[foaf-dev] Fictional stuff

Simon Reinhardt simon.reinhardt at koeln.de
Fri Jun 5 00:06:23 CEST 2009

Michael Smethurst wrote:
> We (the BBC) are just kicking of a project to make 'character pages' and 
> are coming across all the issues you describe here. Obviously being the 
> bbc we tend to get stuck on doctor who (no bbc meeting ever happens 
> without a mention of doctor who [2] ;-) ). Is each doctor a different 
> character, different portrayal, different persona etc...?

That is an interesting case, yeah. And it's a horrible one for cleanly describing fiction given how it defies all logic and consistency. ;-)

> Similar problems with different dramatisations or sketches based on 
> novels. Is character x from the tv adaption the same as character x from 
> the film or character x from the radio drama or character x from the 
> comedy sketch or character x from the opera performance? are they 
> different portrayals of the same character? can 2 different actors make 
> the same 'portrayal'? as ever you rapidly run of of labels to capture 
> the concepts...

One way to do this might be to bind them to fictional universes. Marvel for example defined loads of different universes for which characters should be consistent then.

> Another problem we've had in the past has been the typing of 'people' as 
> real or fictional. it starts out fairly easy and rapidly heads into 
> tricky territory when u hit religion. however u handle it, dealing with 
> "human, supernatural, mythical, divine [...] or personifications of an 
> abstraction" ends up upsetting someone...

Another example: is Klingon, a language with its own ISO code and a couple of fluent speakers, a fictional language or not? Of course the BBC will have that problem of upsetting people. But I wonder if it is one of the data model or of the world view you have? I as a single person for example might not care much if someone disagrees with my description or not. I can say that Klingon is fictional, that God is fictional, etc. The BBC might have to be more careful how they use some vocabulary unless they want to provoke another Muhammad cartoon controversy.

> Outside drama you get the same kind of issues in music with multiple 
> aliases often taking the form of characters (aladin sane etc). But you 
> also get aliases that are only borderline characters (ringo star is an 
> alias but is he a character?!? freddy mercury? in some ways they're both 
> characters but then so are some artists who use their given and family 
> names....)

That might be a role as well. Obviously we all play different roles all the time. But don't ask me what the difference between a role and a character is then. :-)

> Haven't come across much outside SUDs and Paul Rissen's work that tries 
> to capture fictional universes, timelines etc. If you do go ahead with 
> this work it'd be really good if you kept us informed of progress. We 
> can supply endless use cases and getting external input would help us 
> get our modelling sorted. Sorting definitions for character, portrayal, 
> persona etc feels like the first step

I'd be really glad to get more use cases and input for this!
What I'm working on (inspired by someone on IRC) is an ontology and database for comics. The original idea was just to describe the contents of web comics but parts of what I've done so far might be useful for all sorts of comics, cartoons, animation and fiction in general. I'm not sure how far I will pursue this as it's just a free time project and I have loads of other things to do. But I'm definitely interested in discussions about this, somewhere where we don't disturb the audience of the FOAF list. :-)


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