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DC-RDA  February 2012

DC-RDA February 2012

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Subject:

Re: The meaning of Subject (and Coverage)

From:

Karen Coyle <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

List for discussion on application profiles and mappings <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 27 Feb 2012 12:42:56 -0800

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

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text/plain (302 lines)

On 2/27/12 10:53 AM, [log in to unmask] wrote:
>   It seems that the "cover" attribute/relationship has been conflated with
> the "about" attribute/relationship

Yes

Is it because the Space and Time facets
> in many library KOSs (reflected in Ranganathan's PMEST facet citation
> pattern) occupy a special place; i.e. can refine/qualify most other primary
> topics?

I think it's more complex than that, but it is true that space and time 
are common facets in subjects. The complexity comes about, IMO, because 
places (and perhaps very rarely, times) can be subjects in themselves as 
well as qualifiers on other subjects. Without specific structure (a' la 
Ranganathan) it's hard to interpret whether a place name is a topic in 
itself or essentially an adjective on the topic:
   e.g. are these equivalent:
     dc:subject "France"
     dc:subject "Cooking"

     dc:subject "French cooking"

This is a problem with other combinations of terms ("Dogs" "Cooking"), 
but the geographic "case" tends to get singled out because it is so common.

>
> Whatever, some recent thinking suggests that the about/subject/topicality
> relationship is adequately represented by a single RDF property, such as
> dct:subject or frsad:"has as subject".

could you say more about this, or point to the recent thinking?


>There is no requirement for a
> specific-subject (sub-)property such as frbrer:"has as subject (place)"
> (and its 10 companions, one for each Group entity), because this can be
> represented by an Application Profile Vocabulary Encoding Scheme or KOS,
> for example LCSH, DDC, local SKOS vocabulary, etc.

I don't see how an AP resolves this, that is, how an AP overcomes the 
lack of a "subject (place)". I do think that to some extent vocabularies 
can help if the values are represented by URIs from vocabularies that 
specify a subject "type." If your value is an entry from GeoNames, or is 
a geographical subject from LCSH, then you probably have what you need 
to clarify that the subject is a place. But dct:subject can have 
literals as values, and for those there is no distinction. What one 
might end up with is a metadata world where those distinctions between 
types are available only for some RDF-defined vocabularies but not for 
literals. Actually, that seems to be what we have today for dct:subject.

We should also note that we don't yet have a way to describe a 
vocabulary that has facets. In part that is what was attempted with MADS 
in RDF, but unfortunately that ontology is forced to replicate the whole 
of the MARC Authorities record, so it's a bit messy. I think it would be 
interesting to postulate a FKOS - faceted knowledge organization system 
- language.

>
> There is a property in the RDA namespace, rda:coverageOfTheContentWork,
> which seems very similar to dct:coverage. It is defined as "The
> chronological or geographic coverage of the content of a resource."
> Unfortunately, "coverage" isn't defined, and the examples in the RDA
> Toolkit are at the fringe of the "aboutness" boundary: "Based on 1981
> statistics" (but presumably not about the year 1981 ...); and "Shows all of
> western Europe and some of eastern Europe" (if a map, then perhaps "about"
> Europe, but if a flag ...).

Yes, we'd need a definition of "coverage" as well as a definition of 
"content". It sure sounds "subject-y" the way it is written, so it needs 
a distinction between "content" and "subject."

However, I must add that if the differences are hard to define, they 
will be equally hard for people to implement in their metadata. (And 
here I'm talking more about DC than RDA, the latter presumably requiring 
training that the former does not anticipate.) My first reaction to 
Diane's post about the differences in meaning was something along the 
lines of: "AS IF changing the definition will actually change what 
people put in the field." :-) I think the distinctions between the 
fields needs to be fairly "natural" to people who are creating the 
metadata, and the definitions need to make differences neatly. Well, I 
guess the other option is to give up any concept of guiding the usage of 
the fields. :-(

