Definition of person/pseudonyms

“The entity person is restricted to real persons who live or are assumed to
have lived.” p. 19

This definition has been noted in some email discussions.(See below) By limiting the entity Person to real life beings questions come up to how pseudonyms and fictional persons will be handled. Dunsire‘s reply is that a single identifier will be used with display labels for the various personas of the natural person. It is fairly easy to come up with situations in which that may not work (e.g. more than one person for a persona). It also isn’t clear how the various personas will be clearly associated with individual works.

Email discussions:

RDA-L – Weisenmuller – Reply: Dunsire

RDA-L – Maxwell

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6 thoughts on “Definition of person/pseudonyms

  1. Pingback: World-wide review of the FRBR-Library Reference Model, a consolidation of the FRBR, FRAD and FRSAD conceptual models | FRBR Open Comments

  2. The key question with fictitious entities and pseudonyms is whether an implementation of FRBR-LRM can be made to have the desired functionality without allowing them to be modeled as agent entities. Hedrun points out that it doesn’t seem that the fictitious entities and pseudonyms can have attributes of their own if they’re treated as nomens, but there is disagreement as to whether this is important to model. In any event, modeling fictitious entities and pseudonyms as agents would seem to be a less convoluted and more common sense approach. The reason given for not doing is that other cultural heritage groups define agent to mean humans or groups of humans and our data won’t play well with theirs if we don’t do the same. However, if we explicitly declare our assumptions and identify which entities are fictitious or non-human, why wouldn’t our data be interoperable?

    However, I completely fail to understand the exclusion of non-human animals, which do have their own agency and cannot be modeled as an alternate name for some real person. Franz de Waal actually just published a book called Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? (http://www.amazon.com/Are-Smart-Enough-Know-Animals/dp/0393246183), which suggests that maybe we should have some humility about this question. How does FRBR-LRM plan to model animals that create artwork or appear in a film if not as agents?

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  3. Part 1 of my personal response to the FRBR review group.(based on earlier comments on the RDA, FRBR, and PCC lists).

    1. The Bibliographic Universe and Fictitious/Non-Human Entities

    FRBR-LRM is a model. What does it model? By its own terms, it models what has been called “the bibliographic universe.”
    p. 5: “The model covers bibliographic data as understood in a broad, general sense.”
    p. 5: “The study then identifies the characteristics or attributes associated with each entity and the relationships between the entities … [in] the universe of entities described in bibliographic records.”
    p. 13 (LRM-E1, Res, scope notes). “Everything considered relevant to the bibliographic universe, the universe of discourse in this case, is included.

    This is in fact the universe our model must describe. Fortunately it is clear from the above that the proposed FRBR-LRM model describes the bibliographic universe. Point: The bibliographic universe is not the same universe as the “real” universe.

    In the bibliographic universe numerous entities exist that do not exist in the real universe. A “work,” an abstract notion, does not exist in the real universe, for example. Neither for that matter do expressions or manifestations, also abstract notions. They don’t “really” exist, they only exist in our imagination. If we limit our model to entities found in the “real” universe we’ll have to eliminate works, expressions, and manifestations.

    Entities not found in the real universe but that exist in the bibliographic universe include fictitious entities that take responsibility for works, expressions, manifestation and items. These are in fact real individuals (or sometimes real groups) in the bibliographic universe.

    Entities not found in the real universe but that exist in the bibliographic universe include non-human entities who are not fictitious and who take responsibility for works, expressions, manifestations, and items (e.g. animal actors, animal creators of paintings or music). These are in fact real individuals in the bibliographic universe (or sometimes real groups) who are capable of agency.

    Entities not found in the real universe but that exist in the bibliographic universe include bibliographic entities represented by pseudonyms or stage names. These are in fact real individuals (or sometimes real groups) in the bibliographic universe.

    In the bibliographic universe these entities are all real and act as agents. Yet in FRBR-LRM they are expressly excluded from the category of person (and thus agent) in the model, because (I surmise) the authors don’t consider them to be “real” agents. The scope note for person (p. 19, LRM-E7) reads “The entity person is restricted to real persons who live or are assumed to have lived.” The authors mean individuals “who live or are assumed to have lived in the “real” universe”, i.e., not the bibliographic universe. The authors seem to have forgotten which universe is being described by the model. It also seems arbitrary since the same restriction isn’t applied to other “unreal” entities such as work, expression, and manifestation.

