Democratizing Open Knowledge

Democratizing Open Knowledge is a three-year program at the Library Innovation Lab to explore the goals articulated in Harvard Library's Advancing Open Knowledge strategy from a decentralized and generative perspective. If you like what you see here and want to collaborate, get in touch!

In "Advancing Open Knowledge," Harvard Library outlines three strategic goals for libraries:

Diversify and Expand Access to Knowledge

The information globe is still dominated by the wealthiest nations and by inequitable systems of producing and sharing knowledge that are not representative of all voices.

Enhance Discovery and Engagement

We are witnessing a rise in disinformation, coupled with distrust of sources established as trustworthy. Information discovery mechanisms are also far from ideal.

Preserve for the Future

Preservation of information, particularly digital information, is an unsolved problem: information can be here today and gone tomorrow.

In short, we are called to help global communities answer: who are we, where did we come from, and where are we going next?

With support from the Filecoin Foundation for the Decentralized Web, a "nonprofit organization committed to preserving humanity's most important information by fostering the development of open-source software and open protocols," Democratizing Open Knowledge will explore how those library goals can be met, not just by institutions like Harvard and the patrons who can access our services, but by self-governing communities at every scale around the world.

In particular, we are interested in the following areas:

Long Data

How might communities curate and preserve vital data so it can be released at the right time, decades or even centuries later? How can the fragile web of the current internet be made more durable and robust?
Example research outputs: authenticated, client-side replayable web archives.

Archival Communities at the Edges

What communities are currently underrepresented in centralized archives, and how might we support them to develop social and technical approaches that work for them?
Example research outputs: tools and social protocols for strong dark archives.

Subsidiarity and Self-governance

What aspects of cultural memory and cultural preservation are best served by centralized institutions with long memories, and what roles by self-governing stakeholders? How can the "decentralized" technology represented by public libraries be updated for new internet communities?
Example research outputs: civic infrastructure tools for online towns.

To stay up-to-date on our work, join our newsletter, and if you have thoughts about this program, get in touch!