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RE: Social Meaning Boston 6 March

From: Jan Grant <Jan.Grant@bristol.ac.uk>
Date: Mon, 24 Feb 2003 11:47:43 +0000 (GMT)
To: Jeremy Carroll <jjc@hplb.hpl.hp.com>
cc: Brian McBride <bwm@hplb.hpl.hp.com>, Graham Klyne <GK@NineByNine.org>, w3c-rdfcore-wg <w3c-rdfcore-wg@w3.org>
Message-ID: <Pine.GSO.4.44.0302241138430.27130-100000@mail.ilrt.bris.ac.uk>

On Mon, 24 Feb 2003, Jeremy Carroll wrote:

[on "social meaning"]

> I believe this intent is reasonably clear:
> a) RDF has meaning that relates to the relate world.
> b) This meaning is preserved under formal entailments.
> c) This meaning should be socially enforceable in the same way as the
> meaning of other languages that relate to the real world (e.g. English).
> d) The document section should be normative.
> e) The use of a word like "legal" is strongly preferred.
> At this stage the only one of those that I think might be appropriate to
> fudge is (e) if words like "socially enforceable" can be made to carry more
> weight.
> It may be beneficial to slightly fudge (b) by suggesting that contracts
> underpinning multiparty systems that use RDF might specify which formal
> system of entailments is intended (e.g. RDF entailments, RDFS entailments or
> OWL entailments); I don't believe the WG ever reached closure on the
> interaction between semantic extensions and social meaning.

Apart from (d) and (e), I think this is the _intent_ shared by many
critics of this document section. I don't get the impression that they
disagree with this, necessarily: only that it shouldn't be part of a

Being the rigorous thinker I am :-) let me illustrate with a loose

	If you fill in your credit-card details on a web page to
	purchase a furby, you wouldn't have much of a leg to stand
	on in court if your defence for nonpayment rested on the fact
	that social context was not specified in the ethernet spec,
	in the TCP/IP spec, in the SSL spec, in the HTTP spec,
	in the HTML spec, or in the documentation for your browser.

What I'm trying to say is, social meaning arises out of use - out of
context. We expect assertions made in RDF to carry social meaning, but
(especially since terms like "legal" are being used) the exact social
meaning may vary over time.

It's really brave to try to capture this assumption in a specification.
Objectors fall into three categories: those worried about the complexity
of tying social convention and formal semantics; those worried that a
specification is not the place for this assertion; and those worried
about the legal ramifications of buying into a specification that makes
such an assertion.

I'd probably put myself more in the second camp - the area is
fascinating and the desire to create a formal semantics that preserves
social meaning is very interesting. But I thikn that'll come out of
deployed RDF applications.

jan grant, ILRT, University of Bristol. http://www.ilrt.bris.ac.uk/
Tel +44(0)117 9287088 Fax +44 (0)117 9287112 http://ioctl.org/jan/
"NOP" is a trivial implementation of an executable Z subset.
Received on Monday, 24 February 2003 06:50:54 UTC

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