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DCMI Abstract Model

Creator: Andy Powell
Eduserv Foundation, UK
Creator: Mikael Nilsson
KMR Group, CID, NADA, KTH (Royal Institute of Technology), Sweden
Creator: Ambjörn Naeve
KMR Group, CID, NADA, KTH (Royal Institute of Technology), Sweden
Creator: Pete Johnston
Eduserv Foundation, UK
Creator: Thomas Baker
DCMI
Date Issued: 2007-06-04
Identifier: http://dublincore.org/documents/2007/06/04/abstract-model/
Replaces: http://dublincore.org/documents/2005/03/07/abstract-model/
Replaces: http://dublincore.org/documents/2007/04/02/abstract-model/
Is Replaced By: Not applicable
Latest Version: http://dublincore.org/documents/abstract-model/
Status of Document: This is a DCMI Recommendation
Description of Document: This document describes an abstract model for Dublin Core metadata.

Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. DCMI Abstract Model
  3. Descriptions, description sets and records
  4. Values
  5. DCMI Abstract Model semantics
  6. Encoding guidelines
  7. Terminology
    Appendix A - Relationship to legacy DCMI Grammatical Principles
    References
    Acknowledgements

1. Introduction

This document specifies an abstract model for Dublin Core metadata. The primary purpose of this document is to specify the components and constructs used in Dublin Core metadata. It defines the nature of the components used and describes how those components are combined to create information structures. It provides an information model which is independent of any particular encoding syntax. Such an information model allows us to gain a better understanding of the kinds of descriptions that we are encoding and facilitates the development of better mappings and cross-syntax translations.

This document is primarily aimed at the developers of software applications that support Dublin Core metadata, people involved in developing new syntax encoding guidelines for Dublin Core metadata and people developing metadata application profiles based on DCMI vocabularies or on other compatible vocabularies.

The DCMI Abstract Model builds on work undertaken by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) on the Resource Description Framework (RDF) [RDF, RDFS]. The use of concepts from RDF is summarized below in Section 5.

The DCMI Abstract Model is represented here using UML class diagrams [UML]. Readers that are not familiar with UML class diagrams should note that lines ending in a block-arrow should be read as 'is' or 'is a' (for example, "a value is a resource") and that lines starting with a block-diamond should be read as 'contains a' or 'has a' (for example, "a statement contains a property URI"). Other relationships are labeled appropriately. In this document, words and phrases in italics are defined in Section 7, Terminology.

2. DCMI Abstract Model

2.1 The DCMI Resource Model

The abstract model of the resources described by descriptions is as follows:

Figure 1 - the DCMI resource model
Figure 1 - the DCMI resource model

2.2 The DCMI Description Set Model

The abstract model of DC metadata description sets is as follows:

Figure 2 - the DCMI description set model
Figure 2 - the DCMI description set model

2.3 The DCMI Vocabulary Model

The abstract model of the vocabularies used in DC metadata descriptions is as follows:

Note that the word "vocabulary" is used here to refer specifically to a set of terms, a set in which the members are properties (elements), classes, vocabulary encoding schemes, and/or syntax encoding schemes.

Figure 3 - the DCMI vocabulary model
Figure 3 - the DCMI vocabulary model

2.4 Notes

A number of things about the model are worth noting:

3. Descriptions, description sets and records

The abstract model presented above indicates that each DC metadata description describes one, and only one, resource. This is commonly referred to as the one-to-one principle.

However, real-world metadata applications tend to be based on loosely grouped sets of descriptions (where the described resources are typically related in some way), known here as description sets. For example, a description set might comprise descriptions of both a painting and the artist. Furthermore, it is often the case that a description set will also contain a description about the description set itself (sometimes referred to as 'admin metadata' or 'meta-metadata').

Description sets are instantiated, for the purposes of exchange between software applications, in the form of metadata records, according to one of the DCMI encoding guidelines (for example, XHTML meta tags, XML and RDF/XML) [DCMI-ENCODINGS].

4. Values

A DC metadata value is the physical, digital, or conceptual entity or literal that is associated with a property when a property-value pair is used to describe a resource. For example, a value associated with the Dublin Core Creator property is a person, organization or service - a physical entity. A value associated with the Dublin Core Date property is a point (or range) in time - a conceptual entity. A value associated with the Dublin Core Coverage property is a geographic region or country - a physical entity. A value associated with the Dublin Core Subject property is a concept (a conceptual entity) or a physical object or person (a physical entity). A value associated with the FOAF name property is a literal. Each of these entities is a resource.

