Penumbra of Provenance


Yesterday the W3C’s Provenance Working Group posted a call for feedback on a family of documents members of that group have been working on. Provenance is an important issue for the info commons, as I’ve sketched elsewhere. I hope some people quickly flesh out examples of application of the draft ontology to practical use cases.

Intellectual Provenance

Apart from some degree of necessity for current functioning of some info commons (obviously where some certainty about freedoms from copyright restriction is needed, but conceivably even moreso to outgrow copyright industries), provenance can also play an important symbolic role. Unlike “intellectual property”, intellectual provenance is of keen interest to both readers and writers. Furthermore, copyright and other restrictions make provenance harder, in both practical (barriers to curation) and attitudinal — the primacy of “rights” (as in rents, and grab all that your power allows) deprecates the actual intellectual provenance of things.

Postmodern Provenance

The umbra of provenance seems infinite. As we preserve scratches of information (or not) incomparably vast amounts disappear. But why should we only care for what we can record that led to current configurations? Consider independent invention and convergent evolution. Who cares what configurations and events led to current configurations: what are the recorded configurations that could have led to the current configuration, what are all of the configurations that could have led to the current configuration; what configurations are most similar (including history, or not) to a configuration in question?


In order to highlight the exposure of provenance information on the internet and provide added impetus for organizations to expose in a way that can efficiently be found and accessed, I am exploring the possibility of a .prov TLD.

7 Responses

  1. […] citation and copyright restrictions), in his academic writing King was a very poor provider of intellectual provenance — in that context, he plagiarized: I might conclude that none of this was fatal for […]

  2. […] 2010″. WDC publishes the extracted data as N-Quads (the fourth item denotes the immediate provenance of each subject/predictate/object triple — the URL the triple was extracted […]

  3. […] a guide to using microdata, microformats, and RDFa in HTML. I mentioned these on my personal blog here and […]

  4. […] writing or reading other information about works; and just about anything else is more useful, from provenance to expressions of appreciation, eg “In my opinion, one of the greatest songs of the […]

  5. […] to Curt Tilmes at a dinner, and catching up a bit on W3C Provenance (I’ve mentioned briefly before) of which he is a working group […]

  6. […] (BY). Do not take part in the debasement of attribution, and more broadly, provenance, already useful to readers, communities of practice, and publishers, by making them seem mere […]

  7. […] a bit of ugly rhetoric in its messaging because the technology is fundamentally about making provenance available on demand — undermining the rationale for consciously giving credit or making lack […]

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