    The restriction is arbitrary and does not conform to the “reality” of how the bibliographic universe behaves. In other words, it does not accurately describe the bibliographic universe. This is a serious problem. In the bibliographic universe fictitious characters such as Geronimo Stilton or Hyacinth Bucket are indeed real persons and they do indeed take agency responsibility. In the bibliographic universe, Miss Marple is indeed a real person and she does live or is assumed to have lived. In the bibliographic universe animals are indeed credited with creation (chimpanzees painting, speaking, and writing, elephants making music, whales singing) and contribution (specifically identified animals acting in films).

    Even if the model is restricted to describing the “real” universe (which would make it a less-than-useful model since that’s not in fact what we’re describing), the exclusion of real non-humans from creatorship/contributorship might be described as arrogant and hubristic. Numerous scientific and philosophical works have taken up this issue and conclude that many non-human animals have intelligence, have volition, and are capable of creating things, of acting in the sense of voluntarily doing things (which is the basic definition of what an agent does). Even if this were controversial in the scientific or philosophical world (and I’m not at all sure it is), it certainly isn’t the place of a group of librarians to be making pronouncements on this issue and declaring that animals cannot create works or contribute to expressions. This is outside the expertise of the field of librarianship.

    And why is this restriction necessary, anyway? The model can function perfectly well without narrowly restricting the meaning of “person” or “agent” in this way. Similar international standards do accept “unreal” persons as persons. Schema.org defines the entity “person” as “a person (alive, dead, or fictional)” https://schema.org/Person. The FOAF ontology defines the entity (class) “person” quite generally: “Something is a person if it is a person. We don’t nitpic about whether they’re alive, real, or imaginary. The person class is a sub-class of the agent class.” http://xmlns.com/foaf/spec/#term_Person.

    It has been suggested that an attribute be included for person to indicate non-human-ness, which would take care of any supposed confusions. I suggest that this would be useful for most of the entities. I suggest an attribute “fictitious/real/unknown/undeclared” be added to most entities, including works, expressions, manifestations, persons, families, corporate bodies, places. (I suggest “undeclared” because there are some entities a cataloging database should not take a stand on, such as deities or other supernatural beings.) I don’t think this could be an attribute at the highest “res” level because it’s not applicable to the entity “nomen”—at least in my opinion a nomen either exists or it doesn’t, it isn’t “real” or “fictitious”, though it might be related to a real or fictitious person (etc.).

    I strongly urge IFLA not to include this restriction in the final document. It isn’t necessary to the model and doesn’t coincide with a correct description of the universe the model needs to describe. The authors of FRBR-LRM, who are reasonable persons, clearly feel the restriction is appropriate. I suggest that it is inappropriate for a high-level model to impose such a restriction. The fact that the large majority of commenters on the lists appear to agree that fictitious and non-human entities should be included within the entity “person” (and other entities) and are capable of agency relationships within the bibliographic universe demonstrates that other reasonable persons can disagree with the authors of FRBR-LRM. In fact, it appears that most do disagree.

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  4. This is part 1 of my personal response to the FRBR Review Group, based on comments to the RDA, FRBR, and PCC lists.

    1. The Bibliographic Universe and Fictitious/Non-Human Entities

    FRBR-LRM is a model. What does it model? By its own terms, it models what has been called “the bibliographic universe.”

    p. 5: “The model covers bibliographic data as understood in a broad, general sense.”
    p. 5: “The study then identifies the characteristics or attributes associated with each entity and the relationships between the entities … [in] the universe of entities described in bibliographic records.”
    p. 13 (LRM-E1, Res, scope notes). “Everything considered relevant to the bibliographic universe, the universe of discourse in this case, is included.

    This is in fact the universe our model must describe. Fortunately it is clear from the above that the proposed FRBR-LRM model describes the bibliographic universe. Point: The bibliographic universe is not the same universe as the “real” universe.

    In the bibliographic universe numerous entities exist that do not exist in the real universe. A “work,” an abstract notion, does not exist in the real universe, for example. Neither for that matter do expressions or manifestations, also abstract notions. They don’t “really” exist, they only exist in our imagination. If we limit our model to entities found in the “real” universe we’ll have to eliminate works, expressions, and manifestations.

