[rdfweb-dev] Relationship Schema Updated

Jim Ley jim at jibbering.com
Tue Mar 16 23:09:27 UTC 2004

Michael Bauser michael at bauser.com wrote in:
>(I'm looking at my mailbox, and it looks like Mozilla may have scrambled
>the references on my previous two messages. Is that my punishment for
>having three reply windows open at once?)

Unfortunately I'm now throwing them all away, as I can't even see the
headers in the web-archive...

>Anthropologists have been trying for decades. The general consensus
>really is that the eight-fold model works best, because:

Could you cite?

>B) The eight relationships are mutually exclusive in the normal
>functioning of all known cultures, so the graphs seldom get weird.

I'm amazed you wrote this, after the strength of your previous language
against imposing ideas on others, the relationships are not at all exclusive
or derivable within my own family, and I am not unusual in my society, I
know lots of folk with similar situations:

According to you, we should be able to infer from these 8 basic things,
without fear, that this is a contradiction:

Jim son JimsMother daughter JimsMothersMother
JimsSister daughter JimsMothersMother
Jim Sister JimsSister

Unfortunately you'd be wrong, there's no contradiction there in my society,
and I will certainly not welcome any relationship schema which prevented the
above from expressed, or allowed that to be a contradiction.

>C) The second and later degrees or relationships can be mapped by
>chaining the first degree relationships. *This* is what makes the
>eight-way model especially useful for RDF data meant to be parsed by
>computers, because we can separate the *relationship* from the *label*,
>and let the end-user determine if they want to see relationships using
>*native* or *local* labels.

Except of course, the labels are what constrains the meaning, my sisters
daughter, and my othersisters daughter might not be cousins, yet this
simplistic model constrains them to be, or means I can't express my familial
relationships, and things can get considerably more complicated than my

>The LITTLE problem with the "label it with my language or theirs"
>approach is that FOAF doesn't exactly have a way to label "what language
> and culture I define my networks with". FOAF doesn't even have
>properties for nationality yet.

I hope this a language problem of yours, where does nationality and the
cultural meanings of family tie together?  I don't see nationality as
relevant to what is being discussed (cultural identity of course, but
nationality, not in the slightest)

>The BIG problem is that in many societies, there are temporal and/or
>ordinal qualifiers to relationships. The distinction between "older
>brother" and "younger brother" can be very important, as can the
>distinction between "second wife" and "third wife". (The distinction
>between the latter two will further depend on the cultural mores; in
>some societies, "third wife" implies the divorce or death of "second
>wife", while in other societies, it implies the husband can afford three

Yep, the relationship schema doesn't address these, but then single
properties for these things isn't required, we don't need a single predicate
for every single concept in the world, we can use more than one - if it's
strictly possible that "older brother" is a brother who was born earlier,
then knowing the DOB's of the people would be sufficient (of course it's
likely that that is not sufficient, there's been recent debates here about
what happens if ones elder sister changes her sex, does she obtain the rank
granted to the eldest born son?)

> That would be enough
>for well-designed "kinship agent" to describe the vast majority of
>kinship networks. (I think.)

Except it would infer incorrect things from my network, and that would in my
mind be very rude, and very dangerous.

>Now I'm just rambling....

but at least you were beginning to look at the issues!


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