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Time Machine : Big Data of the Past for the Future of Europe

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - Time Machine (Time Machine : Big Data of the Past for the Future of Europe)

Okres sprawozdawczy: 2019-03-01 do 2020-02-29

Globalisation, changing demographics and the dominant position of private social media platforms threaten Europe's cultural and democratic values and sense of belonging. These unprecedented transformations compel Europe to intensify its engagement with its past, to facilitate an evidence-based dialogue between diverse histories and memories, their values and interdependencies, and build a common path across generations.

Time Machine is a large-scale research initiative that responds to the above challenges by creating the big data of the past: a distributed digital information system mapping the European social, cultural and geographical evolution across times. In the proposed approach, digitisation is only the first step of a long series of extraction processes, including document segmentation and understanding, alignment of named entities and simulation of hypothetical spatiotemporal 4D reconstructions.

Such computational models with an extended temporal horizon are key resources for developing new critical reflections on the future of our institutions, providing insights for historians, social scientists, creative arts professionals, policy-makers and the general public, with a significant common denominator: contributing to informed decision-making from everyday life to academic, professional and political matters. The vision is, therefore, to enable Europe to turn its long history, as well as its multilingualism and multiculturalism, into a living social and economic resource.

Time Machine comes at a time when a new technology platform is being created, giving birth to a digital information “overlay” over the physical world, a “mirror-world”, as an up-to-date model of the world as it is, as it was and as it will be. Time will be a “palpable” fourth dimension, since it will be very easy to go back to the past, at any location, reverting to a previous version kept in the log, but also to create future versions of an increased sense of reality. The mirror-world will disrupt most forms of human activity, as we know them today, giving birth to an unimaginable number of new ideas (and many problems) and creating new forms of prosperity from new forms of economic and social activity that will shape new behaviours and ecosystems. In this scenario that is currently unfolding, Time Machine will enable Europe to be one of the leading players, shaping the mirror-world according to its democratic values and fundamental ethics.
The CSA project objective was to elaborate the TM roadmap, the reference document outlining the strategy, the organisation of work to achieve the TM goals, necessary resources and criteria of success. The TM reference document was produced by structuring the initiative in pillars and thematic areas.

The pillar roadmaps were elaborated from detailed plans at the level of each thematic area, undertaken by working groups (WGs) composed of subject matter experts from our Consortium. The WGs assessed the state of the art, defined priorities and examined alternative development routes for each area, through internal workshops, own expert judgements, consultations with external experts as required, and document / data analysis. Coordination across the pillars was built into the CSA Work Programme together with an overall progress monitoring system for coherence and compliance with TM objectives.

Conclusions of the Working Groups enabled the CSA project to shape a robust governance scheme and to design accompanying actions that should support the dissemination and outreach of Time Machine in the EU and internationally, as well as creating the enabling environment to maximise the societal and economic outcomes of the initiative.

The Time Machine processing infrastructure will be composed of a digital content processor and three simulation engines: (a) a 4D Simulator that manages a continuous spatiotemporal simulation of all possible pasts and futures that are compatible with the data; (b) a Universal Representation Engine that manages the multidimensional representation space resulting from the integration of extremely diverse types of digital cultural artefacts (text, images, videos, 3D); and (c) a Large-Scale Inference Engine that will shape and assess the coherence of 4D simulations based on human-understandable concepts and constraints. The Time Machine digitisation infrastructure will be composed of a network of digitisation hubs and will be organised on a European scale.
"The Time Machine network currently counts 600 European institutions from 34 countries, including close to 200 top research institutes, a huge representation – more than 100 organisations - from galleries, libraries, archives and museums (GLAM), as well as leading large enterprises, innovative SMEs, institutional bodies and strong civil society organisations. Moreover, Time Machine has already secured the support of major initiatives related to the digitisation of European heritage, having signed Memoranda of Understanding for common action with Europeana (also a member of the TMO Executive Board), CLARIN, and the Cultural Heritage JPI.

The TMO was created as an association under Austrian Law tasked with managing and coordinating Time Machine. It has received a wide acceptance by the Time Machine partnership network and presently counts more than 600 members. TMO will make the transition from the organisation environment set up during the CSA conception phase to one that covers the specific needs and work flows of a much broader ecosystem that implements the full roadmap. The governance scheme is, therefore, developed following a two-stage approach:

• The “current” or ""set-up"" stage that covers the period where the actual scheme will grow to its fully established stage.
• The “future” or ""steady state"" stage, where a stable framework is reached, offering the conditions of uninterrupted long-term planning that may come from a dedicated funding instrument, like the European Partnership scheme, strategic agreements with different funders for sustained support over different programming cycles, or a combination of the above.

In this set-up stage, the key objective is to secure the resources for starting the implementation of the Time Machine roadmap, so the key requirement is to have in place a governance scheme that is oriented towards obtaining funding and implementing projects that contribute to the broader objectives of the Time Machine. The TMO has already secured resources to initiate the Time Machine implementation.

Time Machine will have strong positive long-term effects on European cohesion, economy and society, with concrete contributions to promoting critical thinking at all levels of decision making, to strengthening the feeling of European identity, as well as to boosting scientific and technological competitiveness, entrepreneurship and employment in knowledge intensive and creative sectors across the European Union. In concrete terms, Time Machine will lead into:

• A more competitive EU in the fields of AI and ICT
• Improved economic resilience of European cities and regions through entrepreneurship and innovation
• New ways of working that drive greater societal relevance for Social Science & Humanities (SSH)
• Big data of the past informing more effective policy making
• EU citizens feeling more connected to their past and assured of their identity in a pluralistic Europe
• Europe's citizens being digitally literate critical thinkers"
Time Machine Header Image
Time Machine Simulation Mushrooms