[Crm-sig] New Issue: Non-human Actors

Pat Riva pat.riva at concordia.ca
Mon Oct 11 23:38:23 EEST 2021

Just to remark that the library world discussed non-human actors for many years (in the literal sense of actor as in the dogs that portrayed Lassie in the TV series, or that portrayed Sykes and Paddy from Midsomer Murders, somehow it is always cute dogs that are brought up in the discussion).

The desire was to list the named animal actors in the credits for the cast of a film and provide access via their "real" names the same as for the rest of the cast, and so using the same mechanisms as for human actors.

This sounds like it might be fine until you realize that making the dog a valid LRM-E6 Agent means that it can have the full range of responsibility relationships to works, expressions, manifestations and items. Which becomes absurd.

And while is it understood that one can easily film an individual animal, it isn't clear that it is behaving as an actor intending to create a cinematographic work in the same way that the human participants. There was also no clear consensus on which sorts of animals were individually interesting enough to merit this treatment, rather than just being viewed as an instance of their species (as in nature documentaries).

The animal agent option was rejected in FRBR and again rejected in LRM, and a LRM-E6 Agent (= E39 Actor) remains restricted to either individual human beings (LRM-E7 Person) or groups of human beings (LRM-E8 Collective Agent, or F55 Collective Agent in LRMoo).

The current compromise is that the animal actors, if it is desired to provide access points for them, are established as instances of a subcategory of LRM-E1 Res that is disjoint from LRM-E6 Agent. There was talk of creating some guidelines for this at one point, but I have not followed the issue since then.


Pat Riva

Associate University Librarian, Collection Services

Concordia University

Vanier Library (VL-301-61)

7141 Sherbrooke Street West

Montreal, QC H4B 1R6


pat.riva at concordia.ca<mailto:pat.riva at concordia.ca>

From: Crm-sig <crm-sig-bounces at ics.forth.gr> on behalf of George Bruseker via Crm-sig <crm-sig at ics.forth.gr>
Sent: October 11, 2021 3:02 PM
To: Martin Doerr <martin at ics.forth.gr>
Cc: crm-sig at ics.forth.gr <Crm-sig at ics.forth.gr>
Subject: Re: [Crm-sig] New Issue: Non-human Actors

Hi Martin,

I think Rob listed in the introduction to the issue the use cases of documentation of individual action of animals.

It would seem that natural scientists don't only study species but also individuals.

Here's a smattering of pieces culled from casual reading in the past few weeks with nice motivations and examples for these new classes.





All best,


On Mon, Oct 11, 2021 at 9:44 PM Martin Doerr <martin at ics.forth.gr<mailto:martin at ics.forth.gr>> wrote:
Dear Robert,

Having collaborated with natural history museum colleagues for some years and designed a research infrastructure for biodiversity in Greece, I understand that they normally do not describe the actions of an individual in a way that information integration on the base of the individual's animal actions would be needed. They would rather state the fact that an individual of type A, showed individual behavior pattern B. They would integrate these data on a type base, and not on an individual base. We have at FORTH converted Darwin Core data of occurrences of individuals into CRMsci representations. That had so far covered the needs.

A colleague in Britain had used, I think, CRM for modelling observations of Caledonian Crow observations. Since these crows do not travel, the relevant information access and exchange is still on a categorical level.

Migratory birds tracking may be an application, but normally they do not describe other behavior than move, in which case we can use a Presence construct for the migration paths.

Our collaboration with NHM showed that they often prefer not to use CRM for their observation data. In a large European Project, we were forced to cheat and rename all CRM concepts, so that they appeared under a "BIO" title.

So, in short, we need an expert that would show us practice of modelling animal actions individually, and be willing to consider CRM...



On 10/11/2021 9:13 PM, Robert Sanderson wrote:

Could we clarify what sort of expert we're looking for to move the discussion forward? In particular, natural history museums seem to be at the critical intersection between CIDOC and the activities of animals. I can represent the sorts of documentary evidence from that side, and happy to reach out to colleagues at other NHMs. So I think the first aspect is covered, but I question whether we (as modelers of museum knowledge and documentation) /need/ to understand animal individuality or behavior in order to take the first step of describing an animal performing some action. Conversely, my experience has always been that when there is something to react to, it is much easier to engage with outside specialists.  It is easier to ask for opinions on something than it is to ask them to help come up with the interdisciplinary model.

