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Resource Description is by humans March 24, 2008

Posted by Mia in cataloguing, FRBR.
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RDA – Resource Description and Access. That is, how humans might go about describing resources (books, journals, etc.) in a consistent fashion. RDA’s raison d’etre is to be read and applied by humans. In Coyle’s presentation slides from code4lib 2008, I was intrigued by this declaration on slide 14:

Another problem is that RDA instructs its adherents to create text strings.

It does? Ok, I guess I missed it. Contentious issues notwithstanding, RDA is a set of description guidelines with examples. I haven’t been pouring over it or following the RDA list, etc., but the example shown on this slide follow a rule stating: “Record the extent of a resource… [blah blah].” If humans have to do the recording, well, they probably have to be shown an example, since these help us conceptualize.

So for me, what the examples do is supply some prototypes to help me understand what is meant by the phrase “extent of cartographic material“. The example “6 maps on a sheet” is a conceptualization, which I then apply in some other framework for subsequent machine processing.

Would “Capture the extent of a resource…” be a less offending choice of terminology? Or “tag”? “Markup”? etc.

The point of humans being able to apply the description guidelines is to make the act of describing the resource something which is understandable and recognizable. Also teachable, but moreso, readily learnable. Ideally, the examples would be so transparent that upon seeing the prototypical example, one can readily apply to many situations henceforth.

To look at it differently, one could interpret “Record the extent…” to mean instead: “Turn on your microphone [recording device], verbalize the following concepts in spoken language, then turn off the device.”

Recognizing things is fundamental to conceptualizing.

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