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Re: [ontolog-forum] CL, CG, IKL and the relationship between symbols in

To: "John Black" <JohnBlack@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Cc: ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
From: Pat Hayes <phayes@xxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 15 Jan 2008 15:16:28 -0600
Message-id: <p0623091ec3b2c891a800@[]>
At 6:40 AM -0500 1/15/08, John Black wrote:
I think I spy a disconnect between our approaches to this problem.
Specifically, you often seem to be taking the viewpoint of a browser client, or at least of some agent that can only know what HTTP, as a formal system, can communicate. Such a perspective is valuable when examining possible interpretations of the web Architecture document, or of the semantics of HTTP.

Not exactly the viewpoint of, but yes, Im interested in getting this discussion sufficiently precise that it can be used as the basis for building ontology and SWeb software by dealing with appropriate formalisms.

But there is another perspective we can take, and I am speaking from that perspective. We can take the view of a web scientist or ontology engineer.

I don't think these are the same perspective. An ontology engineer has to engineer ontologies, and they are formal, and manipulated by software.

We can look at this example with the full power of human reason.

Of course we CAN, but what would this have to do with an ontology forum? And in any case (see below) even if we do this, as an exercise in semiotics, we still need to be rather exact about what we are talking about in order to not get muddled.

We can go behind the scenes and find out who maintains that resource at the W3C.

Not using Web resources you can't.

We might even be able to find out who first designed and implemented it and why.

Ditto. Look, you can hire a detective to find out who is sleeping with someone's wife, but what has that got to do with Web architecture or ontology design?

So in what follows, I am often not disputing what you say, just looking at it from this other viewpoint.

on Sun. Jan. 06, 2008, at 8:40 PM, Pat Hayes wrote:
At 6:57 PM -0500 1/6/08, John Black wrote:
Very well then, I believe I am beginning to understand what the name of
this song is called, but there are still a few loose ends I'd like to tie

on Sun. Jan. 6, 2008 at 1:24 PM, Pat Hayes wrote:
 >I've read some of the references...I'm happy to concede that 'context'
 >may be better replaced by several more specific terms, or at least
 >we always make clear that there are many *kinds* of context. And I'll
 >keep reading...

But I'd like to return to one part of this discussion with an example
'from the field' rather than my own manufacture. I'd like to get
opinions about this example as it still troubles me.

on Sat. Dec. 29, 2007 at 1:04 PM, Pat Hayes wrote:
<huge snip>

PH>>>The key point is, what would count as a
'context' for a context-dependent URI?

In the following example[1], the differing 'contexts' are the different
web-pages upon which occurrences of a URI appear.

PH>>> Consider
this scenario. You, sitting at your computer, use a URi to browse an
interesting website, and you send me an email telling me about it and
citing the URI. I then, sitting at my computer, two days later on the
other side of the planet, type that URI into my browser. We expect
we will see the same website: but what do our two contexts have in
common? It might be almost nothing: the times, places, browsers,
countries, users, OSs, maybe even cultural and linguistic settings,
be completely different. It is inherent to the Web that the contexts
publication and of use of a URI can be arbitrarily different and far
apart on every dimension, yet the URI is supposed to retain its

This scenario is not applicable here. We need the following scenario.
You, sitting at your computer, use URI-A to browse to an interesting
web-page upon which you see a small graphic, retrieved by an occurrence
of URI-CD, which refers to an assertion that the web-page you are
viewing is written in valid XHTML 1.0.

This is URI-CD:  http://www.w3.org/Icons/valid-xhtml10

What this URI is intended to denote is this assertion (from the W3C help
page: http://validator.w3.org/docs/help.html) "To show readers that one
has taken some care to create an interoperable Web page, a "W3C valid"
badge may be displayed (here, the "valid XHTML 1.0" badge) on any page
that validates."

OK, very nice example. But lets be very clear about what exactly is
denoting what. The badge is a graphic, which is emitted by (and hence
webarch:represents) a Web object (belonging to the W3C) which itself is
denoted by the URI-CD (because, following the httpRange-14 decision, no
303-redirection was done when you GET that URI). The badge is not itself
a URI. Moreover, while it is being the object of the URI or URTIs which
denote it, it isnt (yet) being used symbolically: it is simply an
information object, a PNG file. But when used *as a badge*, ie as part of
a visible Web page, then (let us agree) it does become a symbol, one
which, as you correctly point out, is used indexically, since its
occurrence on a Web page makes an assertion about that very page. But it
still isn't a URI; so all that follows is that Web pages may contain
indexical (human-readable) content, which is of course true. A web page
containing an article which says "this article" contains indexical
content also. Human languages and communication systems are rife with

I'm curious, first, about how you have handled *what it is* that the
URI-CD denotes.

