RECENTI TENDENZE NEL SETTORE DEGLI ARCHIVI

La bozza RiC e le possibilità offerte dalla tecnologia dei Grafi

Anche in ambito archivistico sta emergendo in modo sempre più evidente la necessità di proporre un modello descrittivo che superi i confini del singolo standard modellato sulle esigenze di descrizione delle diverse risorse informative, proponendo un complesso sistema di relazioni.

Recente è il rilascio nell’ambito dell’ultimo congresso dell’ICA di una proposta di standard da sottoporre alla revisione della comunità scientifica.

Sebbene ancora allo stato di bozza la proposta getta le basi per un approccio totalmente innovativo alla descrizione archivistica, proponendo di affiancare al tradizionale impianto descrittivo basato sulla descrizione multilivello un approccio multidimensionale basato sulle relazioni.:

“An additional mainstay of ISAD(G) is “multilevel description.” ISAD(G) is based on a “multilevel” model. The standard assumes (though does not prescribe) that the scope of a single description is a fonds, and that the description begins with a description of the fonds, as a single and complete entity, and maythen proceed to describe parts of the whole, and parts of the parts, all linked together to form a single, self-contained hierarchy. RiC-CM models what may be described as “multidimensional description.” Rather than a hierarchy, the description may take the form of a graph or network. Modelling description as a graph accommodates the single, fonds-based, multilevel description modelled in ISAD(G), but also enables addressing the more expansive understanding of provenance described above. The multidimensional model thus enables the description of the fonds, but also sees the fonds existing in a broader context, in relation to other fonds.

In a multidimensional approach to description, the Records and Sets of Records, their interrelations with one another, their interrelations with Agents, Functions, Activities, Mandates, etc., and each of these with one another, are represented as a network within which individual fonds are situated. The proximate context of each fonds is established, though its boundaries are permeable, as it exists within layers of additional context containing other fonds. The model enables the fulfilment of the Respect des fonds, but also enables addressing other types of Record Sets with complex origination (for example, a series that documents one function that is performed serially by a succession of different Agents).

While RiC-CM is a model that makes it possible to describe records and the environments in which they are created, accumulated, used, and managed in a way that more fully captures and expresses the complex contextual realities than can be done using a single hierarchical description, it does not repudiate hierarchical description as such. In fact, the model assumes that Record Sets, in addition to the possibility of having individual member Records, may also have member Record Sets, hierarchically arranged, such as a hierarchy that represents a series that contains subseries that in turn contain files.” (RIC_CM – 0.1  pp.18-19)

La struttura a Grafi, sulla quale è basata la gestione dei dati in Sinapsi, si presta particolarmente alla costruzione di banche dati basate su questo nuovo approccio ed offre la possibilità di sperimentare concretamente le possibilità di integrazione di dati afferenti a contesti informativi diversi che questo approccio presuppone.

La stessa proposta dell’ICAR indica la tecnologia dei grafi come possibile strumento per superare la rigidità imposta alla struttura dei dati e soprattutto alla gestione delle relazioni in ambiente relazionale.

“Communication technologies that emerged in the last two decades of the twentieth century have gradually been transforming the methods used by archivists to describe and provide access to them. Both markup (XML and related standards) and relational (SQL) technologies, in particular, have enabled many archives to successfully transition from paper-based production of finding aids to computer-based production.

As powerful as the two technologies have been, much and perhaps most real world information is notre presented well in either one or the other. Archival description, particularly in the single fonds-leveldescription, is adequately but not optimally accommodated by database technologies in some parts and in other parts by markup technologies. That neither technology clearly dominates the archival implementation landscape reflects the betwixt and between nature of the traditional single description. Many description systems use either one or the other or a carefully crafted combination of the two. Technological developments within and between the two technologies ameliorate if not eliminate theweakness of each and thus help sustain their dominance over the representation landscape. But, given that the real world within which we live and work may be understood as a vast, dynamically interrelated network of people and objects situated in space and time, graph technologies offer new and more expressive forms of representation.

Graph technologies have existed in various forms since the 1960s, though their use did not becomewidespread until the late 1990s when the W3C released Resource Description Framework (RDF11), a standard for the representation of graph data. Graph technologies introduce data representation as statements, typically characterized as subject-predicate-object, with each statement called a “triple.”

While XML supports a specific form of graphs, the hierarchy (or “tree”), triples enable unbounded representation of networks of interconnected data objects as well as real world objects (represented bydata).” (RIC_CM – 0.1  pp.16-17)

Nei prossimi giorni il nuovo Standard sarà oggetto di un’analisi approfondita da parte del gruppo di lavoro Sinapsi, orientata a valutare la possibilità di sperimentare sul campo un tracciato Sinapsi dedicato alla gestione delle relazioni tra risorse proposte dalla bozza di standard.

Per approfondire la prima bozza del nuovo standard: P138 Records in Contexts (RiC): a standard for archival description developed by the ICA Experts Group on Archival Description

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