W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > public-lod@w3.org > November 2010

Semantic Ambiguity

From: William Waites <ww@styx.org>
Date: Fri, 12 Nov 2010 15:03:27 +0100
To: Patrick Durusau <patrick@durusau.net>
Cc: Kingsley Idehen <kidehen@openlinksw.com>, Dave Reynolds <dave.e.reynolds@gmail.com>, "public-lod@w3.org" <public-lod@w3.org>
Message-ID: <20101112140327.GZ82661@styx.org>
On Fri, Nov 12, 2010 at 08:40:14AM -0500, Patrick Durusau wrote:
> Semantic ambiguity isn't going to go away. It is part and parcel of the
> very act of communication. 
> [...]
> Witness the lack of uniform semantics in the linked data community over
> something as common as sameAs. As the linked data community expands, so
> are the number of interpretations of sameAs. 
> Why can't we fashion solutions for how we are rather than wishing for
> solution for how we aren't? 

I was at a lecture by Dave Robertson [0] the other day where
he talked about some of the ideas behind one of his current
projects [1]. Particularly relevant was the idea of completely
abandoning any attempts at global semantics and instead working
on making sure the semantics are clear on a local communication
channel (as I understood it).

So maybe that would mean a different meaning for sameAs in
different datasets, and that's just fine as long as the reader
is aware of that and fasions some transformation from their
notion of sameAs to their peer's, mutatis mutandis for other
predicates and classes.

In some ways this is similar to how we use language. If I'm
talking to a computer scientist I'll use a different but 
overlapping sub-language of English than if I'm talking to the
postman. If I'm talking to a non-native English speaker I'll
modify my speech so as to be more easily understood. Around
here, "tea" means "supper" but a short distance to the South
it more likely means a snack with cakes and cucumber sandwiches.

The important thing is a context of communication which modifies
-- and disambiguates meaning. This might be touched on in the
RDF Semantics with the not often mentioned idea of an
interpretation of a graph.

How does this square with the apparent tendency to want to treat
statements as overarching universal truths?


[0] http://www.dai.ed.ac.uk/groups/ssp/members/dave.htm
[1] http://socialcomputer.eu/
Received on Friday, 12 November 2010 14:04:00 UTC

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