Fictitious and Other Entities in RDA and the Consolidated FR Models

15 August 2015

Fictitious and Other Entities in RDA and the Consolidated FR Models



Submitted by the JSC Working Group on Fictitious Entities

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24 Responses to Fictitious and Other Entities in RDA and the Consolidated FR Models

  1. John Myers says:

    A clear explication of the issues surrounding pseudonymous and fictitious entities.

  2. John Myers says:

    Well before I reached the conclusion paragraph, I made the note, “Models are models and only serve to advance our understanding of a phenomenon. The paper clearly articulates how FRBRoo and CIDOC-CRM do not serve this need with respect to fictitious entities in the context of describing bibliographic resources. Just as RDA has strong roots in ISBD but has rejected slavish adherence to it, so too may RDA be informed by FRBRoo and CIDOC-CRM without slavish adherence there.” I am pleased that the WG essentially reports the same sentiment.

  3. John Myers says:

    Strongly agree with the bolded sentence at the bottom of page 7 “A consolidated FR model should consolidate the definitions in the existing FR models.”

  4. John Myers says:

    As I read further in subparagraph 3 (As a sub-classes of Person) to section 3.3 (FRBR-LRM), I pondered the need for an intermediary class between Agent and Person – i.e. “Individual” to contrast with the communal aspect of Corporate Bodies. This would have the subclasses of Person and [either a collective noun for “non-persons” or further subclasses for the pseudonymous, fictitious, non-human, etc.]. This was shortly followed by the “Ah!!” moment when I read the final paragraph.

  5. John Myers says:

    Concur with the scope and impact of section 5 (Changes to RDA)

  6. Robert Bratton says:

    This is far beyond my area of cataloging expertise, but the points in section 5 about changes to RDA seem reasonable.

  7. Kathy Glennan says:

    I am in full support of this discussion paper.

  8. Kathy Glennan says:

    I should note that there’s a new draft of the International Cataloguing Principles (ICP). The JSC reviewed this draft during the spring.

    The things that the WG quotes from the ICP are still generally in the new draft, which I assume was discussed at IFLA last week.

    For example, here are some of the general principles:

    2.1. Convenience of the user. Convenience means that all efforts should be made to keep all data comprehensible and suitable for the users. The word “user” embraces anyone who searches the catalogue and uses the bibliographic and/or authority data. Decisions taken in the making of
    descriptions and controlled forms of names for access should be made with the user in mind.

    2.3. Representation. A description should represent a resource as it appears. Controlled forms of names of persons, bodies and families should be based on the way an entity describes itself. Controlled forms of work titles should be based on the form appearing on the first manifestation of the original expression. If this is not feasible, the form commonly used in reference sources should be used.

    2.4. Accuracy. Bibliographic and authority data should be an accurate portrayal of the entity described.

  9. Steve Kelley says:

    I support this proposal.

  10. Robert L. Maxwell says:

    Disclaimer: I’m a member of the WG so yes, I do support the paper.

    Since the paper was completed I was talking to my wife, who is also a cataloger, about the FRBR consolidation and the WG report. As we were talking she made an important point that I hadn’t thought of, one I’m sorry we weren’t able to incorporate into our paper, but one which I’d like to repeat here for the record.

    Anyone who designs an entity-relationship model (including FRBR) must first define the universe that the model describes, and then define the entities and relationships within that universe. What our model describes is the bibliographic universe, not the real universe, and they are not coextensive with each other. Within the bibliographic universe, Miss Piggy, Geronimo Stilton, the animal-agents, are all real individuals (persons). Within that universe they can all be agents because that’s how they represent themselves. They are just as real within that universe as are Abraham Lincoln or Julie Andrews. From the point of view of the “real” universe everything in the bibliographic universe is an abstraction, no entity within the bibliographic universe is real, because the bibliographic universe itself isn’t “real” in the same sense as the “real” universe. But the bibliographic universe is the universe we’re describing and entities must be defined in terms of that universe, not the “real” universe. We mustn’t forget that. (I call the lapse of thinking of this important point an example of “not noticing the forest because of all the trees”)

    On the necessity to conform to outside standards and their definitions of things, I draw your attention to Steven Folsom’s message to the PCC list on 22 August, in which he pointed out that the definition at of person is “A person (alive, dead, undead, or fictional)” and at FOAF is “The Person class represents people. Something is a Person if it is a person. We don’t nitpic about whether they’re alive, dead, real, or imaginary.” So it’s hardly as though external standards unanimously contradict the current FRBR/RDA definition of person.

