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Re: Using DBpedia resources as skos:Concepts?

From: martin <martin@ics.forth.gr>
Date: Thu, 03 Dec 2009 21:18:40 +0200
Message-ID: <4B180F10.5010107@ics.forth.gr>
To: Simon Spero <ses@unc.edu>
CC: public-esw-thes@w3.org, Thomas Baker <thomasbaker49@googlemail.com>, maltese@disi.unitn.it
Dear Simon,

Thank you very much for the comprehensive explanation!
I think I begin to understand where you come from. If I understand correctly,
I actually disagree in a particular point, which I regard as fundamental and not
just a matter of taste.

Simon Spero wrote:
> I don't think we're actually disagreeing, but let me see if I can 
> explain the frogalopes.  The change in semantics I was referring to was 
> the decision to reject the interpretation of broader/narrower as being 
> that of total inclusion over monosemes.
> *Frogs *
> Natural history museums also are witnesses of “cultural features.” A 
> frog in a museum is not a testimony of
> “what a frog is,” but of what a human culture, at a given point in time 
> and space, thinks a frog is.  (Bekiari et. al. 2009,n.4)

Yes. I agree. But this phrase means something different. The question "what a frog is"
pertains to the class "frog", not "my frog". The museum frog is used as prototype to
support the concept frog, but it is just an arbirary frog picked up by a scientist (and killed).

In the text above, we maintain that the defined species is a cultural phenomenon, not a
natural kind. This doesn't change the nature of particulars we have discussed so far.
This discourse is, by the way, specific to natural history and ethnology only, and not common to
other museums.

The cultural relativity of species in contrast to "natural kinds" is more and more accepted.
But these are (typical SKOS) universals.

> *And Antelopes*
> This section is taken from Buckland (1997).
> Ordinarily the word "document" denotes a textual record. Increasingly 
> sophisticated attempts to provide access to the rapidly growing quantity 
> of available documents raised questions about which should be considered 
> a "document". The answer is important for any definition of the scope of 
> Information Science. Paul Otlet and others developed a functional view 
> of "document" and discussed whether, for example, sculpture, museum 
> objects, and live animals, could be considered "documents". Suzanne 
> Briet equated "document" with organized physical evidence. These ideas 
> appear to resemble notions of "material culture" in cultural 
> anthropology and "object-as-sign" in semiotics. Others, especially in 
> the USA (e.g. Jesse Shera and Louis Shores) took a narrower view. New 
> digital technology renews old questions and also old confusions between 
> medium, message, and meaning.
> [...]
> In 1951 Briet published a manifesto on the nature of documentation, 
> /Qu'est-ce que la documentation/, which starts with the assertion that 
> "A document is evidence in support of a fact." ("Un document est une 
> preuve à l'appui d'un fait" (Briet, 1951, 7). She then elaborates: A 
> document is "any physical or symbolic sign, preserved or recorded, 
> intended to represent, to reconstruct, or to demonstrate a physical or 
> conceptual phenomenon". ("Tout indice concret ou symbolique, conservé ou 
> enregistré, aux fins de représenter, de reconstituer ou de prouver un 
> phénomène ou physique ou intellectuel." p. 7.) The implication is that 
> documentation should not be viewed as being concerned with texts but 
> with access to evidence.
> *The antelope as document*
> Briet enumerates six objects and asks if each is a document.
> Object --- Document?
> Star in sky -- No
> Photo of star -- Yes
> Stone in river -- No
> Stone in museum -- Yes
> Animal in wild -- No
> Animal in zoo -- Yes

