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Re: Open Library and RDF

From: Thomas Baker <tbaker@tbaker.de>
Date: Sun, 15 Aug 2010 15:55:07 -0400
To: Karen Coyle <kcoyle@kcoyle.net>
Cc: "gordon@gordondunsire.com" <gordon@gordondunsire.com>, "Young,Jeff (OR)" <jyoung@oclc.org>, public-lld@w3.org
Message-ID: <20100815195507.GB1420@octavius>
On Sat, Aug 14, 2010 at 03:19:36PM -0700, Karen Coyle wrote:
> >Is everyone involved in the process happy with this?
> This depends on what you mean by "involved in the process"? The FR  
> committees and JSC (developers of RDA) are in accord on this  
> principle, but there is considerable dissent in the US library  
> community, in particular from specialist communities who tend to have  
> different definitions of what constitutes a W,E,M. These differences  
> are simmering in the background because as yet there is no  
> implementation of FRBR as a data carrier. If this "strong" view of  
> WEMI is constrained in the carrier, some folks are not going to be  
> able to create metadata that expresses their community view.

Or as Halpin and Hayes put it [1]:

    Just because a construct in a knowledge representation
    language is prescribed a behavior using formal semantics does
    not necessarily mean that people will follow those semantics
    when actually using that language "in the wild".  This can
    be laid down to a wide variety of reasons.  In particular,
    the language may not provide the facilities needed by people
    as they actually try to encode knowledge, so they may use a
    construct that _seems_ close enough to their desired one.
    A combination of not reading specifications -- especially
    formal semantics, which even most software developers and
    engineers lack training in -- and the labeling of constructs
    with "English-like" mnemonics naturally will lead to the use of
    a knowledge representation language by actual users that varies
    from what its designers intended.  In decentralized systems
    like the Semantic Web, this problem is naturally exacerbated.

This suggests that it might be wiser, especially with a
relatively untested language such as FRBR, to follow the
principle of minimal ontological commitment [2]:

    An ontology should require the minimal ontological commitment
    sufficient to support the intended knowledge sharing
    activities. An ontology should make as few claims as possible
    about the world being modeled, allowing the parties committed
    to the ontology freedom to specialize and instantiate the
    ontology as needed. Since ontological commitment is based on
    consistent use of vocabulary, ontological commitment can be
    minimized by specifying the weakest theory (allowing the most
    models) and defining only those terms that are essential to
    the communication of knowledge consistent with that theory.

I take you to be saying that the official "strong" view
reflects a specialized view of one part of the community.
Do the FR and RDA committees anticipate that the vocabularies
will only be used by (and of interest to) bibliographic
experts with MLS degrees?  Do they not anticipate that
commercial companies, government agencies, or other types of
organizations might want to embrace FRBR concepts and adapt
them to their needs?  Raising the bar ontologically would
help ensure that their use is limited to controlled contexts
(or at any rate used incorrectly outside those contexts).
Or is that perhaps the point?


[1] http://events.linkeddata.org/ldow2010/papers/ldow2010_paper09.pdf
[2] Gruber, Thomas. 1995. Toward Principles for the Design of
    Ontologies Used for Knowledge Sharing. International
    Journal Human-Computer Studies 43(5-6): 907-928.

Thomas Baker <tbaker@tbaker.de>
Received on Sunday, 15 August 2010 19:55:54 UTC

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