kc

>
> Cheers
>
> Gordon
>
>
> On 27 February 2012 at 16:35 Karen Coyle<[log in to unmask]>  wrote:
>
>> Between Barbara's reply and Joe's it sounds like dc:coverage should be
>> expressly NOT topical. Now I'm REALLY confused about what it's supposed
>> to be.
>>
>> kc
>>
>> On 2/27/12 5:52 AM, Joseph Tennis wrote:
>>> Sorry if I've missed something in this thread, but I believe
>>> dc:coverage is at least in part a contribution from the archives and
>>> records management fields to DCMES.  That is, a treaty or contract of
>>> sale or any other record could "cover" something (e.g., Vancouver, BC
>>> from now 'til 2020) and not be "about" the same thing (e.g., exchange
>>> of land rights from the crown to an indigenous nation).  If this
>>> holds, and if RDA intends on being useful to both librarianship and
>>> archivy then it has to contend with different domain models such as
>>> this.  I know it's my old axe at this point, but purpose guides
>>> design and implementation, and the purposes discussed below are very
>>> library-y ;-) -- not very archivy-y.
>>>
>>> I remember being in Singapore saying that we should to a UB AP to
>>> make the semantics of these two clearer without changing their
>>> DCTERMS domains and ranges, but that work item was never completed in
>>> the UB.
>>>
>>> Happy Monday, all!
>>>
>>> joe
>>>
>>> Joseph T. Tennis Assistant Professor The Information School
>>> University of Washington
>>>
>>> Reviews Editor, Knowledge Organization
>>>
>>> [log in to unmask] faculty.washington.edu/jtennis
>>>
>>> On Feb 27, 2012, at 5:11 AM, Tillett, Barbara wrote:
>>>
>>>> Couldn't the "topic," i.e., "Subject," be what the thing is
>>>> "about"?  We have other attributes to use for the form or genre or
>>>> medium of performance or other aspects.  - Barbara
>>>>
>>>> -----Original Message----- From: List for discussion on application
>>>> profiles and mappings [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of
>>>> Karen Coyle Sent: Friday, February 24, 2012 5:57 PM To:
>>>> [log in to unmask] Subject: Re: [DC-RDA] The meaning of Subject
>>>> (and Coverage)
>>>>
>>>> This is a great example of how hard it is to define "topic of."
>>>>
>>>> In MARC21 data, there are subject headings that are geographical in
>>>> nature (and they are coded as "geographical subject headings" not
>>>> just "subject headings": tag 651, as opposed to tag 650 for
>>>> "topical topics"). Geographical subject headings are used when the
>>>> primary topic of the resource is the geographical area ("California
>>>> -- History"). You can also have geographical facets in subject
>>>> headings (at least in LCSH). That is when there is a main topic
>>>> ("Dog breeding") with a geographical aspect ("in Canada").
>>>>
>>>> There are also places in the record to put geographical info when
>>>> the resource is itself geographical in nature (e.g. a map, which
>>>> can get scale and coordinates).[1] So if your map is coded with
>>>> geographical coordinates for Berkeley, California, can you consider
>>>> Berkeley, California the subject of the map? I think many people
>>>> would. There is also a field that gives hierarchical geographical
>>>> access to publications like newspapers [2] based on where they are
>>>> published (which is often their main topical coverage as well, such
>>>> as "The San Francisco Chronicle").
>>>>
>>>> Note that changing the definition of dc:subject also means
>>>> re-thinking dc:coverage, which has this definition:
>>>>
>>>> "The spatial or temporal topic of the resource, the spatial
>>>> applicability of the resource, or the jurisdiction under which the
>>>> resource is relevant."
>>>>
>>>> Is dc:coverage still to be used for "space or temporal topic"? If
>>>> it is decided that space and temporal topics would be covered by
>>>> dc:subject and dc:coverage is only suitable for "...the spatial
>>>> applicability of the resource, or the jurisdiction under which the
>>>> resource is relevant" then we have to consider whether people will
>>>> reasonably be able to make the distinction between "spatial
>>>> applicability" and "space... topic." Note that such a change also
>>>> removes the "temporal" aspect of dc:coverage, at least as it is now
>>>> defined.
>>>>
>>>> I think something would be lost by putting geographical names in
>>>> "subject." A bit less is lost if the geographical name is a URI
