Wednesday, December 09, 2009

What if a Brand were a Secured Namespace for Identity?

This is in part a response to an article on @mikecane's eBook Test, titled How Book Publishing Will Lose: eBooks Vs. Smart Digital Books, but it is also something I have been trying to articulate for a while. The question that haunts me is how to separate narrative concern from brand in a published work. So, I am asking, what if a brand were a secured namespace for identity?

Namespaces are an oft-maligned and misunderstood component of the plumbing of XML based representations of information, such as XHTML, DocBook, DITA and the like. When you create an HTML page, all of the tags you use to create the page are HTML tags, so you have no need for a namespace. When you create an XHTML page, or any other XML based representation, you may use tags from more than one vocabulary, so you use namespaces, represented by URIs, to discriminate between nodes in your document.

When you use a namespace in a document, you associate it with a prefix, which is used as a placeholder for the actual URI within the document. The URI itself must be unique, and often references a collection of schema or vocabulary documents.

What I would like to suggest is that a document representation of a text could be marked up using an appropriate namespace in order to determine an appropriate brand for the markup within the document. For instance,


<title>El Camino Grande</title>
<p property="isbn:number" content="123-456789"/>

<img src="dora:walking"/>
<span actor="dora:actor">Dora</span> and
<span actor="diego:actor" >Diego</span>
walked down the road
<img src="diego:walking"/>
is very rudimentary pseudo-code representing a description of Dora and Diego walking down the road, along with a picture of each of them doing so. This is not production code, mind you, this is merely a sketch of an idea, that the namespace used in this case securely identifies an actor, so that information such as images associated with this actor are not available unless some blessed mechanism, such as the involvement of a digital signature, is involved. More than likely, this mechanism would also involve the ISBN, since it would be unlikely that licensing an branded actor for use by a reader in one text would allow access for all texts.

So if you have the correct signature for the actor and the ISBN, you access the namespace, and you are blessed for use of the associated branding, which might be images, type-faces and so on. In the case of the pseudo-code above, you would require two signatures, one for Dora and one for Diego.

Or would you?

Well, this is where it gets interesting. What if you have secured one of the signatures, and not the other? Can you still read the text? Ostensibly, since this is pseudo-code, yes you can, if you change the namespace in the header declaration to a namespace for which you do have access; for instance, if an open-branded namespace were available, this could be used instead. In this way, if you were purchasing a book about Dora and Diego, you could pay for the entire branding, a portion of the branding, or just purchase the book itself without purchasing the branding, and rebrand the book with an open brand.

And then let the consumers decide.

So what does this all mean? I honestly believe that, as electronic publishing grows as an industry, it will become more and more necessary to separate narrative concern from commercial concern. So, what if brand were a secured namespace for identity? How would that change the industry?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What a great resource!