All Events Related to: Karen Wickett

CIRSS Seminar: What are databases, really?
Though databases have been well-defined and amply discussed in the computer science literature, the actual users of databases often have varying -- and sometimes, conflicting -- conceptions and expectations of this essential infrastructure. Varied beliefs about the capacities, functionalities, and purpose of databases can lead to issues in the development and implementation of database systems, as well as problems for data curators tasked with the care, management, and feeding of these systems over the long term.

In this talk, we present in-progress work that asks: what do we talk about when we talk about databases? More specifically, where do stakeholders’ views of databases conflict, and what are the implications of this mismatch? We review prior critical analyses of databases and their effects; present examples of database definitions from across domains; and discuss implications of these varying definitions for both research and practice.

* Biosketches:

Karen M. Wickett is an Assistant Professor in the School of Information Sciences at the University of Illinois. Her research areas include the conceptual and logical foundations of information organization systems and artifacts. She is most interested in the analysis of common concepts in information systems, such as documents, datasets, databases, digital objects, metadata records, and collections. Before joining the faculty at the iSchool at Illinois, Wickett was on the faculty of the School of Information at the University of Texas at Austin, where she taught courses and conducted research on information modeling and conceptual modeling in data curation. Prior to her faculty appointment at UT Austin, Wickett was a postdoctoral research associate for the Center for Informatics Research in Science and Scholarship (CIRSS) at the iSchool.

Andrea Thomer is an assistant professor of digital curation at the University of Michigan School of Information. She earned her doctorate at the School of Information at the University of Illinois at Urbana‐Champaign in 2017. She conducts research in the areas of digital curation, museum informatics, earth science informatics, information organization, and computer supported cooperative work. She is particularly interested in the long-term usability of digital collections and their infrastructures. She has prior work experience in natural history museum curation and paleontology, which she she continues to draw on in her research.Read more

CIRSS Seminar: The Basic Representation Model for Digital Preservation and Information Organization
Information models to handle preservation and information organization have been challenging to apply to digital objects. The Basic Representation Model is designed to be a general framework to account for the multiple and varied levels of representation that occur in the creation, management, and preservation of digital objects. This model was developed in the context of a project focused on the preservation of scientific data, and has the additional potential to support fine-grained information modeling in bibliographic, scientific, and cultural heritage domains. In particular, the model can support clear and explicit connections between information organization, information management, and digital preservation.

* Biosketch:
Karen M. Wickett is an Assistant Professor in the School of Information Sciences at the University of Illinois. Her research areas include the conceptual and logical foundations of information organization systems and artifacts. She is most interested in the analysis of common concepts in information systems, such as documents, datasets, databases, digital objects, metadata records, and collections. Before joining the faculty at the iSchool at Illinois, Wickett was on the faculty of the School of Information at the University of Texas at Austin, where she taught courses and conducted research on information modeling and conceptual modeling in data curation. Prior to her faculty appointment at UT Austin, Wickett was a postdoctoral research associate for the Center for Informatics Research in Science and Scholarship (CIRSS) at the iSchool.Read more

E-Research Roundtable: Digital Collection Contexts: Intellectual and Organizational Functions at Scale
Recent trends in interoperable content and open data have raised a set of issues arising from the representation of context and complex digital objects.  CIRSS, together with collaborators from the Europeana Foundation and the University of Texas at Austin, organized a full-day workshop held at the March 2014 iConference annual meeting to raise the level of discourse and cooperation around these issues and provide iSchools the opportunity to build a community based on strengths and expertise in this important research area.  

Sessions were led by European and North American experts from iSchools and projects developing large-scale digital cultural heritage collections.

    Conceptual Foundations of Digital Collections
        • Carole L. Palmer and Karen Wickett (CIRSS, University of Illinois)
        • Hur-li Lee (School of Information Studies, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee)
        • Martin Doerr (Institute of Computer Science, Foundation for Research and Technology – Hellas)
        • Carlo Meghini (Istituto di Scienza e Tecnologie dell’Informazione, Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche).

