The vision of the Digital Public Space is to give everyone everywhere unrestricted access to an open resource of culture and knowledge. This vision has emerged from ideas around building platforms for engagement around cultural archives to become something wider, which this publication is seeking to hone and explore.
The Digital Public Space is an initiative that began life within BBC Archive Development and is now being investigated by the BBC, BFI, Tate, British Library, Arts Council England, FutureEverything, The Creative Exchange and many more.
The Digital Public Space is in one sense a new user interface on the international effort around open technology and open culture. It mirrors the work of Tim Berners-Lee and the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) around open standards, and strives to do for digitised cultural content what the Open Data campaign is doing for publicly-funded datasets.
This represents a sea change in thinking about expertise and ownership of cultural heritage. The gatekeepers of knowledge and culture, the ‘experts’, realise the need to open this effort up, and to actively engage many actors and citizens. Two of the early architects of the Digital Public Space – Tony Ageh and Bill Thompson – have seeded the idea beyond the confines of the BBC.(*)
Deep shifts are now happening to culture from the bottom-up. This can be seen in the new collaborative code ethic of Github – an open source code repository – and the communities of coders and artists who share code and effort online. This is radically different to the traditional approach to building and refining code – or any form of culture – in a closed and inaccessible way.