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This project is about exploiting the predominance of social networking using autonomic software agents to enrich, encourage and enliven engagement with online cultural artefacts such as from a museum or a gallery. With the current problems in the European financial debt, many cultural institutions are planning to shorten the length that visitors can physically enter. In the UK for example we have heard of plans that the British Museum will close earlier and possibly shut down completely for one day a week because of the massive cuts in funding that were presented in the UK Chancellors speech detailing reduction in money for the cultural sector. The basic idea is to have your friends, museums, art galleries and theatres all in your pocket through your handheld device.
In this project we will harness the power of autonomic agents that work on behalf of human users in an infrastructure that allows for these agents to communicate and negotiate on behalf of their human users to facilitate a collective and social experience of online cultural visits. For example, we could imagine a scenario where 4 students are visiting an art museum with the desire to purchase something (a print or a physical copy of an artefact for example) for a friend. They would wish to be able negotiate about what to see or experience online, what additional information they want to consider, what comments from what previous visitors over any commentary they individually or collectively want to leave for others and, eventually, over what they collectively choose to purchase for their friend.
We are concerned with the fundamental question of building autonomic agents that can represent their users needs, argue and negotiate on behalf of their users with other software and human agents, maintain models of the other autonomic agents in the system and proactively develop plans and scenarios for their human counterparts. In order for autonomic agents to interact in open systems such as those we are describing we will use the BDI agent architecture (arguably the most important symbolic agent architecture of the last 20 years) on a well-developed infrastructure (called electronic institutions) that facilitates autonomic agent interaction.
In short we believe BDI architectures represent the stronger and best-developed software engineering device for building autonomic agents, that electronic institutions is the best developed infrastructure for supporting the interaction of autonomous interaction, and that the idea of enabling richer social exploration of cultural artefacts online is a timely and critical case study to address.