Re: [dxwg] Replace FOAF terms - Agent (#1367)

(Since this thread is still being routed by intelligent github agents into
my inbox, and from there by other gmail agents, into my apple ios phone,
and from there by pixel agents into my eyes, I feel compelled to comment)

The FOAF maintainers, still being broadly of sound body and mind, have a
mostly annual check-in with Tom Baker of DCMI, who has (or have, since Tom
acts for DCMI in this capacity)  been given access to the relevant DNS
accounts at Neither FOAF nor DCMI are changing much lately, but
care is taken to maintain them both as widely used vocabularies.
(Makx is still listed as a signatory- maybe we should update that?)). I
still stand by the commitments made there..

BTW to celebrate’s 10th birthday I want at least to update
FOAF’s terms like Person for consistency with (and tweaks in the
other direction too if need be), including equivalence statements.

Looking at the specific vocabulary described here, I am not sure whether
the concept of a “homepage” is a relic of a bygone era, but the actual
meaning of this type “Agent” is INCREDIBLY vague, whether in the high
quality and  respectably governed Dublin Core terms, or in the dubiously
governed and notoriously sketchy so-called FOAF namespace.

I would gently encourage you to concern yourselves more with what you’re
trying to say than with which URI to use when saying almost nothing.

Looking at the two definitions of “Agent”:

“ A resource that acts or has the power to act.” (DCMI)

“ things that do stuff.” (FOAF)

Both of these are, deep down, fundamentally linguistic rather than
intrinsic; they appeal to our inclination to describe situations using
sentences driven by verbs.

Who or what cleaned the carpet? Was it me, or Elsie, my roomba vacuum
cleaner? Who published that manifesto, was it Karl the communist Person, or
his shadowy Organization?

Who or what broke the greenhouse window, was it Alice, the kid next door,
or that meteorite that fell from the sky?

Who created that huge Apache httpd log file? The running software, the
“admin” unix user account, or Bess the sysadmin? Who accidentally published
it? etc...

Who deleted all my files? Was it an early version of Google Drive, after I
tidied up some aliases on my desktop, or was it me, for not reading the
documentation on whether aliases and symbolic links are followed deeply
when “empty trash” is clicked? Or was it the Operating System “agent”? Or
the situation? Only the latter seems a bit off as an explanation of “which
agent”, since situations can’t be blamed, and agency talk is about our
instinct for blame, responsibility, and simplified explanation.

These kinds of questions are very natural to us. The engage with our
intuition, our animal concern for patterns and causality, and often with
conventions and  structures defined in law. But the question of whether
something “really is” an agent is rarely a sensible one to be asking. Agent
id not a good rdf type; it’s a utility hack, and a shorthand for “people,
orgs and maybe some stuff like that”. Is the Vatican an agent? Wales? The
Spanish Olympic team? The moon?

Writing “things that might be described as having done something” in a
serious font on a carefully maintained site does not bring gravitas or
clarity to the underlying non-definition.

Being a do-er isn’t an intrinsic characteristic of a thing but tied up with
describing how it plays a part in some situation- creating, publishing etc.
Being an Organization or Person also has some fuzzyness but a lot less.

Any webpage can be a software agent, anything throwable can be an agent of
destruction, anything that interacts with other pieces of the universe can
be usefully described as having created changes in the world.

If what you really want is just to say “the values of the /xyz property can
be Persons or Organizations”, there are plenty of other ways to just
express that - English, OWL, SHACL-ShEx etc. Maybe just do that.

An Agent type here can be a useful fiction to bundle together a few things
that often show up in similar settings but which of these two deeply and
fundamentally handwavey definitions to reference on the basis of governance
and supposed quality is the height of busywork!


On Thu, 20 May 2021 at 02:10, Simon Cox ***@***.***> wrote:

> DCAT is a bit bogged-down by using some FOAF terms, while even the authors
> of FOAF have long since moved on to other vocabularies (esp.
> AFAICT there are no obvious like-for-like replacements for foaf:homepage
> and foaf:primaryTopic.
> But it would be a trivial to replace foaf:Agent with dcterms:Agent. I
> can't actually imagine what problems it could cause - @makxdekkers
> <> @andrea-perego
> <>?? It is only pointed to by
> dcterms:creator and dcterms:publisher so it would at least be more
> consistent with DCMI to use the DC class instead of reaching sideways into
> another vocabulary of dubious quality and governance.
> —
> You are receiving this because you are subscribed to this thread.
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Received on Thursday, 20 May 2021 08:07:38 UTC