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RE: web proper names

From: John Black <JohnBlack@deltek.com>
Date: Wed, 22 Sep 2004 14:20:32 -0400
Message-ID: <CBEA695878CA104ABC6E74C6B17692755426B4@DLTKVMX2.ads.deltek.com>
To: "Hamish Harvey" <hamish@floodrisknet.org.uk>, <Patrick.Stickler@nokia.com>, <henry.story@bblfish.net>, "RDFInterest" <www-rdf-interest@w3.org>
Cc: <h.halpin@ed.ac.uk>, <ht@inf.ed.ac.uk>

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Hamish Harvey [mailto:hamish@floodrisknet.org.uk]
> Sent: Wednesday, September 22, 2004 6:00 AM
> To: Patrick.Stickler@nokia.com; John Black; henry.story@bblfish.net;
> RDFInterest
> Cc: h.halpin@ed.ac.uk; ht@inf.ed.ac.uk
> Subject: RE: web proper names
> On Wed, 22 Sep 2004 11:38:52 +0300, Patrick.Stickler@nokia.com said:
> > With an approach such as URIQA, though, the degree of 
> standardization
> > and concensus reflected in e.g. programming languages, document
> > models, ontologies, etc. is not required.
> Standardisation of programming languages is rather a different beast
> from standardisation of "ontologies", I think. Although the 
> symbols used
> in a programming language are generally adopted from a 
> natural language
> (usually English), they are defined in terms of what they do. The
> difficulty here is in describing this unambiguously in English prose,
> but the symbols themselves are firmly grounded in reference
> compilers/interpreters.
> Standardising an schema/ontology is a whole different matter. The (IMO
> unfortunate) overloading of <ontology> to mean the expression in a KR
> language of what used to be called an ontology (approx. an account of
> what is) points to the problem. The terms in a schema/ontology can be
> grounded in a real ontology, which can only be imperfectly shared
> between individuals, and probably only imperfectly understood by a
> single individual.

I don't agree that it is a whole different matter. Before 
standardization, many computer languages existed in different, 
incompatible implementations. The abstract machines behind the 
individual implementations were thus imperfectly shared. And 
furthermore, for some large languages, they were only imperfectly 
understood by most individuals who worked with them. It is 
precisely because of this situation that standardization was 
undertaken. Only after long work were compromises made and a 
final standards agreed upon. 

Whether or not this reconciliation of incompatible ontologies 
is done in advance of their use by large groups or whether it 
is done ad-hoc, one-off, in a process of meaning negotiation 
or semantic coordination between two individual agents in a 
just-in-time manner, it has to happen before communication 
can take place.

Or am I missing something here? If you intend a symbol to 
mean one thing and I interpret that symbol to mean something  
else how can we use it to communicate?

> > And insofar as URIs are concerned, approaches such as URIQA
> > specifically address the issue of "what does this URI mean?"
> > in a formal, machine understandable manner.
> Ummm, I like URIQA, but I'm not convinced it does this at 
> all. A CBD can
> be an answer the question "what does this URI mean?" IFF what 
> it "means"
> is a sequence of bytes which can be retrieved (and this is 
> unambiguously
> specified in an agreed RDF vocabulary). Otherwise all it can do is
> provide a set of properties which (help to) establish identity of some
> still inaccessible-to-the-machine entity. If URIQA is supposed to
> provide meaning beyond identity it sounds like an entrance way to the
> hermeneutic hall of mirrors [1]. 
> [1]
> http://cogprints.ecs.soton.ac.uk/archive/00001577/00/harnad90.

Of course, its all just mindless symbol crunching. But simulating 
an airplane or a furnace can by very useful. And so can simulations 
of the act of looking up the meaning of word in a dictionary. If a 
computer is parsing and comes across a URI that it has no rewrite 
rules for, then a simulation of the act of looking up known synonyms 
for it, or prototypes of its use, or a gloss about it, that is, getting 
the simulated-meaning of it, could be very useful.

John Black

  Hamish Harvey
Received on Wednesday, 22 September 2004 18:20:34 UTC

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