Balisage Paper: This paper has no version: Versioning as a social construct
Peter F. Brown
Peter Brown is founder and Managing Director of Pensive S.A., a European company that uses the Topic Maps standard to provide information management and collaboration solutions. He was Chair of the CEN eGovernment Focus Group throughout its mandate and until July 2006 was Senior Expert on eGovernment strategy in the Austrian Federal Chancellery where he promoted work on pan-European eGovernment services, electronic identity management and EU "Information Society" policies. He is currently an elected member of the Board of Directors of OASIS (The Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards).
From 2000 to 2004, Peter led data standardisation and interoperability efforts in the European Parliament and introduced XML standards, business-centred information modelling, information architecture, and Topic Maps. He is the author of "Information Architecture with XML - a Management Strategy" (John Wiley and Sons, 2003), works regularly in many European languages, lectures extensively in Europe and North America and has worked as an expert for projects in Africa and Latin America.
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To declare that something "is" or "has" a "version" is to imply that there is some "original" or true referent for that "version" and that the "version" has some standing in the eyes of some authority. However, whether it be versions of the Bible, versions of documents, or versions of application code, there can be no satisfactory approach to understanding "version" as a purely scalar property. It is necessary to see the concept of "version" for what it is: a social construct that may serve particular needs and may, equally, fail to capture what it is intended to. Understanding this will free us to build information systems that more adequately reflect the mutability of knowledge and its complex relationship with static information.