RDA, JSC, DCAM, RDF, FRBR

And other impenetrable acronyms.

I share the generalized optimism toward the recent announcement of the DC/RDA joint project.

It’s confusing to talk and think about these sorts of ideas, because to talk about metadata like this, you need to talk so very abstractly. We try to mean very precise things, but we don’t always have the precise words to describe them, or to be understood by people who may not mean the same things by the same words.

I’ve been confused by the DCAM for a while, myself. As I keep circling around and around trying to understand what’s going on, at this particular stage in my circling I’ve found this paper, Towards an Interoperability Framework for Metadata Standards, by Nilsson et al, to be very helpful, and I think I’m getting closer to understanding what DCAM is. When I go and look at my comments made to Pete Johnston’s blog post, linked above, around five months ago, already I wouldn’t ask those same questions now (although I can’t exactly answer them in clear language either–so tricky to talk about this stuff!)

I do start to wonder, though: Is DCAM trying to solve the _exact_ same problem RDF is? Is there any reason to have both? What does DCAM have that the “RDF suite” does not? Nilsson et al do say that “The RDF suite of specifications, however, follow a more similar pattern to the framework presented here.”

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4 Responses to RDA, JSC, DCAM, RDF, FRBR

  1. Irvin Flack says:

    In my (simplistic and very possibly incorrect) view I see DCAM as an interim step in expressing DC in RDF. It is based on the DC elements but once the DCAM has been developed, the DC elements are no longer essential, any element set can be used (eg RDA). Like Wittgenstein’s ladder, the DC elements can be thrown away once we’ve climbed up them to the DCAM.

    What I like about this RDA/DC project is that it should allow us to truly look at catalologuing metadata from a clean slate, unlike the current RDA, which has been hamstrung by having to work from the existing AACR and therefore can only really pay lip service to FRBR.

    What will happen though, I wonder, when we start from the abstractions of FRBR and try to work down to specifics? I’m interested to see if it will all work. In some ways I’m more attracted to Svenonius’ ‘set theory’ approach to the abstract entities such as works (eg a work is a set of documents) rather than the top down approach of FRBR. But it’s all exciting stuff.

  2. jrochkind says:

    Good points, Irvin, that does seem to make sense.

    I like Svenonius’ set theory approach too, and don’t actually think it’s at all incompatible with the FRBR entity-relational model. I think they are very compatible and complementary, the FRBR model can be thought about as a way of representing a set theory model too. That’s the way I like to think about it and talk about it. I’ve heard other people before express that they think the two perspectives are in contradiction too, but it doesn’t seem so to me. If I were teaching the FRBR model to someone, I’d want to make sure to teach the set theory way of looking at the Group 1 entities as part of it.

  3. Irvin Flack says:

    Right, I see your point about them being compatible. The thing I like about the set theory approach is that it gets (for me) the order of things right: starting from concrete things (documents, web pages, etc.) we abstract a work from them. I guess it’s a revisit of the old Plato vs Aristotle view of universals. I tend to fall on Aristotle’s side. I don’t visualise in my mind an eternal ‘Hamlet’ floating out there in the ether which is realised in concrete forms. I see a stack of documents that are similar enough for us to group them under that title. We cataloguers then need to do the messy business of agreeing what ‘similar enough’ means (enter AACR/RDA). But I know what you mean — the FRBR model can handle both viewpoints.

  4. jrochkind says:

    I agree entirely, Irvin.

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