The Work

Playing With Context

One of the joys of standards work is that it allows you to experiment with ideas. This week, I’m looking at some interesting functionality and thinking back to Brian O’Leary’s work on Context First.

Brian’s point is that content itself becomes a commodity fairly rapidly. We see this with public domain books – what’s to distinguish one version of The Awakening from another? Essentially, the context in which it’s published. Are there critical essays? Or is it just the raw, original text? Is there additional material that the reader might be interested in? The publishers that are good at providing meaningful distinctions – which either lead to additional resources or allow the reader to understand how one book is different from another – are the ones that will do best in this increasingly interconnected environment.

And we have at our disposal the mechanisms by which this distinction and interconnectedness happens. ISBNs are the identifiers for books – they distinguish one book from another. DOIs can link an ISBN to other material – chapters, author biographies, webcasts, all the additional content that Brian emphasizes is critical for publishers to prevent their books from being simple commodities. ISNIs are the identifiers for authors – and those can be incorporated into DOIs to link out to other authors (linking Jack Kerouac to Allen Ginsberg, for example), to author websites, to other books by that author. These tools facilitate that contextual connectivity.

It’s amazing to actually be able to create the platform for this context. Watch this space – I’ll be providing examples of these things in the wild.

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