In these prolegomena I will be examining how a lack of shared understanding of these issues may have lead to certain choices that have resulted in unintended consequences in the current proposed BIBFRAME. I will show that these choices and consequences are not intrinsic to all linked data or semantic approaches to bibliographic and other metadata, and that alternatives approaches may have advantages.
I will attempt to give general explanations of some of the terms and concepts that may not be obvious to those outside the communities in which they involved. By attempting to bridge the gaps in understanding separating the different communities needed to make any future metadata framework, I hope to make the case that such a framework is both possible and desirable, and to allow more people to make positive contributions to the creation and deployment of such a framework.
In this introduction I give an outline of the remaining prolegomena, and look at the types of knowledge and skills that are needed to build a future Bibliographic Framework .
An outline of the prolegomena
In the second prolegomenon, I use the Holdings Annotation as presented in the current incarnation of the bibframe proposal as an example some of the problematic features of the current BIBFRAME model.
Part III. Only Connect: Why a Framework Based on Linked Data and Semantic Technologies Is Worth Pursuing.
In the third prolegomenon I discuss the how using Linked Data and Semantic Technologies can improve the quality and accuracy of existing cataloging practice, and look at some new architectures and applications that a framework designed for networked use can enable.
Part IV. IMEW: The Opposite of FRBR is FRBR.
I examine some properties of FRBR-like data models. Taking a bottom-up approach, starting with Items, I relate the main entities in the FRBR WEMI model to concepts found in common version control systems used in software development. I discuss some issues involved in inferring properties of an Item based on it’s corresponding Manifestation, Expression, and Work, raise some questions as to possible identity criteria, and look at some other possible entities that may be implicit in the model .
Part V. On What The…? Ontology and Linked Data for BIBFRAME
Part IV briefly covers some concepts in linked data and ontologies, makes the point that owl and RDF are not the only targets, and that it is more important to accurately capture the semantics of what is being modeled than it is to think about what something might look like in XML. I argue for the use of a more expressive form of modeling and for the use of controlled natural language to specify the model. CNL makes it much easier for people to contribute, and makes it much easier to review.
Part VI: Implementation: A Simple Matter Of Programming
Part V looks at some of the technical solutions available, some areas of computational complexity, and areas where work is needed. In particular, I describe a possible approach to applying Provenance information to Named Graphs that is compatible with the forthcoming RDF/1.1 recommendations.
Who Knows? The Location of Knowledge For A New Bibliographic Framework.
The development of the BIBFRAME model of the Bibliographic Universe, and the representation of that model as linked data, using some combination of semantic technologies has been the occasion of much discussion, and much confusion. The cause of much of this confusion may perhaps be found in the interwoven, interdisciplinary sources of the basic concepts needed to design and implement a new framework for bibliographic description.
Many words that are precise terms of art in a discipline are used in BIBFRAME to carry very different meanings. Sometimes this is because the terms has a different meaning in a different discipline. In other cases the use of a term appears to have arisen within BIBFRAME.
The blind men and the metaphor
We find ourselves in the familiar situation of blind men and elephants- arguing fruitlessly amongst ourselves as dread beasts thunder towards us from directions unknown shaking the very earth with each stride. Ontologists and Linked Data specialists; catalogers and cataloging theorists; programmers and data modellers- each hold different pieces of the puzzle, but until the lid of the box is scraped off the elephant’s foot, we can’t tell how all the pieces fit together, or which pieces might be missing.
What The Cataloger Knows
As cataloging has evolved over the course of the past few centuries it’s practice has accrued many rules and conventions, and has been the subject of Great and lesser debates. As with any evolved system, some of these rules have evolved in response to conditions that no longer reply.
Some practices may be overcomplicated and purely vestigial – for example, rules dealing with the works attributed to Spirit Authors.
Other practices may be oversimplified due to the limitations of available technology to economically produce or make use of more specific technologies. Punctuation that could be generated automatically may be recorded in data elements; information may be recorded only as plain text, whence only natural or artificial intelligence approaches can recover it.
The cataloger knows that all records are wrong. The cataloger knows that some records are useful.
Unless we understand basic principles of cataloging, we cannot consider “is this rule necessary?”; we cannot even reach the question “is this even a rule?”
What The Network Expert Knows
Without a general understanding of how the Internet and the World Wide Web work, we cannot talk about how to design a system that will work at the scale. We should understand how replication and caching can be used to provide reliability and performance.
We should understand the dangers of building systems around single, authoritative points of failure; we should appreciate the freedoms that real-time, distributed designs can allow.
We should understand the security requirements that a framework requires; we should understand what frameworks security technologies enable.
The Bibliographic Network must work in harmony with the ‘Net.
What The Linked Data and Semantics Expert Knows
Without an understanding of linked data, ontologies, and semantic technologies in general, it is can be hard to see the benefits that using these technologies can provide.
If we miss the distinctions and purposes of between different types of languages and systems, it is easy to confuse an ontology language like OWL with a markup description language like XML Schema.
If we confuse the capabilities and limitations of RDF and OWL with the capabilities and limitations of all ontology languages and technologies we may lose the opportunity to capture the knowledge that the Subject Matter Experts are trying to convey. It is easy to generate a simplified model in a less expressive language from a more precise model. It is easy to generate simplified models in multiple less expressive languages.
Without knowing what kinds of knowledge can be captured, how that knowledge can be used, and what the costs of using that knowledge in different ways might be, we cannot decide what level of detail is necessary.
Knowledge that is captured need not be used; knowledge not captured cannot be used.
What The Philosopher “Knows”
Without a grasp of the outline of some basic concepts from Metaphysics, it is easy to get caught up in trying to find the “one true answer” to questions which have many equally valid solutions. Conversely, one may not be aware of possible solutions that may be well particularly well to suited to a particular problem, or of how some sets of choices may be incompatible.
It is easy to accidentally conflate questions of Ontology (what there is), and Epistemology (what we know, and how we know it).
⚠ Important Safety Information ⚠
- Questions that have resisted a definitive answer for thousands of years are seldom resolvable even with video teleconferencing and Powerpoint.
- Metaphysics is an intrinsically dangerous tool.
- Always follow safe handling procedures. Never allow the muzzle to cover anything that doesn’t exist.
- When in doubt, leave the room and consult a doctor of philosophy.
- When not in doubt, leave the room, and consult two doctors of philosophy.