[Crm-sig] dissemination of CRM

Christian-Emil Ore c.e.s.ore at edd.uio.no
Mon May 5 13:28:23 EEST 2008

Dear Nick and all other on the list,

I think this discussion is important.

The CRM is a excellent model and is extremely useful as a modelling 
tool. We (in my unit) have used it to model databases for archaeology, 
mediaeval ballads, a database for  design and architecture 1950-1970, 
etc. It is not hard to explain the CRM if one keep out of the details. 
However, when one's "students" are left alone with the model definition, 
they often feel that it is impenetrable and give up.

Why is this so?
1) It is always a painful and tiring process to learn new stuff
2) The CRM is too complex and too theoretically formulated
3) Museum people are not interested in formal stuff and in computers
4) People tend to select paths that looks easy in the beginning

1, 3 and 4 are constant.  As I wrote in  my first email, I think we 
should follow two tracks:

1) a research track including Wittgenstein's language philosophy if one 
find this relevant and interesting

2) a practical track with to make the basic principles of the CRM 
understandable for museum/ cultural heritage persons.

The two tracks should not be disconnected. The more popularised version 
of the CRM, if I may use such an expression, should compatible with the 
more theoretically formulated one.

Personally, I find the theoretical approach interesting and mind 
stimulating. Professionally, as the chair of CIDOC I observe that we 
need good modelling tool for museum documentation. I believe a 
simplified version of the CRM with at least the three basic features: 
events, abstract content, and identifier-object distinction will enrich 
the museum documentation,  and if done in coherent manner, will enable 
us to interconnect the information hidden in the museums and the museum 
systems. There is also a not small task to teach curators that a 
computer system can be used to store contextual information and not only 
basic information about the artefact.

The main question is where to find resources. The development of CRM and 
FRBRoo has been funded by research money. It may be harder to get 
research funding for the development of tutorial material etc.

Any ideas?