I also don't think it makes sense to model animal actors in great detail, down to the same level as the differences between classes in CRMTex for example. The baseline that we need to start with is much simpler.  If there isn't a fine grained concept of animal individuality, I don't think that means we can't model an individual animal at a coarser granularity, just that we shouldn't allow the ontology to describe anything that we don't understand. Even as a non-biologist, I know without any hesitation that the bird laid the egg in the nest in the Peabody Museum of Natural History, and that the herd of dinosaurs created the footprints preserved in Dinosaur State Park up the road from us. I know that a sheepdog can herd sheep and makes decisions about which way to run to accomplish the aim of getting the sheep into the next field (and when I was a little lad played the part of such a sheepdog for my uncle in New Zealand). How does the sheepdog know? Does it know that it knows? If we study 100 sheepdogs individually and in groups, what do we learn about sheepdog behavior? I don't care, and I don't think any other museum oriented documentation system would either :)


On Mon, Oct 11, 2021 at 11:50 AM Martin Doerr <martin at ics.forth.gr<mailto:martin at ics.forth.gr>> wrote:
Dear George, Robert,

This makes generally sense to me as a discussion starting point. However, I‘d like to remind you that our methodology requires first a community practice of doing documentation about such things, and second domain experts for concepts that are not our primary knowledge.

To my best knowledge, there does not exist any reliable concept of what individuality means across the animal kingdom, nor what a collective of such individuals is. There is an unbelievable complexity to these questions. We know from experience that any global widening of scope can blur all distinctions ontology enginerring relies on. Therefore I'd regard it as most important to find the experts first and let them speak.

The reasons why we did not model animal actors is precisely the lack of an experts group to communicate with.



On 10/11/2021 4:28 PM, George Bruseker wrote:
Dear all,

In preparation for the discussion of non-human actors as related to use cases arising in Linked.Art (inter alia), Rob and I have sketched some ideas back and forth to try to find a monotonic was to add the agency of animals in the first instance into CRM (proceeding in an empirical bottom up fashion) and then see where else we might also get added in (searching for the sibling class that Martin suggests and the generalization that it would need).

The linked sketch provides a proposal for discussion. The background is given already in this issue.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1RtKBvAH1N0G8yaE_io6hU2Z8MTBmH_8-/view?usp=sharing<https://can01.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fdrive.google.com%2Ffile%2Fd%2F1RtKBvAH1N0G8yaE_io6hU2Z8MTBmH_8-%2Fview%3Fusp%3Dsharing&data=04%7C01%7Cpat.riva%40concordia.ca%7C3d1d139359704ba3a2fa08d98cea74cd%7C5569f185d22f4e139850ce5b1abcd2e8%7C0%7C0%7C637695760889165996%7CUnknown%7CTWFpbGZsb3d8eyJWIjoiMC4wLjAwMDAiLCJQIjoiV2luMzIiLCJBTiI6Ik1haWwiLCJXVCI6Mn0%3D%7C1000&sdata=X1Gnd0NVTOuGF%2Ftc6YTMQuqWXGVZbooiX2VcmOB%2Fjkw%3D&reserved=0> (draw.io<https://can01.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fdraw.io%2F&data=04%7C01%7Cpat.riva%40concordia.ca%7C3d1d139359704ba3a2fa08d98cea74cd%7C5569f185d22f4e139850ce5b1abcd2e8%7C0%7C0%7C637695760889175986%7CUnknown%7CTWFpbGZsb3d8eyJWIjoiMC4wLjAwMDAiLCJQIjoiV2luMzIiLCJBTiI6Ik1haWwiLCJXVCI6Mn0%3D%7C1000&sdata=uqRW54XbraYWqAV8mg%2FOWz1robTNBzzySGFBALQjsHE%3D&reserved=0>)

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1aCEBtXjW8M0W7qCGe9ozSMeYAH7tJ3Wr/view?usp=sharing<https://can01.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fdrive.google.com%2Ffile%2Fd%2F1aCEBtXjW8M0W7qCGe9ozSMeYAH7tJ3Wr%2Fview%3Fusp%3Dsharing&data=04%7C01%7Cpat.riva%40concordia.ca%7C3d1d139359704ba3a2fa08d98cea74cd%7C5569f185d22f4e139850ce5b1abcd2e8%7C0%7C0%7C637695760889175986%7CUnknown%7CTWFpbGZsb3d8eyJWIjoiMC4wLjAwMDAiLCJQIjoiV2luMzIiLCJBTiI6Ik1haWwiLCJXVCI6Mn0%3D%7C1000&sdata=nn%2BU2U5PO11R%2BHtjKfA%2BK97EK2yUhWuI5HpMJDlwen4%3D&reserved=0> (png)

Here is some argumentation.

Up to now, CRM takes its scope as related to documenting intentional acts of human beings. Its top level class then has been E39 Actor which gives properties which allow the assigning of responsibility for an intentional activity. It has two subclasses, E21 Person and E74 Group. These two kinds of being have different behaviour, therefore properties, therefore classes.

If we expand the scope (in base or in sci or wherever) to include animal agency in the first instance, then we must have a way to monotonically generate this extension (we don't want to just expand the scope of E39 Actor because then we will end up with rabbits being responsible for financial crises and murders and all sorts of nonsense).

