Instantiation as metonymy (originally posted 1-24-2009)

In the meantime I prepared a paper on superworks for a volume edited by Arlene Taylor. This was fun, because often when I talk about cultural forces as catalyst for instantiation peoples’ eyes glaze over, but this time I was able to use Brokeback Mountain as an example. It had been fun to see the movie in the US one week, and a week later find a novelization in English with the movie actors on the cover in a bookstore in Amsterdam.

Constellations of works exist with abundance in the bibliographic universe. While this is good news for library users-cultural forces drive the marketplace to see to it that a wide variety of useful instantiations evolves-it presents a challenge for information retrieval. A simple citation for a work might be the anchoring node for a large family of related works. The future of sophisticated information retrieval depends on the development of integrated repositories that allow informed selection among the plethora of entities that share intellectual content. Achieving this goal will bring us much closer to Wilson’s notion of exploitative control of humankind’s store of recorded knowledge.

I recently published a larger meta-analysis of the concept of instantiation (A meta-analysis of instantiation as a phenomenon of information objects. Culture del testo e del documento 9, no.25, gennaio-aprile 2008, pp. 5-25). Here is the abstract:

“Instantiation” is the phenomenon observed among information objects of all types, in which multiple iterations of the information content exist and must be collocated and disambiguated in a retrieval system. The phenomenon has been observed among bibliographic works, cultural heritage artifacts, archival documents, scientific models, and ontological constructs. Studies have demonstrated some consistent theoretical parameters for the concept of instantiation, such as the importance of canonicity as a catalyst for instantiation, positive correlation of age of progenitor with large instantiation sets, and positive correlation of age of progenitor with complexity of instantiation sets. In the present paper all relevant terms are defined, an epistemological analysis of the concept of instantiation is presented in summary form, and a meta-analysis of the phenomenon of instantiation is performed using empirical evidence from several studies. The result demonstrates theoretical consistency across studies, suggesting the importance of the phenomenon for the development of the semantic Web, as well as pan- and inter-institutional digital libraries incorporating representations of both documentary and artifactual information resources.

At the moment I am interested in understanding the concept of instantiation as a form of metonymy.

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