Sunday, July 19, 2009

Yee: Questions 6-8

[This entire thread has been combined on the futurelib wiki. Please add your comments and ideas there.]

(Martha's article is available here.)

Question 6
To recognize the fact that the subject of a book or a film could be a work, a person, a concept, an object an event, or a place (all classes in the model), is there any reason we cannot define subject itself as a property (a relationship) rather than a class in its own right?
As I said in my earlier post, this makes perfect sense to me. In fact, we need to accept that FRBR, while it holds many important concepts, probably needs to be revised in light of the advances in thinking that have taken place since it was first developed in the late 1990's. FRBR is not RDF-compliant, and it has some vestiges of the record and database concept that guided thinking in the past.

This was one of the recommendations of the report on the future of bibliographic control: that we are putting ourselves in a dangerous position basing RDA on FRBR when it doesn not appear that FRBR has been thoroughly scrutinized, much less tested. You could say, however, that RDA is the test of FRBR, but that means that we must be prepared to do some revision based on what we learn when trying to use RDA for a FRBR view of bibliographic data.

Question 7

How do we distinguish between the corporate behavior of a jurisdiction and the subject behavior of a geographical location?
To distinguish between the corporate behavior of a jurisdiction and the subject behavior of a geographical location, I have defined two different classes for place: Place as Jurisdictional Corporate Body and Place as Geographic Area.
This isn't directly related to RDF, but it's an interesting example of how one can approach the definition of metadata elements. I agree with Martha that jurisdictions and delineated areas on the planet are different entities. For data that is destined to be interpreted by humans, you can talk about, for example, "California state government" and "California rivers" without having to distinguish between political entity and geography. As we read those phrases we adjust our thinking accordingly. But for processing by machine, it is necessary to provide the information that humans derive automatically from the context or their own knowledge.

Political entities are a particularly interesting problem because 1) they are often entirely or somewhat contiguous with geographic entities and may commonly be called by the same name 2) they can have different meanings at different times. To say "Louisiana" when referring to an area in 1810 is very different to the state of Louisiana that was formed in 1812. Geologic areas also have a time component, but they are much less volatile -- their changes take place in "geologic time."

When we relied entirely on humans to interpret our data, we could create data elements that depended on context and the human ability to read the data in that context. The more that we move toward machine processing of our data, and toward interaction between programs, the more we need to be precise in the defintion of our data elements. We can see this somewhat in RDA, where work titles are defined differently from titles of expressions. In our MARC records, we treat these simply as titles, and assume that the people looking at our displays will make sense of them. Sense, of course, is exactly what a computer does not have, so there is an extra burden on us to be clear about our meanings.

Question 8

What is the best way to model a bound-with or an issued-with relationship, or a part-whole relationship in which the whole must be located to obtain the part?
This is primarily a question about FRBR and RDA, but it is also an opportunity to think about how we might use relationships in future systems. The problem with bound-with is that of the logical entity (a book, an journal issue, a pamphlet) and the physical entity that the library holds. In today's catalog, we don't have a way to create relationships between catalog records -- "bound with" becomes a note. In FRBR "bound with" is an item-to-item relationship. Having a way to code explicit relationships between entities should make it possible to help users navigate our catalogs.

1 comment:

Diane Hillmann said...

RDA already has a "bound with" relationship available (see for the registered relationship). "Issued with" is also there, see: Most importantly, though, you can see how these kinds of relationships can be used to express relationships at the most appropriate level. We can't do this currently in most of our MARC-based systems (some of you with long memories might remember some extensive MARBI discussion on this many years ago).