One of the key aspects of the Ulwazi Programme, was to make available local, indigenous information online. We trained participants in digital media production as well as content management using a number of tools.
There are a number of ways to store information online so that it is accessible to a variety of users. Each of these uses different systems and software, has its own nuances and applications, and one may be more appropriate than another depending on the type of project. More than one of these approaches can also be used simultaneously depending on the specific project requirements.
A database is simply information that has been organised using digital tools so that each piece of content can be individually accessed and managed. Each item within the database is defined according to a number of set criteria, allowing users to retrieve and present content in different ways. Databases hold data that has been categorised and made accessible. However, without other software such as a Content Management System (see below) this data is not easily accessible as it is not filtered and presented in a user-friendly way.
Digital archives are online repositories of information, holding text, audio, video, documents and images. These have been structured according to categories and tags and adhere to set archival standards such as Dublin Core Metadata. So, while a database presents information in such a way that it can be used by those in the know, a digital archive is more accessible and is presented in a more accessible, meaningful and useful way.
A staple of Internet browsing, websites consist of files and images that have been coded using HTML editors and made available online to be displayed in a browser. Websites are usually only for presenting information, and tend to offer limited meaningful user interaction.
- Dreamweaver: http://www.adobe.com/africa/products/dreamweaver.html
- Coffee Cup: http://www.coffeecup.com/html-editor/
Content Management System
A Content Management System (often abbreviated to CMS) is type of software that gives users the tools to develop and manage websites without programming skills (see the definition of blogs, below). Using a CMS, templates are usually made available to users, allowing them to populate predefined designs with their own content, as well as personalise their site’s appearance to a certain degree. Users can then log into the CMS online and update the site themselves, rather than relying on skilled programmers to make changes for them.
A blog is a type of web page that consists of different “posts”, often published in reverse chronological order. Unlike traditional websites, which tend to be static, blogs are dynamic and allow for users to leave comments and interact with the website owners or bloggers. The medium appeals to users with limited digital skills and allows laypeople to easily create and publish web content using different Content Management Systems.
Social media are websites and applications that allow users to create and share content with other users. They therefore create networks of individuals, with the relationship mediated by the site. The content shared can take the form of text, audio, images or video, depending on the social media in question.
- Facebook (multimedia): https://www.facebook.com
- Twitter (text and images): https://twitter.com
- Instagram (images): http://instagram.com
- Soundcloud (audio): https://soundcloud.com
There are a number of resources for storing and distributing content that are available to digital media practitioners. These include both paid and free or open source alternatives, so options are available for teams with varying budgetary allowances. When planning the online strategy for a project, therefore, the appropriate combination of the above approaches must be ascertained and then executed by individuals with the requisite skill sets.