The rise of Fair Trade food and other products has been amazing over the past 4 years. Indeed, it’s great to see how certification for the origins (and production processes) of products is becoming both prevalent and expected. For me, it’s nice to know where my morning coffee was grown and indeed knowing that lets me figure out the quality of the coffee (is it single origin or a blend?).
I now think it’s time that we do the same for data. As we work in environments where our data is aggregated from multiple sources and processed along complex digital supply chains, we need the same sort of “fair trade” style certificate for our data. I want to know that my data was grown and nurtured and treated with care and it would be great to have a stamp that lets me understand that with a glance without having to a lot of complex digging.
In a just published commentary in IEEE Internet Computing, I go into a bit more detail about how provenance and linked data technologies are laying the ground work for fair trade data. Take a look and let me know what you think.
I first heard about Banksy back when I was living in Southampton. He is a graffiti artist and often paints interesting and fun social commentary anonymously on the side of buildings. A couple of times he’s managed to hang paintings of his unnoticed in major museums including the Tate. In particular, he managed to get a “cave painting” of a guy with a shopping cart (shown above) hung in the Bristish museum in 2005 as covered by Next Nature.
The interesting think to note is that people were fooled about the provenance of the fake cave painting both by its appearance and its label even though they were not trying to be fraudulent. The label read:
This finely preserved example of primitive art dates from the Post-Catatonic era.
The artist responsible is known to have created a substantial body of work across South East of England under the moniker Banksymus Maximus but little else is known about him.
Most art of this type has unfortunately not survived. The majority is destroyed by zealous municipal officials who fail to recognise the artistic merit and historical value of daubing on walls.
I believe this highlights the difficulty in relying purely on labeling to inform consumers about provenance. For example, while Fair Trade has a wonderful mission, it’s not clear that consumers can’t be fooled by similar labels. Furthermore, the label does not actually convey the real provenance of the product in question. So the question I have is: how can one devise labels or information material that clearly relates the provenance of a product that can be easily understood and authenticated by the consumer?