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RE: [Proposal][SKOS-Core] skos:denotes

From: Stella Dextre Clarke <sdclarke@lukehouse.demon.co.uk>
Date: Thu, 30 Sep 2004 10:23:11 +0100
To: "'Leonard Will'" <L.Will@willpowerinfo.co.uk>, <public-esw-thes@w3.org>
Cc: "'Dan Brickley'" <danbri@w3.org>
Message-ID: <000001c4a6cf$1bba1ec0$0300000a@DELL>

I am grateful for the helpful notes from Dan, Chaals and Leonard on this
matter. I think what triggered an alarm bell in my head was the original
"skos:definition	'The real world thing that
this concept is an abstraction of.' "

It is the effort to convey the "real thing" that worries me. We can do
it many different ways - using a term to represent it; using a code or
alias; providing a definition or a scope note; showing relationships to
other things/terms/concepts; pointing to examples of the thing. In the
end they are all limited by the constraints of the electronic medium and
our own mental capabilities. In the case of things, it is an illusion to
imagine that we have it if it is not in the same physical space as
ourselves. In the case of concepts, it is an illusion to imagine a
concept exists anywhere except in our individual heads. "Shared
concepts" can often turn out to be based on misunderstanding or on
wishful thinking, or just subtle variations on what we imagine we are
communicating about.

As a pragmatist, I am the first to admit that it is often useful to
maintain the illusion. ( Newton may not have got it as right as
Einstein, but we can still build things that work with Newtonian
mechanics.) But I still have this nagging worry that we need to build in
an allowance for matters not being as precisely defined as we might wish
- the systems built on these constructs will work most of the time, but
they can be fallible. The expectations of what ontologies will deliver
for the Semantic Web often worry me where they assume the network of
machine/systems will get it right without any checking of assumptions
made along the way. As I've said before, the thesaurus model does assume
that a human being will be keeping an eye on things and applying common
sense where necessary, and I suppose that is what I have grown
accustomed to.

But don't let me stop you building those things that work!


Stella Dextre Clarke
Information Consultant
Luke House, West Hendred, Wantage, Oxon, OX12 8RR, UK
Tel: 01235-833-298
Fax: 01235-863-298

Received on Thursday, 30 September 2004 09:23:26 UTC

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