Work and Item

M’colleague Stig & I have been having an entertaining discussion about the nature of creative works. This is of course a treasure trove of innuendo and inane banter, however, it has serious bearing on how we work with works (if you’ll excuse the…) Spoiler: we’re not using FRBR terminology here.

A brief perusal of Wikipedia, FRBR, BIBFRAME or Schema.org will tell you that there is scant agreement about what exactly a work is; for the current exercise, we’ll ignore the latter two as BIBFRAME adds little, while Schema.org should subclass CreativeWork from MerchantableItem. We identified five characteristics of creative works from out in-depth readings(!)

  • a manifestation of creative effort
  • sufficient novelty
  • a concept
  • not a bag of/placeholder for all manifestations of the work

These are the first four; obviously, a creative work is the manifestation of creative effort (?); the work must be sufficiently novel that it is not understood to be a rendering of or part of some other work; a work is a concept, it is not a thing; it is not a simple heading for a list of all the manifestations of the work.

The last characteristic we defined was perhaps the most salient point of all in regards to our work:

  • propagated by the existence of the first known physical copy of itself

This sounds odd, but the knowledge that something exists propagates its concept. Similarly, (from the point of view of acquisition of a copy of a creative work) when the “item” appears in the system, the work is either created or linked to (item is manifestation of). Without the item, it does not exist in the system; the inverse relationship (work has manifestation) is inferred from the prior assertion.

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