Who has had the greatest impact on rock music? It’s a question that still isn’t answered, despite the efforts of Ronald P. Reck, principal at RRecktek LLC, and Kenneth B. Sall, principal systems engineer/XML data analyst at Ken Sall Consulting.
The team wanted to use semantic technology, along with DBpedia and MusicBrainz data sources, to try and figure out the answer. Reck and Sall recently published a paper, Determining the Impact of Eric Clapton on Music Using RDF Graphs: Selected Challenges of Semantics Across and Within Datasets, based on their experiences. Their plan was to use RDF and SPARQL to query properties and relationships among musical artists to reveal their activity, impact and “six degrees of Eric Clapton” connections to other artists.
Reck and Sall initially saw this project as a door-opener to showing relationships between pieces of data, and drawing inferences and conclusions from them, for a more serious purpose: “We were interested in music, but the real application, especially in the government, is tying the clues together, for example, around terrorists,” says Sall. It turns out that musicians and terrorists have some things in common — they tend to have specific roles in their organizations, and may cross-partner with other groups in loose relationships.
While the work didn’t result in answering the original question posed, it did reveal, as Sall puts it, “what can go wrong in doing this kind of semantic analysis.” That’s in itself useful, as it presents an opportunity to find at least some solutions around those pitfalls.