Dead End Electronic Resource Citation (ERC)

29. März 2013 um 11:51 Keine Kommentare

Tidying up my PhD notes, I found this short rant about “Electronic Resource Citation”. I have not used it anywhere, so I publish it here, licensed under CC-BY-SA.

Electronic Resource Citation (ERC) was introduced by John Kunze with a presentation at the International Conference on Dublin Core and Metadata Applications 2001 and with a paper in the Journal of Digital Information, Vol. 2, No 2 (2002). Kunze cited his paper in a call for an ERC Interest Group within the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative (DCMI) at the PERL4LIB mailing list, giving the following example of an ERC:

erc:  Kunze, John A. | A Metadata Kernel for Electronic Permanence
      | 20011106 | http://jodi.ecs.soton.ac.uk/Articles/v02/i02/Kunze/

An ERC is a minimal “kernel” metadata record that consist of four elements: who, what, when and where. In the given example they are:

who:   Kunze, John A.
what:  A Metadata Kernel for Electronic Permanence
when:  20011106
where: http://jodi.ecs.soton.ac.uk/Articles/v02/i02/Kunze/

Ironically the given URL is obsolete, the host ‘jodi.ecs.soton.ac.uk’ does not even exist anymore. The ERC is pretty useless if it just uses a fragile URL to cite a resource. How about some value that does not change over time, e.g:

where: Journal of Digital Information, Volume 2 Issue 2

As ERC is defined as “a location or machine-oriented identifier”, one could also use stable identifiers:

where: ISSN 1368-7506, Article No. 81

Both ISSN and article numbers 81 are much more identifiers then URLs. Citing an URL is more like

where: at the desk in the little reading room of my library

By the way the current location is http://www.rice.edu/perl4lib/archives/2002-09/msg00017.html – but who knows whether Texas A&M University will still host the journal at this URL in 20 years?

There are some interesting ideas in the original ERC proposal (different kinds of missing values, TEMPER date values, the four questions etc.), but its specification and implementation are just ridiculous and missing references to current technology (you know that you are doing something wrong in specification if you start to define your own encodings for characters, dates etc. instead of concentrating to your core subject and refering to existing specifications for the rest). The current draft (2010) is a typical example of badly mixing modeling and encoding issues and of loosing touch with existing, established data standards.

In addition to problems at the “low level” of encoding, the “high level” of conceptual modeling lacks appropriate references. What about the relation of ERC concepts to models such as FRBR and CIDOC-CRM? Why are ‘who’, ‘when’, ‘where’, ‘what’ the important metadata fields (in many cases the most interesting question is ‘why’)? How about Ranganathan’s colon classification with personality, matter, energy, space, and time?

In summary the motivation behind ERC contains some good ideas, but its form is misdirected.

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