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

George Bruseker george.bruseker at gmail.com
Tue Sep 21 17:54:00 EEST 2021

Hi all,

I think this is a fruitful and interesting topic to take up. While it will
undoubtedly take a good deal of work to tease out appropriate, objectively
grounded modelling, I think this is an area that long needed looking at.
Since we have 7.1.1 firmly under our feet, this seems a very nice modelling
direction to follow. I likewise encounter various situations where non
human agents are in scope of the CH data but as of yet not in scope of CRM.
Would be great to work on expanding the ontological umbrella to manage
those elements.



On Tue, Sep 21, 2021 at 3:23 PM Robert Sanderson via Crm-sig <
crm-sig at ics.forth.gr> wrote:

> Dear all,
> In working with our natural history museum, we have a need to assign
> non-human "actors" to "activities", which is not currently possible.
> I think the easiest case to discuss is the construction of a (collected)
> nest by a (known individual) bird.
> We have an identity for the bird (and indeed, we have the remains of the
> bird!) and we have an identity for the nest that the bird constructed. We
> can estimate the time when the nest was made, and we know exactly where it
> was made (due to where it was collected from).
> For example:
> https://collections.peabody.yale.edu/search/Record/YPM-ORN-131036
> Or a dinosaur nest, where the adult and the eggs and the nest are
> preserved.
> If the bird (or dinosaur) could be an Actor, then it would be easy - the
> bird carried out a Production, during the TimeSpan, which produced the
> (coughcough)MadeObject, at the Place. However the only thing that can carry
> out activities is a human or group thereof.
> Similarly, the nest might have been built by a mated pair of birds,
> thereby requiring a Group-like construct for non-human actors as well.
> At the moment it seems like the best we can do is
> (beginning-of-existence-of-nest)  P12 occurred in the presence of
> (bird-as-biological-object), which seems woefully inadequate semantically
> as it likely occurred in the presence of a lot of things, including other
> birds that didn't actually do anything. The closer subproperty is P11 had
> participant, which we can't use as birds cannot be actors.
> This might also relate to other discussions, in particular:
> * Instruments -- the instrument is somehow more responsible for the
> measurement than the thing being measured. It is at least "instrumental in"
> the measurement, be it digitally or mechanically.
> * Bias -- that animals cannot take intentional actions is a pretty biased
> viewpoint. Canis virum mordet, not only vir canem mordet. This might be
> extended to un-observable agents -- a culture might believe that a ghost,
> spirit, god, or other non-physical entity carried out some action.
> * Software "agents" -- even if the software is acting totally
> deterministically at the behest of another actor, a hard determinist might
> argue the same for humans.
> We could add a property either something like "instrumental in" with a
> broad range (Persistent Item, as super-class of Actor?) that is less about
> intent and responsibility, and more concerned with the required-ness of the
> entity for the event. Or we could go further and create some new classes
> between E77 and E39 that allow limited performance of activities by non
> Humans.
> Rob
> --
> Rob Sanderson
> Director for Cultural Heritage Metadata
> Yale University
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