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Vexillological Metadata Schema

Last modified: 2013-06-29 by rob raeside
Keywords: vexillology | cybervexillology | e-vexillology |
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For some weeks I have been working on the concept of a new vexillological paradigm for the Internet. The current model, while good, has the opportunity to grow beyond the mere presentation of information into the realm of electronic cataloguing of information by harvesting agents. This would be done using metadata. As recently as November 17, I had considered the possibility of using the basics of the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative as the foundations, and then expanding with certain or selected elements that would be vexillologically orientated. Since then, however, I have considered the use of a Vexillological Metadata (VM) schema by itself.

Let me briefly summarize the issue. At present, we (and I include all vexillological organizations or persons who deliver flag information via the Internet) are in a basic mode - namely presenting information to the public at-large about flags. This is the state of cyber-vexillology at this time. But if we were to prepare metadata in such a way that it can be read by harvesting software used by libraries, universities, and the standard search engines, perhaps we can move beyond the simple presentation to where the information can be catalogued and used by scholars, students and interested individuals. Generic cybervexillology would become "electronic vexillology."

With every potential schema there have to be some definitions, and examples of use. For FOTW, we are probably a long way from implementing such a schema. But here are the basic elements:

  • author - the person who wrote the information. This is particularly useful on longer works or where the information is produced by one or two individuals. This element would be repetitive, acknowledging the potential of a collaborative effort.
  • editor - the individual or potentially the organization which has edited the material for the specific website. This element would occur once in the schema.
  • abstract - a summary of the actual document. Mandatory element.
  • produced - the date the web page was produced. Limited to one occurrence
  • keywords - generic keywords that could be used to describe the document. In this element the best solution would be the use of a controlled vocabulary which would eliminate the duplication of terms, not necessarily in the mold of the FOTW keyword recommendations. This element would be required.
  • artist - identification information as to the artist of the images on the page (with potential cross-references to the image name when multiple images and artists appear on a page). This element would be repetitive.
  • area - similar to the ISO 3166-1 codes, i.e. jp would be the tag for Japan. Subdivisions would be coded either in ISO 3166-2 format, or spelled out (i.e. us-md-Calvert County-Chesapeake Beach). This does not have to agree with the page name encoding done by the editor. This element would occur once.
  • language - using the ISO 639 coding format. Given the fact that there could be multiple languages on a page, the element could be static with allowances for multiple entries, such as the keyword entries. Mandatory.
  • family - a literal identifying the flag family or subfamily. This element is repeatable. We would need, as a vexillological community, to determine the classification scheme to be used, i.e. Crampton, Znamierowski, etc.
  • topology - this allows for a different encoding schema based on the appearance of the flag. Repeatable.
  • copyright - information regarding the copyright holder of the material under question. This element would be required and occur only once.
  • rights - information regarding the reproduction or use of the material and images on the page. This element would be optional, but could occur more than once, as I hope my examples will show.
  • blazon - The blazon of the flag, where appropriate, using official sources.
  • issn - The International Standard Serial Number for on-line publications, or for reprints from paper products. Example - Stars and Bars (Confederate States Vexillological Association) has an ISSN, as well as many vexillological publications (not all, however).
  • usage - An indication as to the usage, i.e. civil, etc. Perhaps we could use the standard CSW/CSW that is provided in lieu of a graphical representation.
  • adopted - Adoption date of the flag.
  • title - the page or document title. Mandatory element.

Unless identified as required, the element would be optional.

In preparation for my prospectus towards creating an e-vexillology web framework, I did some brief analysis of several websites which feature flags, discovering that of the small sample, none uses XHTML or XML at this time. Therefore, the first example relates to HTML only.

Let's take an actual article and pretend for a moment that it has been posted to the Internet, which in this case it has, an article entitled "Politics Decides Fate of Georgia Flag." For HTML, the obvious route to go would be to incorporate the information into the <meta> tag.

Given what we know or can determine about the article (with some assumptions), let's see how it can be described in VM.

<head> <title>Politics Decides the Fate of Georgia Flag</title>
<link rel = "schema.VEX href = "">
<meta name="Vex.Title"
content="Politics Decides Fate of Georgia Flag">
<meta name="Vex.Author" content="Phillip L. Nelson">
<meta name="Vex.Editor" content="American Vexillum">
<meta name="Vex.Abstract" content="A summary of the adoption of the 2003 flag of Georgia">
<meta name="Vex.Produced" content="May 2003">
<meta name="Vex.Keywords" content="stars, stripes">
<!-- more can be added depending upon the specific requirements of the encoding organization -->
<meta name="Vex.Artist" content="Devereaux D. Cannon, Jr.">
<meta name="Vex.Artist" content="State of Georgia">
<meta name="Vex.Area" content="us-ga">
<meta name="Vex.Language" content="en-us">
<!-- in this example I use the ISO 639 code for the language
and the ISO 3166 code to differentiate between the English
as written in the US v. the UK, the second part totally optional -->
<meta name="Vex.Topology" content="Stars and Stripes">
<meta name="Vex.Copyright"
content="copyright 2003 Phillip L. Nelson and American Vexillum">
<meta name="Vex.Rights"
content="reprint, acknowledge author and artists"
<!-- the content here is based on the organizational requirements -->
<meta name="Vex.Issn" content="ISSN 1544-5984">
<meta name="Vex.Adopted" content="April 25, 2003">
<!-- In this example I used the date adopted by the legislature, it would really be the day the legislation was signed -->

