Tag Archives: FOAF

Tuning Fork

Tuning Fork, by Toby Esterhase, via Flickr – Creative Commons

Part three of my investigation into fictional content modelling. See the previous two posts for the background to the project. Thanks to those who’ve been discussing the ideas – I think it’s coming along nicely. I’ve been playing around with writing some RDF, trying to link up various ontologies, and explaining what I’m trying to do as I go along. Here’s a plain text file of quasi-RDF within comments – see what you think…(UPDATE: Now here in beautiful RDF format 🙂 )

One thing that has come up in the discussions, though, is that there’s perhaps two elements to what I’m trying to achieve. The first is to link existing ontologies and, if needed, build a new one, to help describe the narrative content of ‘stories’ within the context of television and radio programmes. The second is to experiment (and for me to learn) with existing ontologies, again, linking them up, to build dynamic and interesting webpages that work on linked data principles.

So I’m interested in the ontology *and* what kind of cool stuff we could build on top of it (which includes ideas around remixing narrative, and audience story-telling). I haven’t got any definite plans on top of that at the moment, but I think the key is to see where it takes us. Well, I have an image in my mind of the types of things we could do, but again, it will be easier to describe them by prototypes. Something that might help is if I was to link to this diagram, from the aforementioned Tristan Ferne’s Radio Labs blog, describing similar things to do with the Archers – except linking that up with linked data/ontology work…

Which would lead to something like the diagram below. Again, it isn’t a complete set of what I want to do, but it shows the types of objects we’re talking about, the relationships between them, and where they link to ontologies:

Contextual Data Model

Contextual Data Model

Actors – Using FOAF, with possible extensions, this would be a URL for each actor who appears in a BBC show. This page could pull in a biography from WIkipedia, for instance, but mainly it will show the audience all the programmes that the actor has appeared in. Linking Actors to Characters, all the way through to Episodes, would allow us to auto-generate the cast lists for the /programmes episode pages. However, one problem in an early implementation might be that if we only record ‘significant’ events within an episode, the cast lists won’t represent everyone – but over time, this could be improved (the rest of the cast could possibly be listed manually against the episode, greyed-out, until they have their own URL).

Portrayal – This would allow an Actor to play many Characters, and a Character to be played by many Actors. Here I’m thinking more of ‘flashback’ scenes where you see a character as a child, but as Tom pointed out in the comments, this could be used to handle the different actors playing the Doctor. BUt how then would you deal with the different ‘characterisations’ of the same character?

This is where the recursive relationship around ‘Character’ comes in – I haven’t worked out exactly what to call this yet, but it would allow both the foaf:knows relationship, and potentially use the owl:sameAs to link different Doctors? (Perhaps not – but something along those lines).

Again, a many-to-many resolver is needed between Characters and Events, which I’ve called ‘Action’ – I’m not sure whether these many-to-many objects would need to be made explicit and have their own URLs, but the main objects certainly would, as they could have useful pages for the audience to explore.

Events would be pages that would describe a significant event in the episode, something that would be worth describing, for instance an event which is part of a wider story arc – we would then need a URL to link these together, so you could say that ‘Someone points out that Donna has something on her back’ is part of the ‘Donna/Time-Beetle’ story arc (apologies for the random example!). This is, though, where the main value of the project would be for the audience. BY giving an event a URL, the user could trace storylines throughout the episodes, outside of the confines of the episode structure – making the fictional universe more cohesive, rather than restricting our view to the episodes, which are like ‘windows’ onto the fictional universe.

Similarly, if a user then wanted to write a story featuring some of the characters, they could refer to the character’s URL (which would then allow us to have something on the character’s page to say ‘others have written stories using this character’ – linking out  onto the web, and promoting new writers and stories. The users could equally refer to events, perhaps building events into their owns stories, taking them as cues for new stories etc. Again, it all fits in with the idea of giving our audience the tools to be creative, whilst using the advantages of the BBC website’s exposure to promote audience creativity.

There’s one many-to-many resolver which I’m not sure about at the moment – between Events and Episodes – what if the same event was  shown, or even just referred to, in more than one episode? We would need some way of defining this – but I’m not sure of the correct term for it yet, hence the ‘???’ object.

So – events could be described using the Event Ontology. Actors and Characters would use the FOAF ontology. Episodes would use the Programmes Ontology. We therefore just need a way of tying them together, and then once we have some examples, it would be good to start thinking about what new things we might need from a new ontology.

On the subject raised in the comments about expressing a person in FOAF as  fictional or real – I’d side withi Tom in saying that it would be  better to label the individual people as fictional, so that it was explicit which FOAF people were characters or not – and then you’d also have the issue of characters being used to represent, for instance, historical figures such as Charles DIckens…

Anyway, that’s enough for this entry. I hope I’ve got a little further in both clarifying the two strands of the idea, and exploring the breadth and potential of it. Comments, discussion, etc. encouraged! I’m hoping to present the idea in a meeting this coming Tuesday as a possible 10% time project, so I will keep you posted…

Baby Steps

Photo by strollerdos, via Flickr, Creative Commons

This is the second post in a series covering my exploration, experimentation and musings in the area of fictional modelling. In short, can we use the recent developments in semantic web technologies to represent elements of fictional content, and what does this allow us to do. For my introduction to the topic, see my previous post here. In this entry, I’ll talk about my first practical steps, and their implications. Thanks also go to Tom Scott, Dan Brickley and Anthony Green, amongst others, who responded to the first post with helpful comments.

