A related discussion took place last fall about the use of a proposed Agent in schema.org and whether or not to add it as a supertype: (https://github.com/schemaorg/schemaorg/issues/700)
The initial proposal was to add Thing > Agent: "A Super Type for types that can act as agents (e.g. person, organization). This type is useful in cases where schema:Person or schema:Organization is optional, unclear or too specific." One of the arguments against adding Agent is that, in schema.org if you don’t know whether something is a Person or an Organization, you can simply omit a type.
The conclusion was that the group closed the issue. Here is the final comment from Richard Wallis:
There has been a discussion in the Schema Bib Extend Group on this topic https://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/public-schemabibex/2015Aug/0002.html and the consensus is that they will not push forward the proposal for an Agent type, as a super-type for Person & Organization, in the bib.schema.org extension.
The recommended path for those wishing to reflect an Agent in their data would be to identify it as a type schema:Thing. Any further qualification should be with terms from other vocabularies such a foaf:Agent dct:Agent etc. in addition to schema:Thing
The group is therefore happy to see this issue closed.
I’m not completely sure that the schema.org conversation is analagous to the FRBR-LRM one, but many of the issues raised are the same ones.
Social Sciences and Map Catalog Librarian
UCLA Library Cataloging & Metadata Center
11020 Kinross Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90095-7230
I don’t take issue with the Agent class. It’s in line with other models (schema, FOAF, PROV-O, etc.). It’s just a convenient way to bundle types of things that may produce something. Another line could be added to the definition to suggest that Agents can be related to things other than WEMI’s, but just because something isn’t said doesn’t mean that it’s untrue. That’s part of the open world assumption.
Re: cooks, lithographers, I would recommend we consider these Roles rather than subclasses of Persons. People aren’t always lithographers, sometimes (like me) they later become librarians. True story. I don’t think the baby or the person in vegetative state are hairs we want to split either. I was making lithographs in my 20’s, but I’m pretty sure I wasn’t exercising responsibility :)
Same goes for companies, the Business domain wouldn’t say that a company has an occupation, but instead that they operate in specific industries and change industries all the time.
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.