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Re: The Syntactic Web

From: Dan Brickley <danbri@w3.org>
Date: Wed, 11 Sep 2002 12:25:05 -0400 (EDT)
To: Stevan Harnad <harnad@ecs.soton.ac.uk>
cc: Jim Hendler <hendler@cs.umd.edu>, Michael Luck <mml@ecs.soton.ac.uk>, Nick Jennings <nrj@ecs.soton.ac.uk>, <ora.lassila@nokia.com>, <www-archive@w3.org>, Tim Berners-Lee <timbl@w3.org>, <gerald@w3.org>
Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.4.30.0209111214450.17157-100000@tux.w3.org>


[snip]

Hi folks,

I stumbled across this thread on www-archive (an archival rather than
discussion list :) but since I've longstanding interest in both RDF and
the 'symbol grounding' debate, I can't resist jumping in.

Steven, I share your concern that some folk are using the word 'meaning'
in an over-generous sense, and that much of what we've done with RDF and
OWL has been in the world of abstract syntactic structures. The piece of
the puzzle that connects those to society and human practice is far from
clear, at this stage. URIs are important, but don't provide the entire
story.

We claim that RDF has propositional content, but don't (yet? ever?)
enumerate the factors relevant to fixing (and discovering) that content.
Given an infinitely well funded scientist and an RDF document, how would
s/he set about working out what the content of the document was, and
whether it was true? (for related grumblings re role of model theories,
see
http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/www-rdf-interest/2002Aug/0175.html).

The closest we get to this topic in the RDF specs is a paragraph in our
most recent working draft,
http://www.w3.org/TR/rdf-concepts/#section-Social
[[
RDF/XML documents, i.e. encodings of RDF graphs, can be used to make
representations of claims or assertions about the 'real' world. RDF graphs
may be asserted to be true, and such an assertion should be understood to
carry the same social import and responsibilities as an assertion in any
other format. A combination of social (e.g. legal) and technical machinery
(protocols, file formats, publication frameworks) provide the contexts
that fix the intended meanings of the vocabulary of some piece of RDF, and
which distinguish assertions from other uses (e.g. citations, denals or
illustrations).
]]

Nailing down more details of this 'combination of social and technical
machinery' will be tricky (to put it mildly), but is critical if we want
RDF documents to be the sort of thing people can wave around in court.
Or, more generally, that can be used as records of obligations and
commitments...

Sorry to jump in. Maybe we could move this thread to www-rdf-interest@w3.org?

Dan


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Received on Wednesday, 11 September 2002 12:25:13 GMT

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