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Re: 'Meta' terminology (was RE: N3 contexts vs RDF reification)

From: Chris Fox <cfox@lds.com>
Date: Fri, 27 Apr 2001 09:23:50 -0400
Message-ID: <3AE972E6.58791932@lds.com>
To: Lee Jonas <ljonas@acm.org>
CC: www-rdf-interest@w3.org, phayes@ai.uwf.edu
I would want to add that:

1) All metadata is in fact data. How often do we explain, "it's data about data"
2) Meta-metadata is data about metadata, and therefore, falls into 1.
3) "Meta" normally means beyond, not above.
4) About and above are not the same concept.
5) Anything stated in language, even if it is "about" language, remains
6) There is no metalanguage (unless you're a Chomskyan).
7) If there were a metalanguage or metadata, it would be only ever be
known/understood/respresented as language or data.
8) Cf. 6, there is no metadata.
9) Any metadata, if such a thing were possible, would be something like this:
what the data respresents external to the data structure (e.g., me as opposed to
the record with the fields pupulated by referents to things about me).
10) "True" metadata would need to be pointed to, not respresented in a data
11) Metadata is therefore only "meta" from the frame of reference of the data it
12) There is no ontological "meta."
13 "Meta" is therefore a design decisison.

Many of us know this, but it's good, once in a while, to reawaken to the
difference between maps and territories, the difference between topics and their

Lee Jonas wrote:

> pat hayes <phayes@ai.uwf.edu> wrote:
> >>pat hayes <phayes@ai.uwf.edu> wrote:
> >>
> >> >>
> >> >>My understanding:
> >> >>
> >> >>Summary
> >> >>=======
> >> >>There are at least two competing proposals for representing contexts in
> >>RDF.
> >> >>The concept of 'context', although similar, differs slightly with
> respect
> >>to
> >> >>'higher-order' statements, ('reification' and making statements about
> >> >>statements).
> >> >
> >> >I wonder, could I make a plea that y'all change your terminology here
> >> >slightly? The term 'higher-order' already has an accepted usage now
> >> >for about80 years, and it isn't this, so this is likely to cause all
> >> >kinds of confusion and wasted time. What you are talking about is
> >> >meta-language statements (statements about other statements), not
> >> >higher-order statements.
> >>
> [snip]
> BTW, I forgot to mention how impressed I was at your grasp of these matters.
> >>Yes, higher-order is incorrect terminology.  I am a bit confused about
> >>calling it a meta-language, though.  It depends on whether RDF is a
> >>'language' or not.  Agreed certain RDF 'vocabularies' can be thought of as
> >>languages, so in that sense it would hold true.
> >
> >Yes, if we are being very persnickety Im not sure of using any
> >logical terms when talking about RDF.  But 'meta' seems appropriate
> >to the 'reification' terminology; at least, thats how I have been
> >understanding reification in the RDF context, ie if A reifies B then
> >A is a statement in the metalanguage of the language of B. I'm not
> >sure that I really grock reification in RDF, though.
> >
> Not 'persnickety' ;-), but following your lead on trying to be as accurate
> as possible in describing statements about statements.  I totally agree with
> you that the terminology should be right to avoid any source of confusion.
> Meta-languages have a different meaning to me - i.e. a *higher-level* (if
> that term is ok with you) language used to *create other languages* (I could
> be wrong).
> I agree the term 'meta' is useful, my interpretation is that it just means
> 'a higher kind of'.  Perhaps we could call them 'meta-statements'?
> >>Though presumably I could more generally call it "meta-metadata" - the
> first
> >>layer of statements represent data about data (metadata) - the next layer
> is
> >>considered to be data about metadata (meta-metadata), ad nauseam.
> >
> >We need a new term. How about metatadata?
> If there are no objections, I like the existing terminology of 'metadata'
> (data about data).  Now, metadata is also data, hence 'meta-metadata',
> 'meta-meta-metadata', etc. all collapse to be called simply 'metadata'.
> I.e. all statements (regardless of layers of abstraction above the raw
> resources they describe) can generally be called metadata, or else if the
> specific layer of abstraction is important in the context they are spoken
> of, then meta-meta-metadata is clearly 3 layers of abstraction above the raw
> data (just count the number of 'meta' words).
> More precisely, any level of abstraction, n, is also a member of the n-1
> level of abstraction recursively (ie. also n-2, n-3, etc).
> I would propose describing raw resources as 'data', statements as
> 'statements' or 'metadata', statements about statements as 'meta-statements'
> or 'meta-metadata', etc.
> >
> >Pat Hayes
> >
> >---------------------------------------------------------------------
> >IHMC                                   (850)434 8903   home
> >40 South Alcaniz St.                   (850)202 4416   office
> >Pensacola,  FL 32501                   (850)202 4440   fax
> >phayes@ai.uwf.edu
> >http://www.coginst.uwf.edu/~phayes
> regards
> Lee


Christopher G. Fox
Manager, Content and Information Architecture
Logical Design Solutions, Inc.

Tel: 212-269-4100, x2283

"When principles of design replicate principles of thought, the act of
arranging information becomes an act of insight."

--Edward R. Tufte
Received on Friday, 27 April 2001 09:22:06 UTC

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