration through users who “opt-in” via a virtual presence allowing identification and communication with others.
“Information technology is accelerating the rate of publication, both formal and informal, which creates challenges for the learner and researcher alike,” said Maj. Scott Van de Water, Air University Integration Cell staffer. “An avalanche of information is powerful if one can harness it, but harmful if under-managed. This project will assist in promoting new ways to better synthesize and understand the body of information that students and faculty need to remain cutting-edge.”
The coding work is a complex operation; in order to draw the resources into what might be termed a “knowledge engine network.” The team is analyzing information from the library databases and mining the metadata to correlate against other records. The end result will be a platform of linked resources that can be viewed through virtual or augmented reality on a mobile phone or tablet or in a more one-dimensional presentation on a regular computer.
Aside from the library and Integration Cell, participants in the Code Jam included representatives from Squadron Officer School, Air Command and Staff College, Teaching and Learning Center, MGMWERX, the Communication and Outreach Directorate, the LeMay Center’s Wargaming Institute and members from private industry.
“This is another red-letter day for our organization,” said Dr. Mehmed Ali, AU library director. “We are highly appreciative of so many different contributors coming to share their expertise and work alongside our staff to create new avenues of learning.”
Dr. Ali believes the final product can continue to reframe libraries as centers of information management to centers of insight development and cognitive connections. “This process will have great value for the university and beyond,” he declared.