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URIs for People

This chapter addresses the issues about how can have URIs.


URIs and people

People have a characteristic that is shared by most of the physical world: they are (or were) 'things' within this physical world. On the other hand, URIs are supposed to give unambiguous labels to things which may be physical but may only exist in a digital world.

So what is my URI?


If I am (or was) lucky enough to be a "researcher, inventor, writer, artist, performer, publisher, etc" then according to the International Standard Name Identifier then I have probably been assigned an ISNI number. I didn't have any involvment in that, and it only keeps a limited amount of information about me. That's okay: the mission of the ISNI Authority is to assign a unique ISNI number to each researcher, etc "so that every published work can be unambiguously attributed to its creator".

My ISNI entry is

ISNI: 0000 0001 1774 8769
Name:  Newmarch, Jan
       Newmarch, Jan D.
       Newmarch, Jan Dennis
Creation class:  Language material
Creation role: author
  Foundations of Jini 2 programming
  Jini technology
  Logic programming, 1990:
  Logic programming : prolog and stream parallel languages
  programmer's guide to Jini technology, A
  X window system and motif, c1992:, The
  X Window System and Motif, The : a fast track approach
This misses out my research publications, so it doesn't capture very much about my academic work. But of course, it misses out on all the other things that I have done, and am. And it doesn't even seem to give the ISBNs of my books :-(.

Nevertheless, an ISNI can also be used as a URI for the people in its database, by prefixing the number with isni-url.oclc.nl/isni/ as in

So I suppose you could say that it is one of the possible URIs for me, that captures some aspects of me.

What does a URL mean?

Much discussion has been held about what a URL (or a URI) means in the context of identifying "things not on the Web" versus "things on the Web." The paper by David Booth Four Uses of a URL: Name, Concept, Web Location and Document Instance discusses a fictitous URL for the concept "love", http://x.org/love. There are four possible meanings that could be given to this URL:

"http://x.org/love contains three forward slashes."
"http://x.org/love makes the world go round."
"http://x.org/love has the document you seek."
"http://x.org/love is a good description of the concept of love."
This is just a complex variation on the old
Paris is a five letter word
Paris is a city in France

The problem of how to distinguish between these in URIs has not been resolved: the document Cool URIs for the Semantic Web makes suggestions but isn't really satisfactory.

LinkedIn and friends?

I have a LinkedIn page. I can (with difficulty) find my Public Profile link which is http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=5478994. Could this count as a URI for me? At least I have some control over the content, so it would be a representation of some aspects of me!

I would guess that Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc have similar URIs, although not necessarily of me.

Shakespeare's URI

If I were dead, and really, really famous, then there would be host of URIs for me to choose from. But none of them would be really Shakespeare, just different representations of aspects of the person.


Copyright © Jan Newmarch, jan@newmarch.name

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