> There is discussion of an antelope. An antelope running wild on the 
> plains of Africa should not be considered a document, she rules. But if 
> it were to be captured, taken to a zoo and made an object of study, it 
> has been made into a document. It has become physical evidence being 
> used by those who study it. Not only that, but scholarly articles 
> written about the antelope are secondary documents, since the antelope 
> itself is the primary document.
> Briet's rules for determining when an object has become a document are 
> not made clear. We infer, however, from her discussion that:
> 1. There is materiality: Physical objects and physical signs only;
> 2. There is intentionality: It is intended that the object be treated as 
> evidence;
> 3. The objects have to be processed: They have to be made into 
> documents; and, we think,
> 4. There is a phenomenological position: The object is perceived to be a 
> document.
> This situation is reminiscent of discussions of how an image is made art 
> by framing it as art. Did Briet mean that just as "art" is made art by 
> "framing" (i.e. treating) it as art, so an object becomes a "document" 
> when it is treated as a document, i.e. as a physical or symbolic sign, 
> preserved or recorded, intended to represent, to reconstruct, or to 
> demonstrate a physical or conceptual phenomenon? The sources of these 
> views are not made clear, though she does mention in this context her 
> friend Raymond Bayer, a professor of philosophy at the Sorbonne, who 
> specialized aesthetics and phenomenology.
> Ron Day (1996) has suggested, very plausibly, that Briet's use of the 
> word "indice" is important, that it is indexicality--the quality of 
> having been placed in an organized, meaningful relationship with other 
> evidence--that gives an object its documentary status.

This is a typical linguistic discourse. We have a term "document", and try to
identify its senses. This is quite distinct from ontology engineering. A very fundamental
property to maintain in ontologies are the identity criteria. There is fundamental work by Nicola
Guarino et al. about making ontological distinctions based on identity criteria,
which led to the DOLCE ontology. For the Semantic Web, we must try ensure two things:
a) that different parties see one thing as one, both at the same time and diachronically
b) that things have well-defined properties.

The mistake I see in the above is, that the term "document" mixes things made to document something,
with things used to document something. Whereas the former is essential to the existence
of the document and hence can carry the necessary identity conditions, the latter is
Accidental in the Aristotelean sense. Hence, the Antilope as a document is a concept disjoint
from the paper as a document. The Antilope as a document is not even a class, but a relationship,
because it's being a document depends ultimately on what you want to demonstrate with it.
Obviously, a thing used to document something cannot have a subject. Another view on the
problem is that subject and object is confused here.

The "documentary status" is not the nature or "substance" of the thing, but a relationship to an organisation.

If, in the end, we ask what the ESSENTIAL common properties of these "documents" are, there is nothing
left. Hence, the classification is pointless in an information system, and not helpful for information
integration in the Semantic Web. Relationships do a better job here.

In the CIDOC CRM, we distinguish a "Document", which is an Information Object intentionally made to document something, from
other information objects, which may contain fiction or random stuff. We distinguish a relationship of documenting something,
from a relationship of exemplifying a class. Further, we have a general relationship of using things in activities. To my
understanding, these concepts and relationships give a more natural and view-neutral account of the
"Animal in Wild - Animal in Zoo" problem. One of the weirdest examples of such "documents" was the publicly displaid
group of captive Aborigines in the UK in the last century.

I maintain that the particular-universal confusion in the subject world we originally started with is
due to the same sort of view-specific projections of relationships to things. Generally, this causes severe
logical inconsistencies in the Semantic Web, and not better integration.

Kind regards,


> Bekiari, Chryssoula, Martin Doerr, and Patrick Le Bœuf (2009). FRBR 
> object-oriented definition and mapping to FRBR-ER (version 1.0). 
> International Working Group on FRBR and CIDOC CRM Harmonisation.
>     url: 
> http://cidoc.ics.forth.gr/docs/frbr_oo/frbr_docs/FRBRoo_V1.0_draft__2009_may_.pdf 
> .
> Briet, Suzanne (1951). What is Documentation? Ed. by Ronald E Day and 
> Laurent Martinet. Paris, France:  Édit.
>      url: http://ella.slis.indiana.edu/~roday/briet.htm.
> Buckland, M.K. (1997). “What is a “Document”?” In: Journal of the 
> American Society for Information Science 48.9, pp. 804–809.
>     url: http://people.ischool.berkeley.edu/~buckland/whatdoc.html .


  Dr. Martin Doerr              |  Vox:+30(2810)391625        |
  Principle Researcher          |  Fax:+30(2810)391638        |
                                |  Email: martin@ics.forth.gr |
                Center for Cultural Informatics               |
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Received on Thursday, 3 December 2009 19:19:45 UTC

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