>>>> within, say, GeoNames, that clearly indicates the
>>>> "geographicalness" of the value. But DC doesn't require URIs. This
>>>> is also true for temporal topics -- which probably actually need
>>>> their own property apart from geographical aspects, but that's
>>>> water under the bridge.
>>>>
>>>> I think changing the definition of dc:subject would, in fact, have
>>>> to also change the definition of dc:coverage. In addition, it would
>>>> require people to make the difficult distinction between "topically
>>>> about" and "geographically applicable," something that I think is
>>>> extremely hard and therefore not something we should require of
>>>> people using DC. The current situation is not ideal, by any means,
>>>> but I believe that the suggested change would make it worse.
>>>>
>>>> kc
>>>>
>>>> [1]http://loc.gov/marc/bibliographic/bd034.html [2]
>>>> http://www.loc.gov/marc/bibliographic/bd752.html
>>>>
>>>> On 2/24/12 1:20 PM, Thomas Baker wrote:
>>>>> Dear all,
>>>>>
>>>>> Since 2006, the usage "comment" for the definition of dc:subject
>>>>> (and since 2008, dcterms:subject) has included the following
>>>>> sentence [1,2,3]:
>>>>>
>>>>> To describe the spatial or temporal topic of the resource, use
>>>>> the Coverage element.
>>>>>
>>>>> The intent was to provide guidance on when to use Coverage:
>>>>>
>>>>> The spatial or temporal topic of the resource... [5]
>>>>>
>>>>> and when to use Subject, which had a clearly overlapping
>>>>> definition:
>>>>>
>>>>> The topic of the resource. [6]
>>>>>
>>>>> I recently had a chat about this with Gordon, who points out --
>>>>> and I'll let him elaborate -- that current notions of subject
>>>>> ("aboutness") do not treat "spatial or temporal" topics
>>>>> separately from any other topics.
>>>>>
>>>>> In my reading of meeting notes and decision documents from the
>>>>> time (see "Background" below), the addition of the sentence
>>>>> quoted above to the Comment for Subject was not intended as a
>>>>> clarification of the formal definition of Subject, but rather as
>>>>> guidance about "which element to use" at a time when people
>>>>> commonly wanted to use the fifteen elements in non-overlapping
>>>>> ways.
>>>>>
>>>>> If this usage guideline is now unhelpful, should it be removed
>>>>> (after due process of course)?
>>>>>
>>>>> Tom
>>>>>
>>>>>
>>>>>
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
>>>>>
>>>>>
>> Background
>>>>>
>>>>> The sentence from the Comment for Subject, quoted above, was
>>>>> added at the time the definition of Coverage was changed from:
>>>>>
>>>>> The extent or scope of the content of the resource. [4]
>>>>>
>>>>> to:
>>>>>
>>>>> The spatial or temporal topic of the resource, the spatial
>>>>> applicability of the resource, or the jurisdiction under which
>>>>> the resource is relevant. [5]
>>>>>
>>>>> as explained in [3].  This brought the definition of Coverage
>>>>> very close to the definition of Subject:
>>>>>
>>>>> The topic of the resource. [6]
>>>>>
>>>>> At the time, it was widely felt that Dublin Core elements should
>>>>> not overlap in meaning; indeed, it was not until 2008 that
>>>>> Creator was declared to be a subproperty of Contributor [7].  As
>>>>> near as I can tell, then, the sentence quoted above was added to
>>>>> the usage comment for Subject in an effort to provide guidance to
>>>>> users about "which element to use" in a case where two
>>>>> definitions clearly overlapped.
>>>>>
>>>>> [1] http://dublincore.org/documents/dcmi-terms/#subject [2]
>>>>> http://dublincore.org/documents/dcmi-terms/#terms-subject [3]
>>>>>
> http://dublincore.org/usage/decisions/2006/2006-03.dcmes-changes.shtml
>>>>>
>>>>>
>> [4] http://dublincore.org/documents/2006/08/28/dcmi-terms/#coverage
>>>>> [5]
>>>>> http://dublincore.org/documents/2006/12/18/dcmi-terms/#coverage
>>>>> [6]
>>>>> http://dublincore.org/documents/2006/12/18/dcmi-terms/#subject
>>>>> [7]
>>>>> http://dublincore.org/usage/decisions/2008/dcterms-changes/#sect-3
>>>>>
>>>>
>>>>
>>>>>
>> --
>>>> Karen Coyle [log in to unmask] http://kcoyle.net ph: 1-510-540-7596
>>>> m: 1-510-435-8234 skype: kcoylenet
>>
>> --
>> Karen Coyle
>> [log in to unmask] http://kcoyle.net
>> ph: 1-510-540-7596
>> m: 1-510-435-8234
>> skype: kcoylenet

-- 
Karen Coyle
[log in to unmask] http://kcoyle.net
ph: 1-510-540-7596
m: 1-510-435-8234
skype: kcoylenet

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