I’ve heard that the FRBR Review Group is about to announce plans for a major change to the FRBR model: they’re introducing a whole new entity called “quiddity.” There’s nothing on the FRBR Review Group’s web site or on the mailing list about this yet, but the former is rarely updated and the latter has had almost no traffic. When I hear something official, I”ll post more about it.
So, what does “quiddity” mean? My Canadian Oxford Dictionary defines it as “the essence of a person or thing; what makes a thing what it is..” The Oxford English Dictionary says, “the real nature or essence of a thing; that which makes a thing what it is.” Those are clear definitions, but I’m not sure how they apply here.
Quiddity falls between the two abstract entities (work and expression) and the two concrete entities (manifestation and item). One of the problems with FRBR has been the difficulty in deciding what makes a new expression instead of a new manifestation or a new work. We saw some examples of this in the Tolkien Middle-Earth challenge a few weeks ago. I think quiddity is supposed to make this easier because it straddles the abstract and the concrete and is sort of half of each: it is what makes something what it is, but you still can’t touch it.
A work is realized through an expression, and we used to say an expression is embodied in a manifestation, and then a manifestation is exemplified by an item. Now with quiddity added, it will be like this:
- A work is realized through an expression
- An expression is reified in a quiddity
- A quiddity is embodied in a manifestation
- A manifestation is exemplified by an item
“To reify” means to “convert (a concept, abstraction, etc.) into a thing; materialize” according to my Canadian Oxford Dictionary. The new terms are rather cryptic.
What would really help is some examples, but neither of the people that told me about this included any. I don’t understand it well enough yet to come up with any, but leave a comment if you know more about it and can give one. Personally, I thought the four entities covered everything nicely, even if expression did need a bit of clarification. Still, if adding quiddity clears that up (and maybe it will help with the aggregates problem, where there are several works and/or expressions (and/or quiddities, now) contained in a work), then that’s all for the good. I hope there’ll be a report on the FRBR Review Group’s site soon about all this.