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Home | Seminars and Symposia | Past seminars/symposia: Tuesday, December 7, 2004

DTC Seminar Series

Digital Libraries and e-Learning: The SUDDENLY* Project


Hermann Maurer
Computer Science
Graz University of Technology

Tuesday, December 7, 2004
10:30 am

402 Walter Library

Hermann Maurer

THIS TALK DESCRIBES, as can be seen from the interpretation of the acronym, an ambitious digital library project. It consists of five basic elements, each itself with unheard of functionality:

  1. A portal that allows access to diverse electronic resources scattered world-wide
  2. The possibility to use the system to administer local textual and multimedia material for an arbitrary hierarchy of users
  3. Use the material as a basis for an elaborate e-Learning environment
  4. A rights and charging management system allowing for up to millions of users
  5. The integration of existing resources in "both directions"

To be more specific, let me mention aspects from each of these functionality categories. The portal not only allows access through hierarchies or "ordinary" search engines, but allows use of dynamic similarity searching — including conceptual similarity, profiling, and contextual searching. Found documents can be annotated and linked to others, independent of location and visible to whatever group is designated as authorized. The concept of "active documents" and of automatically created links including "links into the future" are incorporated. Both search criteria and search results are visualized as dynamic concept maps.

Hermann Maurer

The hierarchy of users means, for example, that the publication list of persons in a department cannot only be automatically arranged according to various criteria, but can be merged into a list of departmental publications, those into the publications of a faculty, those into the list of publications of the whole university. Multiple overlapping hierarchies are allowed, thus providing a "view" of the articles and their conceptual interrelationship to suit the purpose. The material in the library and other material can be used by selecting parts of it and "gluing" them together by concatenation in a linear representation, or associatively in hyperlinked fashion, and constructed as a learning guide for the material. Existing "courseware" can be tied in to suit individual learners. However, the real strength of the system derives from the powerful collaboration facilities, and techniques to support assignment, student, and course evaluation. Thus, the e-Learning system supports both teachers and learners. The rights management and charging system has been tried out with a group of about 500,000 users so far: it is intended to scale this up further, to allow some one hundred universities or more to participate in the same server pool. Charging will be done on an "Exchange basis" or a "Bundle basis," whatever is the users' (i.e. the institution's) preference. The integration of existing resources in "both directions" means that material can be either incorporated into the server pool or just "virtually included" (using transclusion as Ted Nelson would call it), but also allows the export to other servers if this is desirable. Thus, if a person makes use of SUDDENLY something like a list of publications is exported automatically from the server farm to other data bases and servers as specified by the user, hence SUDDENLY is the single point of entry. SUDDENLY functionality provides the interface to the data irrespective of storage location. The talk will discuss highlights of each of the five major components. Lest this presentation is misunderstood, SUDDENLY is not fully implemented yet, but an ongoing project developed in collaboration with a number of research groups including Curtin University. * SUDDENLY can be read as Sophisticated Universal Distributed Digital Effort towards a New type of Library: Yippee!


Born in Vienna, Austria, Maurer studied mathematics and computer science at the universities of Vienna and Calgary, and was Assistant and later Associate Professor for Computer Science at the University of Calgary 1966-1971. He then took on various positions as full professor or visiting professor at a number of universities including Waterloo, Canada; SMU, Dallas; University of Denver; University of Brasilia, Brazil; University of Karlsruhe, Germany; University of Auckland, New Zealand and Edith Cowan University, Perth, Australia. He is now at the Graz University of Technology specializing in networked multimedia systems and their applications to knowledge management, learning, digital libraries, museums, and societal implications of new developments in computers. As a hobby he is writing a series of Science Fiction novels. Some of his main accomplishments include: Established a Faculty of Computer Science with about 300 researchers and 4000 students; head of two research institutes in Graz; published some 600 papers and 20 books, half of them technical, the most recent on Learning Support Systems for Organizational Learning (2004) and others Science Fiction; supervised some 500 M.Sc. and 40 Ph.D. theses; founded 16 companies and a number of international conferences and journals; two honorary doctorates; member of two academies of science; many national distinctions including the Large Austrian Cross of Honor for Arts and Science; and project leader of over 20 multimillion-dollar projects. For more information on Maurer please see: