Quality information for all
Quality through Expert, global collaboration
The Digital Universe is building a massive collaborative partnership between experts and the general public. Topic area experts, under the auspices of the Digital Universe's Stewardship Program, point to the most objective and authoritative information. These stewards also guide public involvement, both educational programs as well as public contribution. This is an open-ended, decades long collaboration that is now gearing up.
Our vision is to support the development of an unprecedented knowledge experience that is free. The non-profit Digital Universe Foundation holds in public trust Digital Universe content, which is kept in a public commons.
The ultimate vision is of a central clearinghouse of everything we know about nature and humanity, available online with massive amounts of vetted resources available for free. In short, the Digital Universe aims to be the definitive repository of human knowledge online. It will be a virtual reality encyclopedia, up-to-the minute newspaper, digital library, platform for discussion, and global community, held as a public trust in perpetuity.
Digital Universe Technology
The Digital Universe's technology partner, Trunity Networks, has designed a Web application that reconceives how we might interact with the Web. Information is sorted by subjects into portals, navigable through a hierarchical taxonomy. This approach has several benefits including increased stability in how information is organized and accessible over time. The platform provides structural support for a central clearinghouse for links to information, people and organizations related to these topics. It is a center for the public, researchers, and teachers to network and take action in these topic areas. It will provide a repository for lesson plans.
Advances in visual resolution, interactivity, and virtual reality will make it possible to put a joystick of exploration in the hands of anyone with access to a computer--to open the galaxies, the Earth, the body, the cell, the atom for personal reconnaissance. The Digital Universe and Trunity Networks will be among the prime catalysts of this exploration.
The Digital Universe's portal editors are called "stewards." The project will evolve in partnership with thousands, eventually tens of thousands, of stewards who act to find, filter and judge the quality of informational resources on the Web in an assigned domain as well as to provide original material based upon their own expertise. The Stewardship Program is the means by which the majority of the content of the Digital Universe will be populated.
The stewards provide the authority to give the Digital Universe credence, but stewards are selected both for their topic area expertise and for their expertise as educators. The mission of the stewards is as much outreach and engagement as it is content creation; public involvement and public contributions are fundamental to what is being stewarded.
The Digital Universe Foundation will not directly oversee the work of stewards. Instead, the Foundation will enter into relationships with a full complement of international "information coalitions" covering every subject. The first of these coalitions are the Environmental Information Coalition and the Human Experience Coalition. While these coalitions are being organized, the Foundation has started a program for stewarding work that takes place independently of coalitions, called the Independent Stewardship Program.
The Power of Community
Unshackled from the constraints of time and distance, people have seized upon the Internet as an amazing community-building vehicle. Online collaborative communities have accomplished remarkable feats. From audience-driven news and discussion sites like Slashdot to collective information organizing projects like Wikipedia to the open source software development model that has brought us the Apache Web server, the Mozilla Web browser, and the Linux operating system, we are witnessing a new era of volunteerism and productivity when people gather online to form communities of like-minded peers.
Under the guidance of its stewardship program, the Digital Universe seeks to harness this volunteerism to create an unprecedented public good, one that combines the dynamism of collaborative communities with the expertise and care of traditional information creation.
The community will develop its own unique dynamic. Given the challenges of managing a large, exciting community, it will have to be guided according to a Digital Universe Charter.
The Digital Universe is organized into four governing boards that provide checks and balances on each other:
• The Board of Directors
• The Board of Stewards
• The Board of Arbitration
• The Board of Advisors
Presently, only the Board of Directors is active. The Board of Directors constitutes the executive branch of the Digital Universe. It is bound by the Bylaws of the Digital Universe Foundation, and is the only agency with authority to amend those bylaws.
The Board of Stewards will constitute the legislative branch of the Digital Universe. Its membership will be drawn from the coalitions of stewards. It will have responsibility for editorial policy, as well as establishing and managing policies for the day to day activities within the Digital Universe portals.
Judicial functions will be handled by the Board of Arbitration, which will convene to resolve disputes between coalitions and to hear appeals from stewards concerned about governance decisions by the Board of Stewards.
The Board of Advisors consists of select scholars, experts, and luminaries from the topic areas covered by the Digital Universe portals. Its function is to provide advice at the request of the Board of Directors to assure that portals, coalitions, and stewards properly represent available expertise in those topic areas, and that portals within the Digital Universe cover the issues most vital in science, history, and society.