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Re: Agenda for RDFCore WG Telecon 2002-07-26

From: pat hayes <phayes@ai.uwf.edu>
Date: Tue, 30 Jul 2002 19:31:10 -0400
Message-Id: <p05111b17b96cc306f0a0@[]>
To: Graham Klyne <Graham.Klyne@MIMEsweeper.com>
Cc: w3c-rdfcore-wg@w3.org, Eric Miller <em@w3.org>, timbl@w3.org

>At 08:41 PM 7/25/02 -0400, Eric Miller wrote:
>>9) rdfns-assertion
>>   http://www.w3.org/2000/03/rdf-tracking/#rdfms-assertion
>>I'm frankly confused if this issue is open or not, but I think this
>>issue is addressed in Graham's document but still needs review -
>That's spot on, as far as I'm concerned.
>I invite folks to review section 2.3 in:
>which attempts an account of the social context of RDF deployment, 
>and in particular section 2.3.2 which I believe tackles the 
>assertion issue as raised.  The subsequent sub-sections try to 
>explain how the social and formal aspects can work together.

I think everything it says is right, but it somehow reads slightly 
'tangled'; I can imagine coming away from it feeling rather baffled 
about what one has actually been told. Let me suggest that an example 
might help. I used one in a presentation last week which amused the 
Irish members of the audience, but which you might want to alter for 
a more general readership.

Imagine three websites each publishing some RDF.
http://ex.insultlexicon.com  (A) asserts:

Gobshite rdf:type rdfs:Class .
Gobshite rdfs:comment "Gobshite is an insulting Irish term of abuse; 
a 'gobshite' is a habitual liar who often speaks nonsense, so their 
word is not to be trusted."

and lets suppose this is all that one can find on the website about that term.
http://AngloSaxon.org (B) asserts:

B:Irish rdf:subClassOf http://ex.insultlexicon.com#Gobshite .
http://schmuk.org  (C) asserts:

http://www.coginst.uwf.edu/~phayes rdf:type http://AngloSaxon.org#Irish .

Now, it follows by the formal RDF model theory that these three together entail

http://www.coginst.uwf.edu/~phayes rdf:type 
http://ex.insultlexicon.com#Gobshite .

which I might reasonably consider an insult. Why? Not because of the 
RDF model theory, which merely says I am in some class about which 
nothing can be *formally* inferred. However, the rdf:comment 
associated with that class name by the owner of that name provides 
the insulting content *in the social context of web publication*, 
even though it cannot be formally inferred via the RDF inference 

But who has insulted me? A merely defined the term; B doesn't mention 
me in particular, so even A and B together do not insult *me*. And C 
might argue that although he refers to me, he only asserts that I am 
Irish, which is not in itself grounds for a libel suit. However, I 
think that I could reasonably claim that C is to blame, since C uses 
not a generic term 'Irish', but a particular uriref which is defined 
by its owner (B) in a way which is clearly insulting, since B in turn 
explicitly refers to, and uses, the term defined by A. Thus, C's use 
of a B-defined term suggests a clear intent by C to convey a meaning 
defined by B, by virtue of a definition by A, which is insulting. 
Note that this argument depends on another social convention of RDF, 
which is that urirefs 'belong to' their original publishers who are 
therefore responsible for defining their meanings. By using the local 
name http://AngloSaxon.org#Irish instead of some term defined in, 
say, a lexicon of national names, B has explicitly removed his term 
'Irish' from any *formal* connection with the Land of Erin. In order 
to succeed in his probable intent of making a generic slander against 
my countrymen, B should have used a term which was defined by someone 
else, such as:

http://www.ireland.com/glossary#Irish rdfs:subClassOf 
http://ex.insultlexicon.com#Gobshite .

and  then if C had also used this first uriref, then in spite of a 
similar formal inference chain generating the insulting conclusion 
about me, I think that I would have nobody to sue; since now C would 
indeed have simply made a harmless observation about my ancestry, and 
B's assertion, while indeed arguably racist and offensive, makes no 
reference to me in particular.

The point of this example is to emphasize that publication of RDF, 
when considered as a social act, constitutes a publication of some 
content which is defined by whatever normal *social* conditions are 
used by the publishers of any terms in the RDF to define the meanings 
of those terms, even if those meanings and definitions are not 
accessible to the formal semantics of RDF; and, moreover, those 
meanings are preserved under any formally sanctioned inference 
processes. In a nutshell, the formal entailments of social meanings 
are themselves part of the social meaning.

Note that we cannot use a single notion of 'meaning' to say this 
properly, since of course the formal entailments cannot themselves 
utilize the social aspects of meaning which are included in informal 
aspects of the publication, such as the fact that 'Gobshite' is 
insulting, which is only mentioned in a comment which is opaque to 
any likely RDF inference engine or machine processor. Social meanings 
can be, as it were, transferred or carried by formal entailments, but 
they cannot be incorporated into the formal entailments. To emphasize 
this, suppose that B had failed to use rdfs:subClassOf and instead 
had tried to use his own term:

B:Irish B:oneOfThem http://ex.insultlexicon.com#Gobshite .
B:oneOfThem rdf:comment "This means the same as subClassOf" .

then in spite of the clear social meaning of the comment, there would 
be no *formal* inference path from this and the A and C publications 
to anything that I could find insulting; so even if C had intended to 
bad-mouth me, B's stupidity would have thwarted him.

Hope this helps.


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Received on Tuesday, 30 July 2002 19:31:20 UTC

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