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Constitute: Explore the World’s Constitutions with RDF

By   /  January 29, 2014  /  No Comments

screen shot of constituteproject.orgby Eric Franzon

In the video below, Dr. James Melton, a Lecturer in Comparitive Politics at University College London, gives a presentation on Constitute. Constitute is a new way to explore the constitutions of the world. The origins of the project date back to 2005 with the Comparative Constitutions Project, which has the stated goal of cataloging the contents of all constitutions written in independent states since 1789. To date, that work has resulted in a collection of 900+ constitutions and 2500+ Amendments.  A rigorous formal survey instrument including 669 questions was then applied to each of these “constitutional events,” resulting in the base data that the team had to work with. Melton and his group wanted to create a system that allowed for open sharing of this information, and not just with researchers, but with anyone who wants to explore the world’s constitutions. They also needed the system to be flexible enough to handle changes, when, as Melton points out, “…roughly 15% of the countries in the world change their constitution every single year.”

To achieve the goals and requirements for Constitute, the core team chose to use the Semantic Web RDF standard, after trying XML as an approach. At around 07:05 in the video below, Melton begins talking about the choice the team made to use RDF rather than XML, which he cites as being based on three factors:

  1. Consistency (of schema)
  2. Flexibility
  3. The ability to link to other data sources

Watch Melton’s full presentation here:

James Melton – Exploring Constitute: A New Tool for Searching National Constitutions from Department of Political Science on Vimeo.

The project received funding from Google Ideas and The Indigo Trust. Semantic data structures were created by the Miranker Lab at the University of Texas using Capsenta‘s Ultrawrap.

Explore the Constitute Project directly at https://www.constituteproject.org/#/

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