A Web of Things

The Bizer, Heath, and Berners-Lee article made some points that intersect with the humanities and with previous discussions we have had in this class.  One is slightly disturbing to me: “Linked Data uses RDF to make typed statements that link arbitrary things in the world. The result, which we will refer to as the Web of Data, may more accurately be described as a web of things in the world, described by data on the Web” (2).  I’m not sure how literally I am supposed to take this statement, but to me, things in the world are not data.  They can be described by data, but the Web of Data cannot include things in the world.  The web refers to things in the world and identifies many different bits of data that refer to the same thing in the world.  When things are related in the real world, this relationship is distinct from the data relationship, or predicate, between them.  I’m uncomfortable with the appropriation of real objects by the (capitalized, as Michael points out) Web of Data, and I wonder what the authors intended to communicate by including the world in their data web and emphasizing the distinction (or non-distinction) between a web of things and a Web of Data.  I’m interested to hear how others read this phrase.

The rhetoric that bothers me did not extend throughout the article: “The RDF Vocabulary Definition Language (RDFS) (Brickley & Guha, 2004) and the Web Ontology Language (OWL) (McGuinness & van Harmelen, 2004) provide a basis for creating vocabularies that can be used to describe entities in the world and how they are related” (4).  Here, it is clear that the web describes real things and relationships rather than including them.  I really like the idea that people can create their own words within an existing language to describe real relationships that have not yet been defined on the web of data.  I feel like writers who have created new words would be into that.  Jabberwocky!  These data authors translate a relationship from the real world, and the word for it, into a data vocabulary.  The individual creativity and control this gives contributors seems to fit right into the collaborative nature of DH and the internet as a whole.

On another note, the biography of Tim Berners-Lee has an especially impressive and punchy beginning and ending.  Just in case not everyone scrolled down all the way, these are some pretty fun facts: “Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web…In 2001 he became a Fellow of the Royal Society” (26).