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RE: What is a concept?

From: Stella Dextre Clarke <sdclarke@lukehouse.demon.co.uk>
Date: Wed, 17 Mar 2004 09:32:28 -0000
To: "'Miles, AJ (Alistair) '" <A.J.Miles@rl.ac.uk>
Cc: <public-esw-thes@w3.org>
Message-ID: <000101c40c02$c3a8bd20$0402a8c0@DELL>

Re 'traditional thesauri', one of the most widely misunderstood things
is the nature of the fundamental unit. One has to study ISO 2788 (=BS
5723) carefully to realise that the fundamental unit is in fact the
concept. For practical reasons, concepts are represented by terms, but
these are really only labels for the underlying concepts. We are hoping
that this will be much more obvious in the revised British Standard,
which is just about to be issued as a Draft for Public Comment. We then
hope that people building schemas and software to handle thesauri will
use models closer to what you are developing for SKOS, in which concept
is king.

By the way, I wouldn't say 'term = concept + label'. In the thesaurus
context the equation is a bit more complicated, like
"concept = preferred term + any non-preferred terms + any scope note +
any clues given by relationships to broader terms and others"
This 'equation' does not conform to conventional mathematics - the '='
means 'is defined by' and the '+' is fuzzy.  It all seems to rely on
human interpretation - the weakness and the strength of the thesaurus


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

-----Original Message-----
From: public-esw-thes-request@w3.org
[mailto:public-esw-thes-request@w3.org] On Behalf Of Miles, AJ
Sent: 16 March 2004 13:26
To: Dan Brickley (E-mail)
Cc: 'public-esw-thes@w3.org'
Subject: What is a concept?


Defined in SKOS-Core 1.0 Guide as 'any unit of thought that may be
defined or described.'  Might better be described as a 'unit of meaning'
or something like that.  

In contrast to e.g. traditional thesauri, where the fundamental unit is
usually a 'term', and hence where the intended meaning of the unit and
the labels used to refer to it are confounded.

NB. I never use the word 'term' any more, because when somebody in this
line of work refers to a 'term' I've realised they usually have some
idea of meaning attached to it (which may be a specially redefined
meaning known only within a limited scope).  I.e. the meaning and the
label have not been separated.  Hence I deliberately avoid using the
word 'term' anywhere in the SKOS-Core 1.0 guide, but always use 'label'
as a name for the character strings or symbols that are used by people
to refer to concepts.  

In my mind, 'term' = 'concept' + 'label'.


P.s. if you think about this too much, you end up spiralling into

Alistair Miles
Research Associate
CCLRC - Rutherford Appleton Laboratory
Building R1 Room 1.60
Fermi Avenue
Oxfordshire OX11 0QX
United Kingdom
Email:        a.j.miles@rl.ac.uk
Tel: +44 (0)1235 445440

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Dan Brickley [mailto:danbri@w3.org]
> Sent: 16 March 2004 12:57
> To: Miles, AJ (Alistair)
> Cc: 'public-esw-thes@w3.org'
> Subject: Re: Coverage of SKOS-Core 1.0
> * Miles, AJ (Alistair)  <A.J.Miles@rl.ac.uk> [2004-03-16 12:41-0000]
> > 
> > I believe SKOS-Core is suitable for encoding any type of KOS whose 
> > fundamental unit may be modelled as a concept.
> What is a concept?
> Sorry, had to ask...
> (might also ask what a fundamental unit is... what's the fundamental 
> unit of RDF? terms? URIs? resources? classes? hard to tell...)
> Dan
Received on Wednesday, 17 March 2004 04:32:23 UTC

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