To explain virtual data worlds, a simple and common analogy has been elusive. I have cited the following: a walk through the forest, tour of an art museum, playing at Disneyland, wandering around a science museum, and visit to a chemistry laboratory. But, none seem to fit.
What about our local Denver Botanic Gardens (DBG)? It is a designed, themed, and curated place, unlike a random forest. It consists of living plants that are changing with the seasons, unlike an art museum. It has a fun and serious side, unlike Disneyland, which is heavy on the fun. It balances beauty with education, unlike a science museum. It is an interesting place, unlike a boring chemistry lab. This may be a bit harsh, but a public botanic garden may best illustrate the nature and purposes for a data world.
Museum versus Garden versus Farm
An art museum is a possible analogy for a data world since the collection is curated, displayed appropriately with similar pieces, and supports both educational and research purposes. A virtual museum could be malleable so that galleries could instantly change depending on the persons presence or external conditions, like visiting the art museum on a dark and stormy night. However, a museum contains dead things. Van Gogh will not update his Scream. Within a data world, data is (should be) constantly changing since it is reflects the real world.
A (public) garden seems more appropriate because the focus is alive, constantly changing. The changes – cycles, growth, seasons, disruptions – are more important than the static objects. DBG has a research program for propagating certain plant species by collecting wild seeds and studying their germination. Hmmm, like analytics on the data?
A farm seems like an analogy carried to far. The purpose of a farm is not to educate and study; it is to produce, mostly in isolation. Maybe a farm is a good analogy for the data warehouse.
The DBG Website
Take a look at the BotanicGardens.org website. It describes a wide spectrum of activities and programs, targeting a diverse audience. It has resources to help with your gardening, plus various ways of getting involved with their gardening operations. Exhibits are coming and going, plus Denver exhibits are traveling elsewhere. And, they are conducting serious horticultural research based on their living plant collections. Maybe every data world should auto generate its own website.
Their About statement is also insightful…
Denver Botanic Gardens strives to entertain and delight while spreading the collective wisdom of the Gardens through outreach, collaboration and education. Our conservation programs play a major role in saving species and protecting natural habitats for future generations.
In a future blog on this topic, I will visit the Denver Botanic Gardens wearing my data world glasses and document potential best practices for building data worlds by the IA community.