Trading Digital Information Goods Based on Semantic Technologies

By Maass, Wolfgang; Behrendt, Wernher et al. | Journal of Theoretical and Applied Electronic Commerce Research, December 2007 | Go to article overview
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Trading Digital Information Goods Based on Semantic Technologies

Maass, Wolfgang, Behrendt, Wernher, Gangemi, Aldo, Journal of Theoretical and Applied Electronic Commerce Research


Digital information goods constitute a growing class of economic goods. During decision making for a purchase a buyer searches for information about digital information goods, such as information about the content, price and trading information, usage information, how it can be presented, and which legal restrictions apply. We present a logical container model for knowledge-intensive digital information goods (knowledge content object - KCO) that directly references formalised semantic descriptions of key information types on information goods. Key information types are formalised as plug-in slots (facets). Facets can be instantiated by semantic descriptions that are linked with domain ontologies. We have identified six logically congruent facet types by which a user can interpret information goods. KCOs are mediated and managed by a technical middleware, called Knowledge Content Carrier Architecture - KCCA. Based on the technical and logical structure of a KCO we will discuss five economic implications that drive further research.

Key words: information goods, electronic markets, semantic technologies, distributed architecture

1 Introduction

One of the assumptions of the Semantic Web is that structured meta-data about information resources provides a better means for human actors and software agents to access, manipulate, delete and create new information resources via digital networks [10]. Digital information environments, such as Intranet and Internet-applications, have traditionally been based on an underlying network metaphor that is driven by intrinsic features of free digital contents where information is perceived as a huge reservoir that can be mixed and used independently of economic interests.

By contrast, the concept of an electronic market for commercial digital information goods is based on an object metaphor, which places a product at the centre that can be appropriated on the seller's side while buyers want to assess the product's quality based on product information during purchase decision making [58], [13]. Digital information goods suffer from poor interoperability because the components that make up the digital information good often stem from different sources (i.e. applications) which have widely differing underlying assumptions about describing the content, its usage and what they regard as meta-data. This leads to a plethora of heterogeneous languages and semantics for description and subsequently, to diverging interpretations of the meta-data.

As a consequence, electronic markets require that digital information goods (1) interact with services in electronic markets by defined interfaces and (2) carry directly accessible product information, i.e. information that describes content usage scenarios according to various attributes. These requirements are at odds with the network metaphor of the World Wide Web and even the Semantic Web is not sufficiently helpful yet for modeling economically viable applications for commercial digital information goods [13].

The remainder of this paper is organised as follows: First we will discuss the requirements from an economic viewpoint (section 2). Next we describe a core ontology for electronic markets (section 3) and digital information goods (section 4) that are based on foundational ontologies. Based on this, we introduce in section 5 a generic representation framework for information goods called knowledge content object (KCO) which can be deployed in open, loosely coupled digital information infrastructures, such as the World Wide Web. In section 6, the overall information exchange architecture - which has been used within three application cases - is described. Section 7 describes how the KCO model and its exchange infrastructure may impact on the future of digital information goods and section 8 summarises and concludes the paper.

2 Economic view on information goods

Network-based digital content environments can be perceived as huge information markets where supply and demand meet.

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