    Practical Implications for Digital Collections
        • Antoine Isaac (Europeana Foundation)
        • Emily Gore and Amy Rudersdorf (Digital Public Library of America)
        • Sheila Anderson (Centre for e-Research, King’s College London)
        • Shenghui Wang (OCLC Research)
        • Mark Stevenson and Paul Clough (Department of Computer Science, University of Sheffield)

Coming from a large-scale, aggregation perspective, the objectives of the workshop were to:
    • Broaden the conversation across an international community
    • Further the research and development agenda for digital aggregations
    • Relate conceptual advances to implementation goals
    • Identify realistic approaches for collection representation, contextualization, and interoperability at scale

This ERRT aims to discuss workshop outcomes and next steps for ongoing research and implementation with the GSLIS community.

Please visit for access to panelists' position papers, presentations, and notes from breakout session.

Prior to the workshop, the organizers also shared a white paper entitled "Modeling Cultural Collections for Digital Aggregation and Exchange Environments", which was developed by researchers from the Europeana Foundation and CIRSS. A public release of the paper is available at
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CIRSS Seminar: "Representing Identity and Equivalence for Scientific Data," from AGU 2012
To be presented as part of a session on "Data Stewardship, Citation With Confidence, and Preparing Next Generation of Data Managers," at the upcoming American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting, 3-7 December 2012 in San Francisco.

* Paper authors: Karen M Wickett, Simone Sacchi, David Dubin, Allen H Renear

* Abstract:  Matters of equivalence and identity are central to the stewardship of scientific data. In order to properly prepare for and manage the curation, preservation and sharing of digitally-encoded data, data stewards must be able to characterize and assess the relationships holding between data-carrying digital resources. However, identity-related questions about resources and their information content may not be straightforward to answer: for example, what exactly does it mean to say that two files contain the same data, but in different formats? Information content is frequently distinguished from particular representations, but there is no adequately developed shared understanding of what this really means and how the relationship between content and its representations hold.

The Data Concepts group at the Center for Informatics Research in Science and Scholarship (CIRSS), University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, is developing a logic-based framework of fundamental concepts related to scientific data to support curation and integration. One project goal is to develop precise accounts of information resources carrying the same data. We present two complementary conceptual models for information representation: the Basic Representation Model (BRM) and the Systematic Assertion Model (SAM). We show how these models provide an analytical account of digitally-encoded scientific data and a precise understanding of identity and equivalence.

The Basic Representation Model identifies the core entities and relationships involved in representing information carried by digital objects. In BRM, digital objects are symbol structures that express propositional content, and stand in layered encoding relationships. For example, an RDF description may be serialized as either XML or N3, and those expressions in turn may be encoded as either UTF-8 or UTF-16 sequences. Defining this encoding stack reveals distinctions necessary for a precise account of identity and equivalence relationships.

The Systematic Assertion Model focuses on key provenance events through which propositional content and symbol structures acquire the status of data content and data, respectively. Attention is on events such as a selection of symbols to express propositional content, or an appeal to observational evidence to advance a claim. SAM explicitly identifies data as the primary form of expression the one directly expressing content for a systematic assertion, an assertion where claims are warranted by an observation or a computation event.

Under these models, equivalence relationships may hold between different data expressing the same content, or between different encodings of the same data. Equivalence relationships also hold among different data supporting the same claim and when contrasting claims are based on the same observations. SAM and BRM support a fine-grained characterization of scientific equivalence relationships that can be documented through ordinary data stewardship practices. Read more

E-Research Roundtable: Collection Examples for Europeana Data Model
We will discussing example collections for modeling collections from the IMLS Digital Collections and Content aggregation in the Europeana Data Model. We are hoping to use these examples to show the benefits integrating collections and collection description into the design of a digital library or aggregation system, by increasing access and by allowing users to understand the context of items and collections.