5. DCMI Abstract Model semantics

Note that this Recommendation does not explicitly define a formal semantics for the DCMI Abstract Model. The intention is that the formal semantics can be defined by reference to the RDF and RDF Schema semantics, as defined in [RDFMT]. The equivalence between some of the notions in the DCMI Abstract Model and the corresponding RDF notions is given in the following table:

DCMI Abstract Model RDF/RDFS
resource Class: http://www.w3.org/2000/01/rdf-schema#Resource
property or element Class: http://www.w3.org/1999/02/22-rdf-syntax-ns#Property
class Class: http://www.w3.org/2000/01/rdf-schema#Class
syntax encoding scheme Class: http://www.w3.org/2000/01/rdf-schema#Datatype
has domain relationship Property: http://www.w3.org/2000/01/rdf-schema#domain
has range relationship Property: http://www.w3.org/2000/01/rdf-schema#range
sub-property of relationship Property: http://www.w3.org/2000/01/rdf-schema#subPropertyOf
sub-class of relationship Property: http://www.w3.org/2000/01/rdf-schema#subClassOf
plain value string Plain literal. See: http://www.w3.org/TR/rdf-concepts/#dfn-plain-literal
typed value string Typed literal. See: http://www.w3.org/TR/rdf-concepts/#dfn-typed-literal

Table 1 - DCMI Abstract Model semantics

Together with the DCMI Recommendation "Expressing Dublin Core using the Resource Description Framework (RDF)" [DCRDF], these equivalences form the basis of the formal semantics of the DCMI Abstract Model. However, the details of such a semantics is outside the scope of this Recommendation.

6. Encoding guidelines

Particular encoding guidelines (HTML meta tags, XML, RDF/XML, etc.) [DCMI-ENCODINGS] do not need to encode all aspects of the abstract model described above. However, they should refer to the DCMI Abstract Model and indicate which parts of the model are encoded and which are not.

Encoding guidelines should indicate how a non-literal value can be treated as a described resource in a separate description in those cases where a non-literal value surrogate does not include a value URI.

7. Terminology

This document uses the following terms:

class (http://www.w3.org/2000/01/rdf-schema#Class)
A group containing members that have attributes, behaviours, relationships or semantics in common; a kind of category.
described resource
A resource that is described by a description.
described resource URI
A URI that identifies the described resource.
description
One or more statements about one, and only one, resource.
description set
A set of one or more descriptions, each of which describes a single resource.
element (http://www.w3.org/1999/02/22-rdf-syntax-ns#Property)
A synonym for property. It should be noted that the word element is also commonly used to refer to a structural markup component within an XML document.
has domain (http://www.w3.org/2000/01/rdf-schema#domain)
A relationship between a property and a class which indicates that if the property is part of a property/value pair, then it follows that the described resource is an instance of that class.
has range (http://www.w3.org/2000/01/rdf-schema#range)
A relationship between a property and a class which indicates that if the property is part of a property/value pair, then it follows that the value is an instance of that class.
instance of
A relationship between a resource and a class which indicates a class of which the resource is an instance.
literal
An entity which uses a Unicode string as a lexical form, together with an optional language tag or datatype, to denote a resource (i.e. "literal" as defined by RDF [RDF].
literal value
A value which is a literal.
literal value surrogate
A value surrogate for a literal value, made up of exactly one value string (a literal that encodes the value).
member of (http://purl.org/dc/dcam/memberOf)
A relationship between a resource and a vocabulary encoding scheme which indicates that the resource is a member of a set.
non-literal value
A value which is a physical, digital or conceptual entity.
non-literal value surrogate
A value surrogate for a non-literal value, made up of a property URI (a URI that identifies a property), zero or one value URI (a URI that identifies the non-literal value associated with the property), zero or one vocabulary encoding scheme URI (a URI that identifies the vocabulary encoding scheme of which the value is a member), and zero or more value strings (literals that represent the value).
plain value string
A value string without an associated syntax encoding scheme URI.
property (http://www.w3.org/1999/02/22-rdf-syntax-ns#Property)
A specific aspect, characteristic, attribute, or relation used to describe resources.
property URI
A URI that identifies a single property.
property/value pair
The combination of a property and a value, used to describe a characteristic of a resource.
record
An instantiation of a description set, created according to one of the DCMI encoding guidelines (for example, XHTML meta tags, XML and RDF/XML).
resource (http://www.w3.org/2000/01/rdf-schema#Resource)
Anything that might be identified. Familiar examples include an electronic document, an image, a service (for example, "today's weather report for Los Angeles"), and a collection of other resources. Not all resources are network "retrievable"; for example, human beings, corporations, concepts and bound books in a library can also be considered resources.
statement
An instantiation of a property-value pair made up of a property URI (a URI that identifies a property) and a value surrogate.
sub-class of (http://www.w3.org/2000/01/rdf-schema#subClassOf)
A relationship between two classes which indicates that the two classes are defined such that all resources that are instances of the sub-class are also instances of the related class).
sub-property of (http://www.w3.org/2000/01/rdf-schema#SubPropertyOf)
A relationship between two properties which indicates that the two properties are defined such that whenever the sub-property is part of a property/value pair describing a resource, it follows that the resource is also described using a second property/value pair made up of the property and the value.
syntax encoding scheme (http://www.w3.org/2000/01/rdf-schema#Datatype)
A set of strings and an associated set of rules that describe a mapping between that set of strings and a set of resources. The mapping rules may define how the string is structured (for example DCMI Box) or they may simply enumerate all the strings and the corresponding resources (for example ISO 3166).
syntax encoding scheme URI
A URI that identifies a syntax encoding scheme.
term
A property (element), class, vocabulary encoding scheme, or syntax encoding scheme.
typed value string
A value string with an associated syntax encoding scheme URI.
URI
A Uniform Resource Identifier [URI] or Internationalized Resource Identifier [IRI]. From the perspective of the DCMI Abstract Model, equivalence of URIs is defined as in RDF [RDF].
value
The physical entity, conceptual entity or literal (a resource) that is associated with a property when a property-value pair is used to describe a resource.
value URI
A URI that identifies the value.
value string
A literal, optionally associated with either a syntax encoding scheme URI or a value string language. In a literal value surrogate a value string encodes the value; in a non-literal value surrogate a value string represents the value.
value string language
An ISO language tag that indicates the language of the value string.
value surrogate
A literal value surrogate or a non-literal value surrogate.
vocabulary
A set of one or more terms.
vocabulary encoding scheme (http://purl.org/dc/dcam/VocabularyEncodingScheme)
An enumerated set of resources.
vocabulary encoding scheme URI
A URI that identifies a vocabulary encoding scheme.