    • John Myers says:

      Nicely articulated!

    • Dominique Bourassa says:

      On behalf of John Attig

      Bob makes a very good point, and I have a lot of sympathy with it. My only concern is that by defining our universe as the bibliographic universe and setting boundaries between it and the “real” universe, we are creating (more likely, perpetuating) the sort of silo that we otherwise wish to avoid.
      In a linked-data environment, it is very difficult to keep our universe distinct from all the other universes out there. We have little control over how our entities are used or interpreted in the wider Internet. And we want to be cautious about cutting ourselves off from the resources of the “real” universe. In this particular case, the constraints we want to put on our entity definitions make sense, both pragmatically and in principle. However, we need to be aware that there are risks in setting our universe apart.

  11. Matthew Haugen says:

    I also support this paper and agree with the above comments. I hope the alternate/real identity relationship designators could then be used to relate among persons, families, and corporate bodies, and not just identities of the same type, similar to “founder” in 6JSC/ALA/43. Also, looking at the proposed reciprocals in 6JSC/ALA/43, also think this proposal raises the possibility that “alternate identity” may have another “alternate identity” as its recirpocal, in such a case where it is not possible to tell which one of the two is “real” or if it is known that neither identity is “real” and the real identity is unknown or unknowable.

    • Robert L. Maxwell says:

      I agree, but (for the “also” suggestion) I think we’d have to eliminate the ability to identify one of the identities as the “real” identity and just have “alternate identity” point both ways, because (as the relationship designators TF was informed) in the structure of relationship designators a relationship designator can only point to one other relationship designator and vice versa. So we can have “alternate identity” point to “real identity” and back, but we can’t have “alternate identity” point to *either* “real identity” *or* “alternate identity.” On the other hand we could simply eliminate “real identity” and have “alternate identity” just point to “alternate identity.” But this is more of a topic for 6JSC/ALA/43.

  12. Tina Shrader says:

    I agree with most of the points made in this paper, and I agree with Bob Maxwell’s comment about treating all entities representing persons the same within our model of the bibliographic universe. I agree with the proposal’s recommendation to expand the definitions of families and corporate bodies to include pseudonymous, fictitious, non-human, etc. entities, and to include relationship designators to accommodate these additional definitions.

  13. Elizabeth Shoemaker says:

    I support this proposal.

  14. Diane Napert says:

    I was not a fan of fictitious entities as creators when the change occurred. However, I now support this as it simplifies things to describe what is presented to us, without having to decide if something has “consciousness” or is “real”
    Also, who am I to keep children from finding Geronimo Stilton?
    I like consistency so support making the definitions of families and corporate bodies consistent
    More relationship designators sounds like it could be cumbersome, but necessary
    I am representing ARSC, but have not gotten comments, so these are my own

  15. Diane Napert says:

    From Jennifer Vaughan ARSC Cataloging Committee:
    I am on board with the general principle that “description and controlled terms of names should be based on the way an entity describes itself.” Pseudonymous corporate names would become related entries to the “real” corporate entity, with their own preferred names, if Adam Schiff’s proposal is adopted. There is a small part of me that wishes that in select cases that these pseudonymous names could be considered Variant names. I keep thinking of the scores of corporate names that dance and big bands used in the 20s and 30s. I don’t think they were necessarily trying to represent themselves with a new, distinct identity, but rather to evade contractual obligations and to sell more records. I guess I would love an exception that gives catalogers the means to take an approach that is determined by the case at hand, instead of being prescribed an approach by RDA. As it is, though, I have a backlog of stuff on my desk that I could finally catalog if I were able to deal with corporate pseudonyms by creating authority records for some of these groups!

  16. Lori Robare says:

    Just wanted to mention that I received comments from Chris Baer, a PCC member, that were too lengthy to post here on the blog, so I have forwarded them to the [rules] list, message dated 8/30/2015, subject line: Comments on 6JSC/FictitiousWG/ paper.

  17. Lori Robare says:

    From Kevin Randall, PCC member:

    I enthusiastically support this paper. Philosophical statements about the nature of the real universe are beyond the scope of RDA. RDA is not intended to be partial to archival agencies (I’m saying this in response to Chris Baer’s comments); it must serve all types of libraries, including public libraries (the ones who seem to be most anxious to be able to use Geronimo Stilton as the name of a creator). Chris’ concerns have to do with scholarship, not library cataloging. If we’re expected to get to “the truth” (not to mention the whole truth, and nothing but the truth) on everything we catalog, we’re going to be so bogged down we’ll never get anywhere. I do believe there should be allowance in the rules for different ways of relating names and resources to meet the purposes of the audience of the metadata. This might mean in some (most?) catalogs you’ll find Miss Piggy as the creator, in others (archives, perhaps) you’ll find Henry Beard. There should be nothing prohibiting the relating of either “real” agents or imaginary agents to resources. We only need to be concerned with the application of appropriate relationship designators between entities. (Perhaps “actual creator”, “purported creator”, etc. etc.)”

