I’d like to bring up the issue of “agent” as entity.
Although it is true that any entity-relationship model is allowed to define its own entities, relationships, and attributes, it seems mistaken to me to define “agent” as one of the entities. Agency, to my thinking, denotes a relationship, not an entity. A person, family, or corporate body may have a relationship of agency with a work, expression, manifestation, or item; but a person, family, or corporate body may have a different kind of relationship with entities that are not relationships of agency. A person many have a relationship of “colleague” to another person (RDA K.2.1). This is not an agency relationship. A corporate body may have a “predecessor” relationship to another corporate body (RDA K.4.3). This is not an agency relationship. A family may have a “descendant family” relationship to a another family (RDA K.3.2). This is not an agency relationship. In my opinion, turning “agent” into an entity when it’s (in my opinion) more clearly a relationship stretches the limits of ER principles. It seems to me to be a flaw in the model.
I realize the definition of agent is given as “An entity capable of exercising responsibility relationships relating to works, expressions, manifestations or items” and supposedly all “real” persons are capable of exercising responsibility, so presumably there would be no “real” persons excluded from the entity “agent”, even those who never exercise that responsibility. First of all, this proposition is questionable. A one-day old baby is a person. Is this person capable of exercising responsibility? Arguably, no. A person in a vegetative state who has been so since birth is a person. Is this person capable of exercising responsibility? Arguably, no. So by the definition of “agent” (which applies to all the subentities beneath it) some persons are, strangely, excluded from the entity “person”. Second, I’m not sure of the utility of introducing the idea of “capable of” into an entity definition. Rather than “agent” the model could have something like “cook”, or “lithographer”, or the like as the over-arching entity, since theoretically any real person (or family, or corporate body) is “capable of” becoming or acting as a cook, or lithographer, so such a label could encompass all persons, families, or corporate bodies. So if the point is looking for an over-arching entity that encompasses person, family, or corporate body, why zero in on “agent”?
I do see the utility of having an over-arching entity that comprises persons, families, and corporate bodies because it simplifies the model, though simplification can be taken to unnecessary extremes. I do not see, however, the appropriateness of calling that over-arching entity “agent” and squeezing all persons, families, and corporate bodies into that role.
Without discounting any of what I said in my previous message about non-human entities in fact really being agents in the bibliographic universe, if not in the real universe, defining the overarching entity in some other way than “agent” would also simplify that problem. “Agency” is a relationship. If particular codes wish to recognize that in the bibliographic universe non-humans (or fictitious persons, families, or corporate bodies) do function as agents, why should the model insist on preventing it?
I don’t have a suggestion for what to name the over-arching entity; perhaps someone else can make a suggestion—or maybe it’s not necessary to simplify the model to this extent. I do recommend that the two narrower entities be called
“individual” and “collective” or “group” (rather than “collective agent”).
I also point out that LRM-A24 (page 37), “profession/occupation”, given as an attribute of person, is also an appropriate attribute for groups such as corporate bodies or families. Groups have occupations (in the sense of “what they do”). The occupation of the Kelmscott Press is printing. The occupation of Mohawk Paper Mills is papermaking. This attribute should be raised to the general level.
Robert L. Maxwell
Ancient Languages and Special Collections Librarian
6728 Harold B. Lee Library
Brigham Young University
Provo, UT 84602
"We should set an example for all the world, rather than confine ourselves to the course which has been heretofore pursued"--Eliza R. Snow, 1842.