Our collection narratives are currently under construction, and can be found here: Read more

E-Research Roundtable: Working through Significance 2.0: A guide to assessing the significance of collections
We will walk through this 2009 document from the Collections Council of Australia, available online. From the introduction: "Significance 2.0 outlines the theory, practice and many applications of the concept of significance in collection management. It takes readers through the key concepts and steps in assessing significance, for single items, collections and cross-collection projects. With examples and case studies it shows significance in action, in a wide range of applications. This is a new and revised edition of Significance; a guide to assessing the significance of cultural heritage collections, published in 2001 by the Commonwealth of Australia on behalf of the Heritage Collections Council.Read more

E-Research Roundtable: Recap of Research Data Access and Preservation Summit
Wickett and Thomer will discuss the recent ASIS&T RDAP Summit held in New Orleans on March 22 and 23. We will discuss the major themes around data management that were discussed at the summit, including interoperability, policy development, strategies for deploying services, data citation, and education.Read more

CIRSS Seminar: Je t'aime, moi non plus: the tension between technology and documentation practices
The early-to-mid 2000s economic downturn in the US and Europe forced digital cultural heritage projects to adopt a more pragmatic stance towards metadata creation and to deliver short-term results towards grant providers. It is precisely in this context that the concept of Linked and Open Data (LOD) has gained momentum. Unfortunately, Semantic Web projects sometimes tend to be the victim of a technologically driven vision, where the mean becomes an end in itself. The presentation will put this tension between technologies and documentation practices in a larger context by presenting a hermeneutical framework for the analysis of metadata quality.

Seth van Hooland holds the chair in Digital Information at the Information and Communication Science department of the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB), Belgium, and he is the president of the Master in Information and Communication Technologies ( His research focuses on metadata quality, digitization projects within the cultural heritage sector and digital humanities at large. Van Hooland also works as a consultant and a trainer for diverse European, national and local institutions in the domain of digital cultural heritage and document management. He is a member of the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative (DCMI) Advisory Board and co-chair of the DCMI Tools Community. An overview of his research activities can be found on
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CIRSS Seminar: Are Collections Sets?
The concept of a collection plays key roles in library, museum, and archival practice, and is arguably fundamental to information organization systems in general. Locating collections concepts in a reasonably robust ontology should have a number of practical advantages, including revealing inferencing opportunities on the one hand, and supporting consistency and coherence in system design on the other. However, although practices involving collections have been studied empirically there has been surprisingly little attention given to the formal analysis of the concept itself, or related notions like collection membership. With this paper we hope to convene that discussion, beginning with the question: Are collections sets? We consider in detail the substantial arguments against collections being a kind of set, but recognize that at least one version of that claim, one based on considerations from Guarino and Welty's Ontology evaluation rules, cannot be ruled out. We recognize though that ontology decisions, whether practical or theoretical, ultimately come down to weighing competing considerations and not decisive formal arguments. Any conclusions therefore must await the development of alternative theories in subsequent papers. We invite the information science community to join us in this effort.

First presented at ASIST 2011 Annual Meeting, with co-authors Allen Renear and Jonathan Furner
New Orleans, LA, October 11, 2011Read more

E-Research Roundtable: Meditations on the Logical Form of a Metadata
Open linked data and semantic technologies promise support for information integration and inferencing. But taking advantage of this support often requires that the information currently carried by ordinary "colloquial" metadata records be made explicit and available for computer processing.  Given the fairly simple structured nature of metadata records this looks easy to do. Turns out though that it is not at all easy to do. A number of very fundamental puzzles arise, some of them related to identifier elements, others are issues with knowledge representation in general.  Although related problems have been studied here at GSLIS for some time, the current systematic development is largely new -- its first exposure was just a few weeks ago as a "Late Breaking" report at "Baliage: The Markup Conference" (Montreal). It is also very much a work in progress (with suspected flaws) and so this is an invitation to participate in evolving this account of what metadata records really are, and how they do what they do.
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CIRSS Seminar: Making Digital Curation a Systematic Instional Function
Over the past decade, a rich body of research and practice has emerged under the rubrics of electronic records, digital preservation, and digital curation but few traditional archives have implemented systematic methods to capture, preserve, and provide access to the complete range of documentation that end users need to understand and interpret past human activity.

