EDUCATION USING DIGITAL LIBRARIES IN JAPAN

The panel did not meet with any Japanese K-12 educators, nor did it meetwith any faculty from schools of education at Japanese universities. Also, noJapanese Web pages were checked to see if there are online journals comparableto D-Lib Magazine. Even if there were such journals, this author wouldnot have been able to read them, since he does not read Japanese. So the readerof this chapter must take the comments made below, regarding the state ofJapanese education and digital libraries, as perceptions of that state,perceptions gleaned from speaking with a very small number of people in Japan.To get a more thorough sense of education using digital libraries in Japanwould require focusing on Japanese educators, either through another visit, orby collaboration with the most knowledgeable ones. In short, more work needs tobe done.

In Japan the emphasis today appears to be in getting content online, withthe main emphasis on rare books and manuscripts, theses and journal articles.University-level educational research is and will be possible, becauseuniversity libraries will be the repositories of this information. Untilsharing across digital libraries is possible, it is not likely that there willeven be such research across universities. In the United States the concept ofsharing is agreed upon; in Japan, it does not seem to be.

In the United States, there is also a big recognition of the interplaybetween education and the digital library. That same recognition does notappear to be so prevalent in Japan. Digital libraries do not appear to bemaking an impact in K-12 education. The Ministry of Education (MIE) isproviding resources so that every elementary and middle school will have 20computers, and every high school will have 40 computers; but the MIE isreluctant to provide resources for communications (e.g., Internet connections).This means that it is very problematic that students will be able to go onlineand make use of the digital libraries.

In Japan, it is very prestigious and important for a student to be admittedinto an important university, such as Tokyo University or Kyoto University. Soa market exists for companies to prepare students to take university entranceexams, for which students' parents will spend a lot of money. There is nomarket for K-12 students while they are in K-12, however, which is one of thereasons that Nikkei, a company that is very heavily involved with digitalinformation, is not interested in this student population.

At Keio University, there is the Humanities Media Interface Project (HUMIproject), which was launched in Spring 1996 with the aim, among others, ofdigitizing major rare books and manuscripts¾Western, Japanese and Chinese¾inthe Keio collection, including the Keio Gutenberg Bible. The HUMI Project hasbeen supported by the Ministry of Education, Science, Sports and Culture(Monbusho), the Information-Technology Promotion Agency (IPA), which isattached to the Ministry of International Trade and Industry, and KeioUniversity. The library has a very large collection of rare books, including8,000 Western rare books. The project managers seem to have a very progressiveview of digitization of books, namely that, once digitized, the books can beexamined or reassembled any way a person wants. The Keio Gutenberg Bible hasplayed a very important role in the HUMI Project. The Bible was acquired notjust for possession of an important article of Western cultural heritage, butbecause Keio University believes that modern research libraries should possessworks significant enough to be digitized for the benefit of today's scholars.The university also wishes to promote the greater goal of preserving thesetreasures for posterity without further decay. For more discussions about thevisit to Keio University, see the site report in Appendix C.

The HUMI Project is a clear indication that some very serious work is indeedoccurring in Japan regarding education and digital libraries, and suggests thatmuch more may indeed be occurring than we had the opportunity to observedirectly. Prof. Naohito Okude (Keio University) sent this author some importantobservations about the digital library in education, in an e-mail message.Professor Okude's comments are paraphrased below, because not only are theysomewhat visionary, but because they are also very optimistic about educationusing digital libraries:

Contrary to the general assumption that hypermedia obliterates the past,digital technology is radically reconfiguring our understanding of history.Being digital in a research library requires designing a post-Gutenbergianresearch model for the humanities. Digital technology forces us to recognizethat texts are not higher than images. Computers rid us of the assumption thatsensory messages are incompatible with reflection. Once digitized, fleetingimages become available to anyone who "reads" them on a graphics computer.Imaging becomes a rich and fascinating mode for communicating ideas.

In order to conduct a professional image search within the humanities,serious training in visual proficiency is needed. The image search is anactivity of focusing on cross-disciplinary problems in arts, graphics, film,video, media production and their different histories.

Learning has always been a people-to-people process. Digital librarytechnology will promote a computer-mediated people-to-people learning process.This technology will have to expand from its traditional areas, such asinformation retrieval and distance learning, to the new frontier of informationwork application to assist distributed learning and the process of inquiringusing a networked system.

Computer-human interface should be a central research agenda item fordigital libraries. In addition to keyboards and mice, trackballs and joysticks,as well as gloves, helmets, glasses and body-suits, move an object on acomputer screen. These multi-modal interfaces are not only immature in theirdevelopment status, but they also are not intelligent. Future interfaces willbe intelligent and will mediate communication between the researcher and thedistributed computer network to make the latter more responsive to the former'swants and needs. New multi-modal intelligent interfaces will let the researcherspan the continuum from passive reception of research data to active creationof new research results.

Virtual reality (VR) technology is most appropriate for representation aswell as research. Bit-mapped graphics-based supercomputers can run high-speedgraphics and track human movements. Immersion, interactivity, and informationintensity are the three main characteristics of VR technology. In the next tenyears we can expect a widespread and growing experience of VR in a variety ofeveryday educational and learning environments.

The real market for digital technology is not the "information market" butthe "information work" market. The technologies for information work let aperson or a computer program take in information, transform it, and send itout. Today's content creation technologies do not yet fulfill thesefunctions.

When people and organizations all have computers, and all these computersare interconnected, they will sell and freely exchange information andinformation services. The digital libraries will then take the role ofinformation managers in the age of the convergence of communication andcomputation, and new distribution technologies will emerge to link one digitallibrary with other digital libraries, in order to effect digital dataassistance. The role of the nineteenth-century library as the custodian ofphysically printed materials will remain but the digital libraries will alsobecome distributed information managers of the links to other digitallibraries. A grand distributed global digital library is the dream and thefinal goal of the digital libraries endeavor.

Each library will someday offer its collection in electronic form. To users,the collection of worldwide distributed libraries will look like one uniformlibrary. To achieve interoperability of digital data at this level,enhancements of networking capabilities, interface design, and object-orienteddatabases are needed. Without this open architecture and deployment ofdistributed object-oriented technology, there is no future for the digitallibrary to scholars and other people who want to use the libraries for theircreative activities. Every library around the world should communicate witheach other so as to contribute a consolidation of diverse human knowledge andexperience.

Education and learning will be the huge market when the distributed digitallibraries and the information work technologies are available to the contentcreators. Education and learning are lifelong pursuits. Within a few decades,people in Japan will come to the university at irregular times and will takemore than four years to graduate. They will study for more years and will studymore. This fragmented and discontinuous pattern is more of an expectation thanthe norm now, but students in the future will attend in broken times, and willoften learn from more than one institution. This knowledge consumer market isthe digital libraries' business domain.


Published: February 1999; WTECHyper-Librarian