Confused About Scope: Art Online

A few months ago, the art discovery website Artfinder appeared on the scene, providing a place to go to view art (online) from galleries around the world, build your own collections, receive recommendations about other artworks you might like to see (and maybe go and visit for real) and so on. A “Magic Tour” feature allows you to select three art works you like from sets of four, and then view a personalised art collection based on recommendations derived from your selection. Where quality prints of a work are available, there is an option to buy the print (for example, via MemoryPrints).

A couple of other related things that have crossed my radar over the course of the year include the Google Art Project, which offers very high definition reproductions of artworks from galleries around the world, and the JISC funded OpenART project, “a partnership between the University of York, the Tate and technical partners, Acuity Unlimited, will design and expose linked open data for an important research dataset entitled ‘The London Art World 1660-1735′”.

Today, I noticed the launch of a new BBC site, Your Paintings [announcement], which offers you the ability to create art collections, locate artworks by physical gallery location and so on… Hmmmm… (As yet, the URLs don’t seem to support content negotiation as a result of adding a .json or .xml suffix to pircture or gallery page; that is, as yet, the service doesn’t appear to be offering linkable data (hyperdata?) views over the content).

There was a time when Microsoft used to be charged with unfairly influencing the market, announcing it was about to release some feature or product that a rival was trying to market, effectively stifling competition through brand and market dominance. If you read the tech blogs, Google, Facebook, Apple, Twitter, et al. currently find themselves in a regular situation where the services, applications or features they release are heralded as being likely to wipe out competition in a niche discovered, created, or developed by a startup elsewhere (only in many cases it doesn’t quite work out that way…Bit.ly surviced Twitter’s shortener, Google Buzz threatened no-one, Facebook Places or Google Latitude haven’t squashed Foursquare, etc.).

The BBC has itself faced challenges regarding “anticompetitive”/fair trading behaviour, for example in local online news (local news video), catchup services/internet TV (Canvas) or (BBC Jam).

Now I’m generally a fan of the BBC, but I do wonder what additional value Your Paintings brings, especially given that it’s not apparently being launched with any additional technical capacity building features (i.e. it’s not (yet?) making metadata freely available for others to build on, though a couple of recent tweets suggest this may be on the timeline…)?

Having come across aNobii today (via @maireadoconnor), a service that offers “an online reading community built by readers for readers allowing you to shelve, find and share books”, I wonder: is this another area where the BBC could just “step in”, presumably as a way of building community around the wide variety of programming it offers that have good hooks in to books?

[Disclaimer: I’ve ranted before about the BBC not making more use of structured markup around book identifiers, but if they were to get into reading groupsm this would presumably provide the technical underpinnings…? (e.g. BBC “In Our Time” Reading List using Linked Data.) So I maybe should be careful what I wish for…]

So the point of this post? Just to note my confusion about what it is the BBC actually does, and how it does it… I know that it’s not just about the telly and the radio, but I’m not sure what it is about when it comes to the web?

And it’s not just confusion about the BBC’s role. It also extends to the public facing role of the OU, which I personally view as having more a “public service education” remit than the rest of the UK HE sector (whether this is a view than can survive the increasingly businesslike culture of higher education I don’t know…). In other words: to what extent should the OU be doing more in the way of education related online public service broadcasting?

PS so I wonder:

SO how much does the BBC spend on AdWords?

How much has the BBC allocated to its opening salvo on a Your Paintings AdWords campaign…?