  18. Amanda Sprochi says:

    From Richard Moore, BL:

    Disclaimer: I’m a member of the WG so yes, I do support the paper.

    I think it’s worth bearing in mind that although our model must describe the bibliographic universe, we’re striving towards integrated models that can also describe the museum, publishing, rights and other universes. We can probably arrive at a concept of Miss Piggy that works in all those universes – the key thing from our point of view is that she must be able to be recorded as an agent in the bibliographic universe – so a model should not constrain those kinds of thing that can be recorded as agents. I don’t think FRBR-LRM yet has that right, but it shouldn’t be an insurmountable problem. Regarding Chris Baer’s comments, recording non-real-humans as creators doesn’t entail obscuring any truth – we also record that a “person” is fictitious, pseudonymous, non-human, etc., as part of the authority data, and ought to be able to record a “person” in the relationship of purported creator, or mis-attributed creator, when that is known. None of that militates against the archival quest for truth or reliability.

    • Elizabeth O'Keefe says:

      I liked the point Bob Maxwell made about the bibliographic universe being different from the real universe. But I also agree that we will eventually be dealing with other universes in which works are routinely attributed to entities we would never recognize as agents. Within the bibliographic universe, an attribution such as “Follower of Jean Fouquet”, would not be recognized as a creator; within the museum universe, attributions like this are very common. It seems unlikely that this method of attributing works by unknown creators will ever catch on in bibliographic cataloging (“Follower of Mark Twain”?) but it still should be possible for names constructed according to different conventions to co-exist.

  19. Kathy Glennan says:

    Posted on behalf of Glenn Patton

    [These comments] are based in my experience as a member and, later, the chair of the IFLA FRANAR Working Group.

    I’m pleased with the comments that have been added to the CC:DA blog over the past couple of weeks. They have helped me organize my thoughts.

    First, the crucial point is the one that Bob Maxwell has articulated so well: the bibliographic universe which is the basis for the FRAD model is not the same as the “real” universe. If the FRBR Consolidated model is to continue to be useful in helping catalogers understand why we do what we do and to guide us in what we can do better to serve our user communities, the model needs to be grounded more firmly in the bibliographic universe.

    I am in sympathy with the desire for interoperability with the CIDOC-CRM model. I participated in some of the earliest discussions and I believe that the harmonization efforts have brought a number of improvements to the consolidated FRBR model, especially the clarification of the Place entity and the introduction of the Time-span entity.

    The narrowing of the definition of Person to include only “real persons who live or are assumed to have lived” is not an improvement, however, and I would urge the JSC not to follow that path. Bob Maxwell noted Steven Folsom’s posting to the PCC list quoting the definitions of Person used in and FOAF. Both of those vocabularies/dictionaries have been and continue to be used heavily in representing bibliographic information in the linked-data world and maintaining the harmonization among the definitions of Person in RDA and and FOAF would be good in the longer term. I also commend the Working Group for bringing ISNI into the discussion. That the definition used for Person in the ISNI domain is similar to the FRAD definition is not accidental. Several members of the FRAD Working Group have been very active in the development of the ISO standard that established the ISNI and in bringing the ISNI database to life.

    Adopting this narrower definition from FRBRoo and the proposed consolidated FRBR would be a huge step backward in the progress we have made in the Anglo-American cataloging community over the past 60 or 70 years in moving toward describing entities based on how they describe themselves and, thus, as users may expect to find them. Of course, fictitious entities and non-human entities have not been part of cataloging rules prior to RDA but one can look back at the treatment of pseudonyms can illustrate how far we’ve come.

    Perhaps the most important step in that progress was the introduction, as part of the 1998 revision of AACR2, of the concept of “separate bibliographic identities”. While the concept had started to appear as early as the North American text of AACR1 as alternate rule 42B, it was more clearly articulated in the AARC2 1998 revision, 22.2B2. To me, the idea of a bibliographic identity that can be clearly defined — whether it’s a simple case of “real name used for serious works; a pseudonym used for fiction” or the much more complex case of Lauran Paine and his 86 other identities (LCNAF n80038417) — is equally applicable to fictitious characters and other similar entities.

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