Appendix A - Relationship to legacy DCMI Grammatical Principles

The underlying model for Dublin Core metadata has evolved since first formalisms were proposed in the late 1990s. The following table presents rough terminological equivalences between earlier versions of DCMI grammatical principles [DCMI-GRAM-PRIN] and the current DCMI Abstract Model.

DCMI Grammatical Principles DCMI Abstract Model
vocabulary term resource
element property or element
element refinement property with sub-property of relation
encoding scheme syntax encoding scheme or vocabulary encoding scheme
syntax encoding scheme syntax encoding scheme
qualifier property with sub-property of relation, syntax encoding scheme, or vocabulary encoding scheme
vocabulary encoding scheme vocabulary encoding scheme

Table 2 - DCMI Grammatical Principles and DCMI Abstract Model

References

[DCMI]
Dublin Core Metadata Initiative
<http://dublincore.org/>

[DCMI-GRAM-PRIN]
DCMI Usage Board. DCMI Grammatical Principles. November 2003.
<http://dublincore.org/usage/documents/principles/>

[DCMI-ENCODINGS]
DCMI Encoding Guidelines
<http://dublincore.org/resources/expressions/>

[DCRDF]
Nilsson, Mikael, Andy Powell, Pete Johnston, and Ambjörn Naeve. Expressing Dublin Core metadata using the Resource Description Framework (RDF). DCMI Proposed Recommendation. April 2007.
<http://dublincore.org/documents/dc-rdf/>

[IRI]
Duerst, M., M. Suignard. RFC 3987: Internationalized Resource Identifiers (IRIs). Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). January 2005.
<http://www.ietf.org/rfc/rfc3987.txt>

[RDF]
Klyne, Graham and Jeremy Carroll, editors. Resource Description Framework: Concepts and Abstract Syntax. W3C Recommendation. 10 February 2004.
<http://www.w3.org/TR/rdf-concepts/>

[RDFMT]
Hayes, Patrick, editor. RDF Semantics. W3C Recommendation. 10 February 2004.
<http://www.w3.org/TR/rdf-mt/>

[RDFS]
Brickley, Dan and R.V. Guha, editors. RDF Vocabulary Description Language 1.0: RDF Schema. W3C Recommendation. 10 February 2004.
<http://www.w3.org/TR/rdf-schema/>

[UML]
Booch, Grady, James Rumbaugh and Ivar Jacobson. The Unified Modeling Language User Guide. Addison-Wesley, 1998.

[URI]
Berners-Lee, T., R. Fielding, L. Masinter. RFC 3986: Uniform Resource Identifier (URI): Generic Syntax. Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). January 2005.
<http://www.ietf.org/rfc/rfc3986.txt>

Acknowledgements

Thanks to Dan Brickley, Rachel Heery, Alistair Miles, Sarah Pulis, the members of the DC Usage Board and the members of the DCMI Architecture Community for their comments on previous versions of this document.

Errata 2007-09-24: Fixed typographical error -- deleted extra "is" in two instances of "which is is".

Errata 2013-02-11: Fixed URL for DCMI-GRAM-PRIN.

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