On 01.05.2008 13:00, Nick Poole wrote:
> Dear CRM-ers,
> I think it is time for a heavy dose of reality here. I recognise and applaud the motives underlying the development of the CRM, but you have to realise that, to the vast majority of ordinary human beings, it is pure gibberish.
> I hold degrees in the philosophy of science and linguistics from the Universities of Cambridge and London and have over 15 years experience in programming web-based applications and the majority of the time, I do not understand a word you are saying. Even the fact you are referencing Frege - known to philosophy students around the world as one of the most impenetrable of all philosophers, demonstrates how far divorced this discussion has become from the realities of managing a collection.
> I know, and accept, that processes like this can often become tantalising for structuralists and theorists alike, but if you go too far down this road, you have to accept that your construct - no matter how conceptually brilliant - will never be accepted.
> I have watched with mounting frustration the latter stages of the development of the CRM (ever since the FRBoo moment in Gothenberg). The original CRM was a good job - at that point, you should have left the product alone and set about the marketing of it to the sector. Instead, the SIG has tended to go in search of ever more arcane applications and alliances, coupled to recursive and highly technical discussions of points of utter minutiae.
> I draw your attention to the following text from your own homepage: "The CIDOC Conceptual Reference Model (CRM) provides definitions and a formal structure for describing the implicit and explicit concepts and relationships used in cultural heritage documentation." It certainly doesn't seem that this is the focus any more!
> Days ago, I emailed the list offering to put time and money into an international alliance focussed on making the CRM more directly applicable and meaningful to the sector. I apologise if this message was insufficiently clear,  but I find it fascinating that the message garnered absolutely *no* response whatsoever.
> I apologise for the bluntness of this message, but the fact is that the CRM is at a crossroads. If the SIG continues to treat it as an academic exercise, then you will have to accept that nobody will adopt it. If you want to popularise it, then you will have to abandon the detailed discussion and focus on simple methods and applications (and that 'simple' as in comprehensible to humans, not as in 'set theory'!)
> I await your response with interest!
> Nick
> Nick Poole
> Chief Executive
> Collections Trust
> www.collectionstrust.org.uk
> www.collectionslink.org.uk
> www.cuturalpropertyadvice.gov.uk
> Tel:  01223 316028
> Fax:  01223 364658
> Until the end of April 2008, the Collections Trust's legal trading name is: MDA (Europe) Ltd
> Company Registration No: 1300565
> Reg. Office: 22 Hills Road, Cambridge, CB2 1JP.
> The Collections Trust believes that everybody, everywhere should have the right to access and benefit from cultural collections. Our aim is to develop programmes and standards which help connect people and culture.
> The Collections Trust was launched from its predecessor body, the MDA, in March 2008.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: crm-sig-bounces at ics.forth.gr [mailto:crm-sig-bounces at ics.forth.gr] On Behalf Of Christian-Emil Ore
> Sent: 01 May 2008 11:34
> To: Guenther Goerz
> Cc: crm-sig
> Subject: Re: [Crm-sig] Issue: E89 Propositional Object and Symbolic Object, CRM compliant and museum doc.
> Dear Günther
> There may be a misunderstanding here. I have no problems personally with
> the CRM. I am completely aware that we don't need neither set theory or
> higher order type theory. I also appreciate Frege for example his
> definition of a number: The number 5 is 'to count to 5'. Altenatively,
> the number 5 is what is common for all sets containing 5 elements. This
> is in fact very parallel to what the nat.historians try to express with
> their species concept.
> My main concern is how we should disseminate a good understanding of
> what the CRM is and why it is useful as a (conceptual) tool for
> integrating information in the cultural heritage sector.
> It is clear that the activities in the CRM SIG are and perhaps also
> should be focused on the development of the CRM as an ontology. It may
> also be so that the CRM SIG for these reasons no longer (perhaps it has
> never been) is a group primarily for museum documentalists but for
> people interested in analytic philosophy, ontologies and semantics and
> the semantic web (in the computer science understanding). I have no
> problems with that.
> Still I think we should keep in mind why the work on the CRM was
> initiated: The CIDOC ER model was not satisfactory and one saw the need
> for a better model for data interchange in the cultural heritage sector.
> The development of the CRM is a great success but if all memory
> institutions use DC instead we have failed and the CRM will just be
> another interesting exercise. I too often meet people who says the CRM
> is too abstract or somewhat better' we have been inspired by the CRM but
> the entire model is too complex for our needs'. This is an attitude I
> have observed also among advanced groups in humanities' computing. This
> worries me.
> Compared to standard practice and models in the cultural heritage sector
> there are three major new features in the CRM: Events, abstract objects
> (abstract content of intellectual works, concepts (e.g. species in
> nat.hist) and more specific abstract motifs of images) and the strict
> distinction between a name and the object it denotes. In most museum
> databases there are no explicit events, implicit events are thought to
> be identical to their identifier and the databases are focused only on
> material objects even in art museum database. We all know this.
> In my opinion we need both to continue to develop the CRM and to make it
> more accessible. If we could convince the museum community that they
> should start to document events, abstract objects and make a distinction
> between the denotation and the denoted object The CRM core is a step to