    Entities not found in the real universe but that exist in the bibliographic universe include fictitious entities that take responsibility for works, expressions, manifestation and items. These are in fact real individuals (or sometimes real groups) in the bibliographic universe.

    Entities not found in the real universe but that exist in the bibliographic universe include non-human entities who are not fictitious and who take responsibility for works, expressions, manifestations, and items (e.g. animal actors, animal creators of paintings or music). These are in fact real individuals in the bibliographic universe (or sometimes real groups) who are capable of agency.

    Entities not found in the real universe but that exist in the bibliographic universe include bibliographic entities represented by pseudonyms or stage names. These are in fact real individuals (or sometimes real groups) in the bibliographic universe.

    In the bibliographic universe these entities are all real and act as agents. Yet in FRBR-LRM they are expressly excluded from the category of person (and thus agent) in the model, because (I surmise) the authors don’t consider them to be “real” agents. The scope note for person (p. 19, LRM-E7) reads “The entity person is restricted to real persons who live or are assumed to have lived.” The authors mean individuals “who live or are assumed to have lived in the “real” universe”, i.e., not the bibliographic universe. The authors seem to have forgotten which universe is being described by the model. It also seems arbitrary since the same restriction isn’t applied to other “unreal” entities such as work, expression, and manifestation.

    The restriction is arbitrary and does not conform to the “reality” of how the bibliographic universe behaves. In other words, it does not accurately describe the bibliographic universe. This is a serious problem. In the bibliographic universe fictitious characters such as Geronimo Stilton or Hyacinth Bucket are indeed real persons and they do indeed take agency responsibility. In the bibliographic universe, Miss Marple is indeed a real person and she does live or is assumed to have lived. In the bibliographic universe animals are indeed credited with creation (chimpanzees painting, speaking, and writing, elephants making music, whales singing) and contribution (specifically identified animals acting in films).

    Even if the model is restricted to describing the “real” universe (which would make it a less-than-useful model since that’s not in fact what we’re describing), the exclusion of real non-humans from creatorship/contributorship might be described as arrogant and hubristic. Numerous scientific and philosophical works have taken up this issue and conclude that many non-human animals have intelligence, have volition, and are capable of creating things, of acting in the sense of voluntarily doing things (which is the basic definition of what an agent does). Even if this were controversial in the scientific or philosophical world (and I’m not at all sure it is), it certainly isn’t the place of a group of librarians to be making pronouncements on this issue and declaring that animals cannot create works or contribute to expressions. This is outside the expertise of the field of librarianship.

    And why is this restriction necessary, anyway? The model can function perfectly well without narrowly restricting the meaning of “person” or “agent” in this way. Similar international standards do accept “unreal” persons as persons. Schema.org defines the entity “person” as “a person (alive, dead, or fictional)” https://schema.org/Person. The FOAF ontology defines the entity (class) “person” quite generally: “Something is a person if it is a person. We don’t nitpic about whether they’re alive, real, or imaginary. The person class is a sub-class of the agent class.” http://xmlns.com/foaf/spec/#term_Person.

    It has been suggested that an attribute be included for person to indicate non-human-ness, which would take care of any supposed confusions. I suggest that this would be useful for most of the entities. I suggest an attribute “fictitious/real/unknown/undeclared” be added to most entities, including works, expressions, manifestations, persons, families, corporate bodies, places. (I suggest “undeclared” because there are some entities a cataloging database should not take a stand on, such as deities or other supernatural beings.) I don’t think this could be an attribute at the highest “res” level because it’s not applicable to the entity “nomen”—at least in my opinion a nomen either exists or it doesn’t, it isn’t “real” or “fictitious”, though it might be related to a real or fictitious person (etc.).

    I strongly urge IFLA not to include this restriction in the final document. It isn’t necessary to the model and doesn’t coincide with a correct description of the universe the model needs to describe. The authors of FRBR-LRM, who are reasonable persons, clearly feel the restriction is appropriate. I suggest that it is inappropriate for a high-level model to impose such a restriction. The fact that the large majority of commenters on the lists appear to agree that fictitious and non-human entities should be included within the entity “person” (and other entities) and are capable of agency relationships within the bibliographic universe demonstrates that other reasonable persons can disagree with the authors of FRBR-LRM. In fact, it appears that most do disagree.

    Like

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