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When does a document acquire (web) semantics?

From: John Madden <john.madden@duke.edu>
Date: Mon, 1 Feb 2010 13:30:30 -0500
Message-Id: <883E81EE-0366-4AD8-8B7B-CFEF0B6BC55A@duke.edu>
Cc: Eric Prud'hommeaux <eric@w3.org>
To: w3c semweb HCLS <public-semweb-lifesci@w3.org>
We had an interesting call in TERM today. One of the topics I would like to boil down to the question "When does a document acquire its semantics?" or, "when does a document come to mean something?"

I argued the (admittedly intentionally) radical view that documents have no semantics whatsoever until a reader performs an act of interpretation upon the document, which in the Semantic Web world would be the same as attributing an RDF/OWL graph to the document. 

Even if the author of the document attributes a a particular RDF/OWL graph to her won document, I argued that this graph is not privileged in any way. That others could justifiably argue that the author's own RDF/OWL graph is incomplete, or flawed, or irrelevant, or even incorrect. And the same is true of any subsequent interpreters (i.e. authors of RDF/OWL graphs that purport to represent the "meaning" of the same document).

Eric argued a really interesting point. He argued (and Eric, correct me if I'm interpreting you wrong here), that semantics instead come into existence (or perhaps *can* come into existence) at the point when somebody executes a SPARQL query on a set of RDF/OWL graphs. That is to say, maybe I'm wrong and semantics doesn't even come into existence when somebody attributes an RDF/XML graph to a document; but rather it only comes into existence when somebody queries across (possibly) many graphs of many different people.

What do you think?

John
Received on Monday, 1 February 2010 18:31:06 GMT

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