> make the CRM more easily understandable. The main question is: How do we
> find resources to write tutorial material and make it more
> understandable to a wider community. At the Heraklion meeting in 2006, I
> said that a transcript of Stephen Stead's introduction would be a good
> starting point. I still below it would be.
> Regards,
> Christian-Emil
> On 30.04.2008 00:48, Guenther Goerz wrote:
>> Dear Christian-Emil,
>> I think there is no need to be worried.  Basically, things are quite
>> easy to understand and no set theory and no higher order logic are
>> required, although the proposed scope note for E89 seems to me rather
>> myterious and not very helpful. I think, the essentials can be
>> explained in a rather simple way which everybody will be able to
>> understand.
>> So let's start with a basic everyday scenario: Given a material object
>> we can point to --- common agreement about that simple fact assumed
>> ---, we could use
>> a) a proper noun to address it (like "Emil"), or
>> b) a common noun or a definite description (as "man")
>> to refer to it.  The second case explains the use of the term "man" by
>> pointing to examples (and counterexamples).  In this way, we can only
>> address or refer to individuals, but not concepts: you can point to
>> the sign "IIIIIII" or "VII" or --- taken the cultural history of
>> number writng systems for granted --- the sign "7" , but not to the
>> concept of "number 7" oder just the concept of "number".  Predication,
>> of course, is not a definition.  If we want to define the concept of
>> "man" or "number", we need some more linguistic expressivity.
>> How do we get to concepts?  Frege says, by abstraction, in the
>> following way: Under a given goal or purpose, we name explicitly and
>> positively certain properties, and we collect individuals which have
>> the same properties in a class, e.g. we collect all objects
>> representing the same number of counting signs in a class.
>> Mathematically spoken, this is an equivalence class partition, but
>> this can be handled by practicioners without understanding equivalence
>> relations at all.  The decisive point is that we make a
>> linguistic/logical transition (only, no psychological operation etc.
>> --- keep in mind that Frege's abstraction was introduced at the time
>> where psychologism in mathematics was heavily criticzed) in that we
>> now speak about "abstract objects", but those are nothing else than
>> equivalence classes where any element may be used as a representative:
>> take seven strokes at the wall or seven nodes in a quipu or seven eggs
>> in a basket... No secret at all behind the concept of "number". So,
>> abstraction is a methodological "facon de parler", we speak about the
>> same individual objects in a new fashion: Abstracta are
>> linguistic/logical constructs, i.e. objects of language, and nothing
>> mental (as the tradition from Aristotle through Ockham --- yes, also
>> the Nominalists were mentalists --- to Descartes claimed).
>> If we build sentences which contain a defined concept as, e.g.,
>> "number", we speak "about" it, e.g. "The number 7 is a prime number"
>> (given the definition of prime numbers in advance).
>> This should be sufficient to demystify the Dahlberg diagram (although
>> I don't agree with everything she claims): We have an object, item of
>> reference, we use a linguistic sign to refer to it and we build
>> abstractions ("synthesis") by explicitly naming relevant properties.
>> Furthermore, we can construct sentences which say something "about" an
>> item of reference, i.e. by subsuming it under a given class, talk
>> about values of its properties, etc. So, I think, quite simple, no
>> artificial popularization level required, and no reason to worry.
>> The object-centered perspective comes in if we arrange concepts in a
>> hierarchy, i.e. if we describe prime numbers as a special kind of
>> numbers, etc., given by a terminological rule "if n is a prime number
>> then n is a number", etc.  Assuming  appropriate definitions, then
>> prime numbers "inherit" all general properties any number has... a
>> rather obvious idea.  As for granularity, there is no general
>> recommendation except the fact that the degree of detail of a
>> description depends on the what you want to do with it; even as a
>> physicist you will not describe a piece of wood in quantum mechanical
>> terms if you want to build a table, but if you are planning some a
>> material science experiment you might want to extend your description
>> to the atomic level for obvious reasons.
>> Would you think that I left out something VERY important??
>> Hope this helps,
>> best wishes,
>> -- Guenther Goerz
>> On 4/29/08, Christian-Emil Ore <c.e.s.ore at edd.uio.no> wrote:
>>> Dear all,
>>>  I follow the interesting discussion about E89 Propositional Object and
>>>  Symbolic Object, 'refer to' and 'is about'. This is a non trivial topic
>>>  and  specially interesting for people with background in formal
>>>  philosophy or logic. That is ok for me since I have this background (set
>>>  theoretical models for higher order type theory).
>>>  The introduction of  higher level philosophical concepts in the model
>>>  may make the model harder to understand for persons without special
>>>  training in and/or interest in formal logic. This worries me.
>>>  One of the major advantages of CRM is the possibility to use the object
>>>  oriented formalism to choose levels of granularity.
>>>  It may be so that it could be an idea to have a granularity dimension
>>>  also on the philosophical complexity, that is, a kind of popularisation
>>>  axis (without throwing out the nicely and concise defined baby with the
>>>  water)? This may also make it easier to formulate an operational
>>>  compatibility requirement. It may also make CRM easier to understand for
>>>  a larger number of museum/cultural heritage persons form whom it was
>>>  originally intended (I at least believe).
>>>  Regards
>>>  hristian-Emil
>>>  _______________________________________________
>>>  Crm-sig mailing list
>>>  Crm-sig at ics.forth.gr
>>>  http://lists.ics.forth.gr/mailman/listinfo/crm-sig
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