So we want to introduce a sibling class for E39 Actor. Call this biological agent. Instances can be anything biological. This would obviously be some sort of a superclass of E21 Person, since all persons are biological actors as well. It would be a subclass of biological object since all biological agents must be biological. (but not all things biological are biological agents)

Then we would want a general class that subsumes the agency of purely human actors and biological agents. This would be our top class. Here we come up with a more general notion of agency. Whereas E39 Actor was declared in order to account for a 'legal persons notion' of agency common to Western legal systems etc. (and is perfectly adequate for the scope of CRM Base), this would be a broader notion of agency.

In order to avoid impossible philosophical arguments around self consciousness, we can give a more externalist scope note / intension to this class. Agency has to do with those entities which display self organization and action towards an end from an external perspective. This way we avoid having to know if the other really has a self. If it looks like it is acting intentionally and people document it as such, then so it is.

This now gives us a super class (and eventually super properties) for all agents.

But wait... we need more.

CRMBase distinguishes between persons and groups. Whereas persons must have both agency and be individuated corporeal beings, groups do not. Persons are atomic and irreducible (can't be made up of more persons, can't be spread over multiple bodies / time zones). Groups are composed of persons and groups. Groups are inherently collective.

If we wish then to have this same distinction reflected into the biological domain we would need a class for individual biological agents parallel / sibling to person and a class for collective biological agents, parallel / sibling to group.

Doing this one would then need the superclasses to subsume these divisions. Hence:

Individual Agent: subclass of Agent, superclass of individual biological agent

Collective Agent: subclass of Agent, superclass of collective biological agent and human group

This finally allows us to have:

Individual Biological Agent: subclass of Biological Agent and Individual Agent: used for individual birds, trees, and other biological actors

Collective Biological Agent: subclass of Biological Agent and Collective Agent: used for flocks, forests and other group biological actors (unlike human groups, such groups are inherently corporeal)

And at that point we might consider renaming our existing classes to 'human' xxx


E39 Human Agent: subclass of agent, no real change in intension, the kind of entity that can take action for which legal responsibility can be attributed within human cultures societies

E21 Human Person: no real change in intension but its superclass becomes individual biological agent and human agent (ie an animal that can be held legallly responsible for its actions)

E74 Group no real change in intension, but it gains a super class Collective Agent so it can be queried together with other agent groups.

This analysis does not get into the properties which are, of course, fundamental but sketches a possible path for creating the structure necessary to create this extension of scope in such a way that it would respect the principle of monotonicity in revising the model while allowing the growth of the model to handle the many use cases of documented animal agency that fall within CH institution's documentary scope.

Hope this is a good starting point for a constructive discussion!



 Dr. Martin Doerr

 Honorary Head of the
 Center for Cultural Informatics

 Information Systems Laboratory
 Institute of Computer Science
 Foundation for Research and Technology - Hellas (FORTH)

 N.Plastira 100, Vassilika Vouton,
 GR70013 Heraklion,Crete,Greece

 Email: martin at ics.forth.gr<mailto:martin at ics.forth.gr>
 Web-site: http://www.ics.forth.gr/isl<https://can01.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ics.forth.gr%2Fisl&data=04%7C01%7Cpat.riva%40concordia.ca%7C3d1d139359704ba3a2fa08d98cea74cd%7C5569f185d22f4e139850ce5b1abcd2e8%7C0%7C0%7C637695760889185979%7CUnknown%7CTWFpbGZsb3d8eyJWIjoiMC4wLjAwMDAiLCJQIjoiV2luMzIiLCJBTiI6Ik1haWwiLCJXVCI6Mn0%3D%7C1000&sdata=%2FNm5t6lEYf05r1bo63L%2FwJ9UNL8p6%2Bd85fq7WxGIFhc%3D&reserved=0>

Rob Sanderson
Director for Cultural Heritage Metadata
Yale University

 Dr. Martin Doerr

 Honorary Head of the
 Center for Cultural Informatics

 Information Systems Laboratory
 Institute of Computer Science
 Foundation for Research and Technology - Hellas (FORTH)

 N.Plastira 100, Vassilika Vouton,
 GR70013 Heraklion,Crete,Greece

 Email: martin at ics.forth.gr<mailto:martin at ics.forth.gr>
 Web-site: http://www.ics.forth.gr/isl<https://can01.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ics.forth.gr%2Fisl&data=04%7C01%7Cpat.riva%40concordia.ca%7C3d1d139359704ba3a2fa08d98cea74cd%7C5569f185d22f4e139850ce5b1abcd2e8%7C0%7C0%7C637695760889185979%7CUnknown%7CTWFpbGZsb3d8eyJWIjoiMC4wLjAwMDAiLCJQIjoiV2luMzIiLCJBTiI6Ik1haWwiLCJXVCI6Mn0%3D%7C1000&sdata=%2FNm5t6lEYf05r1bo63L%2FwJ9UNL8p6%2Bd85fq7WxGIFhc%3D&reserved=0>
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