[crm-sig] Re: [crm-adhoc] Subject

martin martin at ics.forth.gr
Tue Jan 15 12:35:00 EET 2002

Hi Tony,

Thank you very much for that.

What was meant was the definition of "subject" in issue 14:
"How to model 'subjects' ".The CRM has no definition of subject so far, 
only of reference and depiction.

It may also be interesting to look at real life practice:
E.g. to my knowledge, DC proposes not to encode persons appearing in a text
or images as "subject".
AMOL must have invested some effort in defining the meaning of "subject" for
things like toys etc. 

The question is, if it is beneficial for the CRM to deal
with so generalized a notion. Can an object, which does neither contain language
(text or sound) nor image, nor is meant to represent anything by its shape (sculpture)
have a "subject"?

Is subject something that comes out of the object, or is it that comes out of my interest?

I regard a library catalogue by subject as something representing more our interests
than the independent nature of the object. In such a view, it makes sense to assign
a subject to a toy or a hammer, like the practice of classifying with SHIC, and
close to Welty's definition and the VRA below. 

The IFLA definition is opposite to that. It is the explicit "aboutness" of an object.
Also DC seems to suggest an "aboutness": a "topic" of a resource.

That raises also the question of part-whole relationships of subjects: overall subject,
minor subjects, subject of individual phrases etc.

May be for the CRM, we should look at real data and formats, and make a decision about 
which existing practice and data we regard as in the practical scope. 

I propose to make an absolutely clear cut between the "aboutness" and the "being".

I hope for many opinions on this matter on this list.



Tony Gill wrote:
> Martin wrote:
> "A better definition of Subject is required.
> Tony Gill to circulate the way RLG & DC deal with this. Patrick le Boeuf
> to circulate the way FRBR deals with this."
> I can't remember now why we need a "better" definition of subject, as I
> can't find *any* definition of it in the CRM whatsoever at present...
> Anyhow, here goes:
> It turns out that Subject is a pretty difficult concept to define -- it's
> so elemental, so fundamental to library cataloguing that it almost defies
> definition. The section on the 6XX fields of MARC 21 is all about Subject
> Access Fields, for example, yet it says very little about what exactly a
> subject *is*: http://www.loc.gov/marc/bibliographic/ecbdsubj.html. It
> seems to be taken for granted that everyone knowa what "subject" means.
> Here are a few definitions of subject that I've managed to find:
> ============================================================
> I. Merriam Webster online Thesaurus
> "The basic idea or the principal object of attention in a discourse or
> artistic composition"
> >From http://www.m-w.com/cgi-bin/thesaurus
> ============================================================
> II. Dublin Core: Subject
> Element: Subject
> Name:        Subject and Keywords
> Identifier:  Subject
> Definition:  The topic of the content of the resource.
> Comment:     Typically, a Subject will be expressed as keywords, key
> phrases or classification codes that describe a topic of the resource.
> Recommended best practice is to select a value from a controlled
> vocabulary or formal classification scheme.
> >From http://dublincore.org/documents/dces/
> ============================================================
> III. IFLA FRBR, Subject Relationships
> The "has as subject" relationship indicates that any of the entities in
> the model, including work itself, may be the subject of a work. Stated in
> slightly different terms, the relationship indicates that a work may be
> about a concept, an object, an event, or place; it may be about a person
> or corporate body; it may be about an expression, a manifestation, or an
> item; it may be about another work. The logical connection between a work
> and a related subject entity serves as the basis both for identifying the
> subject of an individual work and for ensuring that all works relevant to
> a given subject are linked to that subject.
> >From http://www.ifla.org/VII/s13/frbr/frbr2.htm#5.2
> ============================================================
> IV. Welty & Jenkins, Formal Ontology for Subject
> Provides an interesting etymology and history of "subject", before
> positing that subjects are regions of topic-space:
> "Inspired by the origins of the word itself, we proposed and briefly
> explored the view of topics in a digital library as multi-dimensional
> spaces.
> The objects in these spaces have no limits on the number of places they
> may appear in, and the spaces have no limit on the other spaces they
> may border, contain, be contained in, or overlap with. In addition to
> these formal mereotopological relationships, we also proposed using
> empirical data to represent the degree of overlap between topics, when
> appropriate."
> >From http://www.cs.vassar.edu/faculty/welty/papers/subjects/subject.html
> ============================================================
> V. VRA Core Categories v3.0: SUBJECT
> Qualifiers: None
> Description: Terms or phrases that describe, identify, or interpret the
> Work or Image and what it depicts or expresses.  These may include proper
> names (e.g., people or events), geographic designations (places), generic
> terms describing the material world, or topics (e.g., iconography,
> concepts, themes, or issues).
> Data Values: recommend AAT, TGM, ICONCLASS, Sears Subject Headings
> >From http://php.indiana.edu/~fryp/vracore3.htm#subject
> ============================================================
> Cheers,
> T.
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
> Tony Gill <> tony.gill at notes.rlg.org
> Research Libraries Group <> http://www.rlg.org/
> 1200 Villa Street, Mountain View, CA 94041 USA
> Voice: +1 (650) 691-2304 <> Fax: +1 (650) 964-1461


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