I was trying to explain the symantic level to a classmate today over email, and as I was explaining it to her, it became much clearer to me. This is what I wrote:
The document-like vs dataset-like objects comes from the comparison between FRBR and the new FRBR redone for datasets they [the instructors] introduced last Saturday. FRBR is designed to handle “document-like” objects, such as books, CDs, etc. But the new stack levels (semantic, syntax, serialization, encoding, etc) are meant to handle “dataset-like” objects. The statement about data making assertions is how they differentiate datasets from document-like objects. Data is different from document-like objects because it asserts a fact about something. Remember them saying this – Data involve assertions intended to be used as evidence? So if you have a data set full of temperature measurements at certain times and pressures, then each data entry would assert “The temperature at time X and pressure Y is Z.” That’s the assertion the data are making. It’s not expressed literally in the data, but you can infer it. This assertion is the symantic level of the document — it’s what fact it’s asserting
It’s nice to see these concepts becoming clearer to me. I’m beginning to see the clouds lift, much like they did when I was trying to come to terms with conceptual frameworks in my research methods class. This semester has been a pattern of clouds forming, my feeling totally lost, and then the clouds starting to lift as things become clearer to me. At least I recognize this pattern so the next time it happens I will know it’s part of the process.