Before I go any further, as pointed out by Chris Sizemore, it’s worth noting that work has been done in a similar area before. Previous IAs at the BBC, including Celia Romaniuk, worked on an ontology to describe the content of soap operas, known as SUDS. From what I have seen, it was an extension to FOAF in order to describe further relationships between people, the nature of people ‘playing’ characters, and various events that could take place between the characters in a show. This was done to tie in with an Eastenders website relaunch. I won’t go into much more detail here, but if you’re interested in seeing the original work, there’s a short article here and a great presentation here. Unfortunately, apart from a few example XML fragments, I have so far been unable to find a document that defines the SUDS ontology. This is a shame, because it would have been an extremely useful starting point for my experiments. One option might be to gather the examples together and try to reverse-engineer a schema, but for the moment, and partly as a way for me to learn as much as possible, I’ve decided to start from scratch. Hopefully at some point we can find the SUDS ontology and see how it compares to what I come up with.

So, where to start? Well, as the title suggests, I’m going to start small. Sort of. Readers of the blog, and others who know me, will probably have guessed that I’m a bit of a, shall we say, ‘fan’ of the BBC’s Doctor Who (currently in the news for apparently appointing a 12-year-old as the Eleventh Doctor). So much so, that in my sad little way, most things that I’m presented with in the course of my BBC IA work make me think “How could/would this apply to Doctor Who?”. As a programme that originally ran for 26 years, and has been enjoying an overdue renaissance, its rich history, and sheer refusal to ever completely conform to most IA domain models, make it both a source of frustration and inspiration. So when I read Tristan Ferne’s blog post over at BBC Radio Labs, shortly before joining the Beeb, I began to wonder. Have a read, it’s a good example of a similar idea.

Tristan’s article concerns fictional modelling for another hugely successful BBC show, The Archers. He talks about being able to break an episode down into scenes, characters, plots etc. and, for instance, potentially being able to build pages that allow the user to follow a story through multiple episodes, rather than being tied to the traditional episode format. Of course, to paraphrase Jack Bauer, events within The Archers occur in linear time. If we were able to build dynamic and interesting websites from a show like that, centred around a small English village, how about a show that goes forward, back and sideways in time and space? Harking back to my ‘toy box’ analogy from last time, with the imagination of the writers of a show like Doctor Who, and the imagination of our audiences, the potential to create some fantastic websites would be huge.

Sorry, where was I? Oh yes, starting small. So, yes, obviously I couldn’t hope to cover the whole scope of the show in one go. However, to show the potential of the semantic web and linked data approach, I’d want to start off by experimenting not only with characters who are linked together, but with a plot that is threaded through several episodes. I still haven’t quite decided what I’m going to choose for this, but I’m thinking that the story arc from either the first or fourth series of the current show would be good to try. But before all that, I had to learn how to create some linked data.

So I went even smaller, even simpler. I chose the first ever episode of the show, from 1963. This featured four main characters, and thanks to the workshop from Yves and the others, I had an inkling of an understanding of how to create FOAF profiles. The results can be seen here (best viewed if you use a Firefox plugin like Tabulator). So far so good. I then linked each character to the other, using the simple ‘knows’ relationship. Finally, to get my linked open data brownie points, I linked each character to its DBpedia equivalent, using the OWL ‘same as’ relationship. And that’s basically it. Except…

Except even this small experiment (which I eventually got working after help from Yves!) raises some interesting points. Firstly, the pernickety part of my brain is saying that we’re mixing two distinct things here. We’re using FOAF, which, I guess, and am happy to be corrected, is primarily intended to represent real people, to model fictional things. Crucially, nowhere, at the moment, are we explicitly stating that these resources are fictional characters.  So I’m wondering whether FOAF is the correct ontology to use. Of course, like SUDS, the ontology that results from these experiments will probably be an extension of FOAF, as it is true to say that we’re still modelling the same sort of ‘thing’, the relationship between ‘people’. But the point still stands – that somehow we need some way of indicating the ‘fictional’ nature of the FOAF person, if applicable.

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, as Anthony Green pointed out, and as I discovered when I linked the characters to their DBpedia equivalents, there’s a lot of detailed information out there already. When I linked each character to DBPedia, I got back information which was extremely detailed and fairly well structured. Which, to be honest, depressed me a little bit. Was it worth me continuing? It’s clear that others had done a lot of similar work already, and I knew that ultimately it would be silly to reinvent the wheel.

However, then I remembered what data I was trying to link. Of course I should still link to the DBpedia equivalents, but the linked data I am thinking of is more to do with linking between characters, plots etc within my own domain. I’m still slightly uneasy with this, because I know that obviously the main thrust of the whole linked data movement is to link external sources together, and that creating silos of data is not good. However, I’m still definitely in favour of linking to DBpedia – if we were to make our ‘internal’ linked data semantically rich, and then link to external sources, then everyone would benefit, and in a way, we would be regarded as the ‘master’ source in the same way that, in my small experiment, I used DBpedia as my ‘master’ source.

So that’s it. A long, rambling blog post, and small, simple experiment. Baby steps. Apologies for the rambling, and I’m not sure that I *quite* explained myself properly in that last part – but there’s definitely some interesting issues coming up already, and I’m hoping that the advantages of my position will be borne out in future experiments. Finally, I’ve adapted the RDF file that I used to create the FOAF profiles to temporarily remove the OWL ‘same as’ relationship – just to ease the page loading time, and to, for the moment, give me a more clean space to work in. The adapted version is here, the original version here. Linking back *in* to DBpedia will be a task for later…

Again, comments, queries, advice is more than welcome – comment, twitter or email me.