This talk describes the Practical E-Records Method, which attempts to address this problem by providing easy-to-implement software reviews, guidance/policy templates, and program recommendations that blend digital curation research findings with traditional archival processes and workflows. Using the method discussed in this paper, archives and manuscript repositories can use existing resources to incrementally develop digital curation skills, building a collaborative, expanding program in the process. Archival programs that make digital curation a systematic institutional function will systematically gather, preserve, and provide access to genres of documentation that are contextually-rich and highly susceptible to loss, complementing efforts undertaken by librarians, information scientists, and external service providers. Over the next year, the suggested techniques will be tested and refined at the University of Illinois Archives and possibly elsewhere.Read more

CIRSS Seminar: Rule Categories for Collection/Item Metada Relationships
 Collections of artifacts, images, texts, and other cultural objects are not arbitrary aggregations, but are designed to support specific research and scholarly activities. Collection-level metadata directly supports this objective, providing critical contextual information. However, exploiting this information, especially in a semantic web environment of linked data, requires a precise formalization of the rules that characterize collection/item metadata relationships. Toward this end we are developing a logic-based framework of relationship rule categories for collection/item metadata. This framework will support metadata specification developers, metadata catalogers, and system designers. This presentation summarizes the results of a three year effort, part of the IMLS Digital Collections and Content project.


Wickett, K., Renear, A., & Urban, R. (2010, October 22-27). Rule categories for collection/item metadata relationships. Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the American Society for Information Science & Technology (ASIS&T), October 22-27, 2010, Pittsburgh, PA.
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CIRSS Seminar: The Modifiability Puzzle
We summarize presentations given at ASIS&T 2008 (Allen Renear, Karen Wickett, Dave Dubin) and Balisage 2009 and 2010 (Renear and Wickett) that analyze problems in our commonsense understanding of digital objects. The discussion of these problems began some years ago in the GSLIS Electronic Publishing Research Group and has more recently continued at times in the Conceptual Foundations Group. Related topics are now being actively pursued within the Data Concepts group (Dubin, Renear, Wickett, and Simone Sacchi) of the NSF funded Data Conservancy.

Abstract: The digital world seems to be a place of constant change. Documents are edited, databases updated, files modified, datasets reformatted, and so on. But apparently we are deluded. Standard theories of what digital objects are entail that those objects are immutable and cannot undergo any genuine modification at all. It gets worse. Arguments against modifiability do not apply only to digital objects and do not depend upon specialized definitions -- in a few simple steps ordinary beliefs lead to paradoxes about many things.

Embedded inconsistencies in our commonsense beliefs have long entertained philosophers, but our problem here is more than an idle Milesian amusement. While for the most part human beings manage quite well with inconsistent conceptual schemes, the emerging world of linked data and semantic technologies depends on precise definitions and straightforward logical reasoning, and carries out automatic inferencing, based on those definitions, often with few opportunities for human intervention and correction.

How can we reconcile our commonsense concepts of documents, databases, datasets, and the like with the unforgiving demands of semantic technologies? We believe this is a profound and urgent open question in information science and that the success of semantic technologies and linked data depends on its resolution. On Friday, we will not defend a specific answer but rather try to make the problem clear, and show that none of the known resolutions are without difficulties. We present you with the puzzle -- you tell us how to solve it.


Renear, A. H., Dubin, D. and Wickett, K. M. (2008), When digital objects change — exactly what changes?. Proceedings of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 45:1-3. doi: 10.1002/meet.2008.14504503143

Renear, Allen H., and Karen M. Wickett. “Documents Cannot Be Edited.” Presented at Balisage: The Markup Conference 2009, Montréal, Canada, August 11-14, 2009. In Proceedings of Balisage: The Markup Conference 2009. Balisage Series on Markup Technologies, vol. 3 (2009). doi:10.4242/BalisageVol3.Renear01.

Renear, Allen H., and Karen M. Wickett. “There are No Documents.” Presented at Balisage: The Markup Conference 2010, Montréal, Canada, August 3-6, 2010. In Proceedings of Balisage: The Markup Conference 2010. Balisage Series on Markup Technologies, vol. 5 (2010). doi:10.4242/BalisageVol5.Renear01.
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