[foaf-dev] Fictional stuff

K. Faith Lawrence kf03r at ecs.soton.ac.uk
Fri Jun 5 01:13:14 CEST 2009

Thank you to Nick and Misha for mentioning OntoMedia. It is what Paul
at the BBC has been working with and I am pleased to say that, to the
best of my knowledge, it has handled with the interesting challenges
of Dr Who.

2009/6/4 Simon Reinhardt <simon.reinhardt at koeln.de>:
> 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. ;-)

One of the first thing that we found when we were looking at designing
OntoMedia was that we could make no assumptions as to logic or
consistency or natural laws within any given universe.

With regards to the multiply-represented character we allowed for the
possibility of many representations which were either connected
directly (all the versions of the Doctor are 'The Doctor') or with
more variation (Faramir in the Lord of the Rings movie is a version of
Faramir in the Lord of the Rings books, Reboot!Kirk is a version of
Original!Kirk etc). Obviously when two representations of a character
are the same and when one is a shadow of the other is a judgment call
that has to be made on a case by case basis.

>> 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.

This is the rational that we took. Not only can 'characters' be
explicitly associated as existing in a given universe, or universes)
but so can any entity including other universes - this allows for
dreamscapes, theories and belief systems by including multiple levels
of 'reality' (where reality is defined by the universe in which the
given entities exist).

>> 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...

OntoMedia handled this having one class of entites, beings, which were
distinguished by having a sentience/personality and their existence,
or not, was a trait that described them. It is after all possible to
have a every active character who doesn't exists as the Tuttle episode
of MASH and Mr Bunbury in The Importance of Being Earnest.

We included the state of existence 'unprovable' for use with divinities.

>> 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. :-)

OntoMedia looked at this specifically in that it recognised the need
to model a fictionalised version of a real person as distinct from the
person themselves and this included both stage personas and
fictionalisations of an entity (we were working with fan fiction
groups where the distinction between person, persona and
fictionalised!person could get quite important). We also allowed for
different traits to be projected towards the world (or the audience)
than were given as base information. This allowed for secret
identities and similar character facets.

>> 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. :-)

I'd definitely suggest having a look at OntoMedia. As Nick mentioned a
write up on the ontology with examples and discussion is available as
part of my thesis at http://eprints.ecs.soton.ac.uk/14704/ (just skip
straight to the section on modeling narrative although the section on
the philosophy of describing fiction in the related literature chapter
might also be in interest).

The ontology is designed to by medium-neutral in that is works with
any and all forms of expression.

I'd be more than happy to discuss any of the work we did further.
Please do get in contact if you would prefer to continue this
discussion 'off-list'.




K. Faith Lawrence, PhD
Digital Humanities Specialist
Digital Humanities Observatory
28-32 Pembroke Street Upper
Dublin 2
-- A project of the Royal Irish Academy --

Email: f.lawrence at ria.ie/f.lawrence at dho.ie
Phone: +353 (0) 1 234 2443


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