As seen in the example, not all of the elements listed were actually used and the use of repetitive elements used as needed. Certain elements were not used n the analysis, but could have been. For instance, if we were to blazon the flag of the county of Sodermanland in Sweden the blazon element would be as follows:

<meta name="Vex.Blazon" content="I fält av guld en upprest svart grip med röd beväring, därest sådan skall komma till användning">

The discussion of the Vexillological Metadata schema now turns towards XML. For the XML example, I will use the same example that was used for the HTML implementation. Of a notable difference is the inclusion of the VM elements within the Resource Description Framework (RDF) container in the head portion of the XML document. Before illustrating the potential implementation, let me just say that during the course of my research on the matter, I did look at the possibilities of Dublin Core, PRISM, and several other metadata implementations, all of which did not fully capture the potential flavor of vexillological content that could be harvested. Rather than use portions of the existing schemas, I did decide to consider VM as a particular subset of metadata language.


<vex:title>Politics Decides Fate of Georgia Flag</vex:title>
<vex:author>Phillip L. Nelson</vex:author>
<vex:editor>American Vexillum</vex:editor>
<vex:abstract>A summary of the adoption of the 2003 flag of Georgia</vex:abstract>
<vex:produced>May 2003</vex:produced>
<vex:artist>Devereaux D. Cannon, Jr.</vex:artist>
<vex:artist>State of Georgia</vex:artist>
<vex:topology>Stars and Stripes</vex.topology>
<vex:copyright>copyright 2003, Phillip L. Nelson and American Vexillum</vex:copyright>
<vex:rights>reprint, acknowledge author and artists</vex:rights>
<vex:issn>ISSN 1544-5984</vex:issn>
<vex:adopted>April 25, 2003</vex:adopted>

Of course for such a system to work, there would need perhaps to be several working groups (and I'm not really sure if there would be much support for this outside FOTW, or even within FOTW): one to create a proposed controlled vocabulary; possibly one to review the current schema for potential additions; and so forth.
Phil Nelson, 21-24 November 2003
based upon From Cybervexillology to E-vexillology (unpublished manuscript), Phillip L. Nelson, 2003


Proposed Schema

Draft Version

-- Vexillology Metadata Schema

VexMeta attribute
	description url 'tobedetermined.html'
	prefix 'VEX'
	label 'Vexillology Metadata'
 	icon <vexmeta.gif>
	syntax container
		attributes set
			Author, Editor, Abstract, Produced, Keywords, Artist,
			Area, Language, Family, Topology, Copyright, Rights,
			Blazon, Issn, Useage, Title

Title attribute
	description 'The name given to the resource by the creator or publisher.'
	label 'Title'
	mandatory single valued
	syntax string

Abstract attribute:
	description 'A summary of the contents of the document.'
	label "Abstract'
	mandatory single valued
	syntax string

Author attribute
	description 'The author of the resource'
	label 'Author'
	syntax string

Editor attribute
	description 'The person or organization which is responsible for the 
distribution of the material.'
	label 'Editor'
	optional single valued
	syntax string

Family attribute
	description 'The generic flag family, if applicable.'
	label 'Family'
	syntax string

Topology attribute
	description 'A description of the physical attributes of the flag.'
	label 'Topology'
	syntax string

Keywords attribute
	description 'A controlled vocabulary identifying information about 
the source document.'
	label 'Keywords'
	syntax string

Artist attribute
	description 'The illustrator of the image (and optionally the 
image name associated with the illustrator.'
	label 'Artist'
	syntax string

Copyright attribute
	description 'The date and information regarding a copyright notice.'
	label 'Copyright'
	optional single valued
	syntax string

Produced attribute
	description 'The date the resource was made available in its 
present form.'
	label 'Produced'
	optional single valued
	syntax string

Issn attribute
	description 'String or number used to uniquely identify the 
resource from the International Standard Serial Number.'
	label 'ISSN'
	optional single valued
	syntax string
	    'ISSN' scheme

Language attribute
	description 'Language(s) of the intellectual content of the 
resource. Where practical, the content of this field should coincide 
with ISO 639.'
	label 'Language'
	mandatory repeatable
	syntax string
            'ISO639' scheme

Area attribute
	description 'An area that is covered by the image. Area refers 
to the ISO 3166 elements, and any other level of specificity to 
identify the country, region, state or locale using the flag.'
	label 'Area'
	syntax string

Rights attribute
	description 'Information on the rights to print, reprint, 
distribute or store the document.'
	label 'Rights'
	optional single valued
	syntax string

Usage attribute
	description 'Information on the usage of the flag.  See the 
FIAV Flag Information Code at'
	label 'Usage'
	optional single valued
	syntax string

Adopted attribute
	description 'The date the flag was officially adopted. 
ISO 8601 format is preferable, but the text should be free form for 
providers who are not familiar with the ISO schema (YYYY-MM-DD).'
	label 'Adopted'
	optional single valued
	syntax string

Blazon attribute
	description 'The official blazon as granted; not applicable 
for many flags.  When the blazon is in a different language than 
the remainder of the document, an additional language attribute will 
be needed'
	label 'Blazon'
	syntax string

Editor's note: If a value is not listed as "mandatory" with a modifier as to single valued or repeatable, or "optional single valued" the value defaults to "optional repeatable."