RE: [VM] Draft of 2004-10-25

Jim, Tom

Just to clarify what I'm up to. As I try to explain in my parallel post about Vocabulary
Languages, I don't want to re-open old philosophical can of worms for the sake of it. I'm
supposed to be on the pragmatic front of the Semantic technologies, at least that's what
my company is hiring me for. And believe me lately I've been deep under the hood to fix
devilish details, mostly linked to the things we're about here.

In Topic Maps land, we've been quite far towards making clearly distinct the concepts
(called there, subjects represented by topics) from the various names they can bear, and
the various roles those names can play, depending on their type, like identifying in a
scope (baseName), display in some language (displayName) etc. TM figure names as
attributes of concepts, among an open list of other attributes including identifiers,
description ... And this distinction provides indeed a very clean framework for dealing,
among others, with multilingual situations. And this distinction can be described as a
pragmatic question, not a philosophical one (maybe I'm not good at making it clear, but I
keep trying ...)

Seems to me that the SW has implicitly the same approach, but that the lack of clarity in
this distinction (hidden under tons of technical debates about e.g. the various flavours
of RDF and the "meaning" of URIs) will not help the adoption by, say, the Librarian
community of SW technologies. See recent debates in SKOS forum to illustrate that.

And in answer to Tom ...

> With regard to such issues, I'm always reminded of the joke
> about the centipede.  When they asked him now he managed to
> coordinate all those legs, he thought about it so hard that he
> could no longer walk... :)

This is also one of my favourites - although my own version is more about the fish
wondering how to swim :))

The point is, it has been good enough during milleniums when only humans and centipedes
were in the loop and could figure by mysterious ways how to walk, or how to talk together,
quite efficiently, and without knowing how. But the breaking point we are about now is to
transfer to computers network some of those mysterious how-to's of the centipede walk
(seems that neural networks have yield interesting results in that field) and, more
challenging, human vocabulary and conversation. So, yes, we have somehow to both
understand how we walk, and keep walking. Maybe we can achieve that, if we have the human
arrogance to think that we are better at it than centipedes are :))




Bernard Vatant
Senior Consultant
Knowledge Engineering

"Making Sense of Content" :
"Everything is a Subject" :


> -----Message d'origine-----
> De : Jim Hendler []
> Envoye : vendredi 29 octobre 2004 06:16
> A : Bernard Vatant; Thomas Baker; SW Best Practices
> Objet : RE: [VM] Draft of 2004-10-25
> At 0:30 +0200 10/29/04, Bernard Vatant wrote:
> >
> [snip]
> >I suppose that means that when we use a URI to identify a Term in a
> >Vocabulary, we want to
> >identify a *concept* and not its *name*. Otherwise we would have
> >written that a Term is a
> >*name for a concept*, and that we use the URI to identify the
> >*name*, not the *concept*.
> >This is the classical debate between *terminological* vs
> >*conceptual* views of Vocabulary.
> >I don't know if we want to stand clearly on one side of this debate.
> >Some of the
> >vocabularies or languages we are about seem to stand clearly on the
> >conceptual side of the
> >line. Seems that SKOS does, as Topic Maps Published Subjects do.
> >I've never really been
> >sure about RDF and OWL being so definitive about it. In any case,
> >the document should say
> >clearly at some point either if it stands on one side, and which,
> >and maybe why that one,
> >or if it keeps agnostic, and in this latter case deal with both
> >interpretations. This is a
> >very difficult question, but we can't sweep it under the carpet.
> >
> >Coming back to 3.3, I'm very uneasy with the use of "meaning"(here
> >as anywhere else) and
> >it seems that the wording of the issue in fact goes around
> >identification without naming
> >it. The question of reuse is practical. If one reuses a term out of
> >its original context,
> >to what extent can/should/may semantic applications (including human
> >end-user brains) use
> >it for identification process the same way they would have used the
> >original one? So the
> >question of "meaning" boils down to "Is it really the same concept,
> >even if it bears the
> >same name and URI?". In this question, the key word is not "mean",
> >it's "same".
> or, we could point them at any of the thousands of documents written
> debating these questions over the past couple of millenium, and
> actually produce a useful document by explaining what we're trying to
> do and not getting into basic philosophical distractions...
> seriously, Bernard, I don't mean to "pooh pooh" the message you
> wrote, these are important issues, but I think for the document I
> understand Thomas to be proposing, we really want to keep a focus on
> the pragmatic issues in what this is all about, instead of getting
> into issues that might be distracting to the digital librarians and
> others that this document could be very useful for...
>   -JH
> --
> Professor James Hendler
> Director, Semantic Web and Agent Technologies	  301-405-2696
> Maryland Information and Network Dynamics Lab.	  301-405-6707 (Fax)
> Univ of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742

Received on Friday, 29 October 2004 10:51:10 UTC