Alistair Miles

Month: November, 2007

SKOS and RDFa in e-Learning

The W3C’s Semantic Web Deployment Working Group is developing two new technologies which may be relevant to e-learning technology. These are the Simple Knowledge Organisation System (SKOS), and RDFa.

SKOS is a lightweight language for representing intuitive, semi-formal conceptual structures. So, for example, the figure below (taken from the SKOS Core Guide) depicts concepts with intuitive hierarchical and associative relationships to other concepts, and with preferred and alternative labels in one (or more) languages — these are the kinds of structures that can be expressed using SKOS. Once expressed in this form, conceptual structures can easily be published on the Web, shared between applications, linked/mapped to other conceptual structures and so on. Typically, these conceptual structures are used as tools for navigating around complex or unfamiliar subject areas, for retrieving information across languages, and for bringing together related information from different sources.

RDFa is a language for embedding richly structured data and metadata within Web pages. This allows a Web page to expose much of its underlying meaning to applications, enabling a range of new functionalities within Web clients, exchanging data between Web sites, services, and the users’ desktop applications. For example, a Web page about a new music album can use RDFa to embed structured data expressing facts about that album, such as the track listing, artist, links to sample media files etc. A Web browser with a suitable plugin or extension can use this data to offer new functions to the user, such as download the tracklisting with available samples to my music library, or compare prices from online vendors.

Both of these technologies are on the W3C Recommendation track, and are scheduled for completion in April 2008.

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Versioning and the Web

This post looks at some of the problems of identifying, decribing and linking “versions” of “digital objects”, from the point of view of the Web, drawing especially on the Architecture of the Web published by W3C. These thoughts were stimulated by the recent kickoff meeting of the new Version Information Framework (VIF) project, at which versioning was discussed in the context of adding value to digital repositories — I hope this post provides some useful input to the VIF project team.

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The OAIS. Information Model Revisited Part 3. Towards Models for Interpretation/Virtualisation Recipes

In this note, I begin to explore the use of the Eriksson-Penker UML extensions for business process modeling, as a tool for modeling the processes or work flows required to successfully interpret or virtualise a digital object.

Previously, in part 1 of this series, I explored the abstract notions of data, information, representation information and interpretation, as defined by the OAIS Information Model. In part 2, I tried to apply these notions to a simple example of a Web page. I found that we need to go beyond the OAIS Information Model if we want to capture and represent the “recipes” that take you from a sequence of bits to something more useful, in the general case where there may be multiple steps or stages required to process, virtualise or render a digital object.

Recipes and Dependencies

Take again the example from part 2 of a simple Web page, encoded as an XHTML 1.0 Transitional document using the UTF-8 character set, and stored as a single sequence of bits.

I’m interested in modeling the “recipe” that tells me how to turn the encoded sequence of bits back into a Web page, because this recipe will define the “dependencies” for the preserved object. By “dependency” I mean those items of information and/or software that are required to execute the recipe — the ingredients and utensils, to use the cooking analogy. Note that by “execution” I do not necessarily mean execution by a computer — steps in a recipe might well be entirely manual.

If I knew what these dependencies were, I could then compare them with the knowledge and software currently held by the designated community (DC), and decide which of the dependencies also need to be preserved.

I could also design a system which computes any “gaps” that arise between the knowledge and software held by the designated community and those required for execution of the recipe. This is one of the goals of the CASPAR project.

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