I followed the http-range-14 ruling, and assumed (perhaps naively :-) that
the W3C are following their own rules. That URI doesn't have a hash in it,
so the rule is: if, when you perform a GET on the URI, something returns a
result with a 200-level http code (in particular, without a 303-redirect),
then the URI denotes the 'something' that sent that response. Typically
this is a webpage or a website or the like: the generic term used by the
TAG has varied, but I think it is currently "information resource", which
I hate, so I called it a Web object. (Another nice term Ive seen is an
'http endpoint'.)

Right, from the viewpoint of the authors of that document and others, it is an "information resource" aka "web object" aka "http endpoint". But that is a general term. From the viewpoint of an investigative web scientist, we can say more specifically what it is.

But you aren't denying that it is a 'web object', right?

But we know more about it than that.

Actually we don't. About all we know is that it emits a certain kind of
image file as an http response.

Now here is where the difference in viewpoints is critical. Yes, you are right, from the point of view of a machine doing interpretations of the syntax of HTTP according to web architecture doc, that is all "we" (a machine interpretation) can know. But from the view point of the investigative web scientist, we can know more. And I think if we did talk to the original designer of the 'resource'

How could we possibly do that? How could YOU do that?

, he would tell us that, yes, the resource emitting the 'representations' was in fact a human symbolic artifact,

Of course...

 indexical in essense and intended use.

..but careful. The resource is simply a file located on a W3C computer. It stays there and 'says' nothing. Copies of it are used indexically.

 As web scientists then, we may further realize that the function of HTTP, in this case, was little more than a location transducer.
Why call it a "web object", or an "information object", or a "PNG file",
or a "badge" when we know precisely what kind of "web object" it is? We
know that the "badge" has "W3C XHTML 1.0 check" on it.

So? What has that got to do with what its URI denotes? And in fact, what
it actually has on it is an IMAGE of those characters, not in any
machine-readable form.

So, again, I agree, from the point of view of an automated HTTP interpreter, using only that which is machine-readable to us, we know nothing but that it denotes that IMAGE.

The URI denotes that badge/image/web-resource/thingie. There is only one of it, and it, itself, is never used to make any assertions. The HTTP protocols supply us with a copy (webarch:representation) of it, and we can then use that copy to human:assert something about the page the copied image is on. OK, lets agree on all that.

But from our new vantage point, that of a web-scientist, we know more. From this viewpoint, the web is full of more particular things, we can see that the web is full of not just generic IMAGEs, or "information resources" but *specific* images, of Clinton, or Huckabee, or soldiers, or sports heros. Furthermore, we can see that many of the "information resources" on the web can be more particularly classified as home pages, or blog posts, or novels, etc, all of which are sub-classes of "information resources". And in fact, we can see that many "web objects" or "http endpoints" point to digital material that, in the full strength of human reason, appear to be kinds of *textual speech-acts*. We see "Offers to Sell", "reviews", legal "Complaints" and "Affidavits", and many others. No, you are right, they are not machine-readable, but they *are* real - very very real, and account for some of the great importance of the Web. My point is that, from the viewpoint of the web-scientist, we may examine and discuss these "textual speech-acts" as  what they really are, rather than limit ourselves to the view point of a machine.

OK, I have no objection to all this, though I still think its irrelevant to ontology engineering. But you have to be very careful. Exactly what makes something on a Web page be like a 'speech act' is quite a delicate matter. Suppose I set out (as I am thinking of doing) to sell some of my artworks, by having a website which advertises them for sale. I might have a small image with a title and details and a price indicated, and a button called "add to cart", and if one follows this along one eventually gets to a button called "place order". Now, is this a speech act? An offer, say, by me to sell something to you? I'd say not. I'd say it is more like putting something into a shop window, or on a supermarket shelf, with a price label on it. In fact, I'd say that the best way to describe this is that what is on my website is a agent which acts on my behalf and itself performs 'acts', and indeed by displaying the "place order" button it is making you an offer (which amounts to an offer to take part in a contract) and by clicking on it - a genuine act by you, though not a *speech* act - you have accepted that offer made by my agent. But notice that the 'acts' here only occur during an actual process of exchange between you and my agent: they do not reside on a Web page. They are intrinsically dynamic things, events that occur in time and within a social context (a 'web conversation', perhaps), not textual or even indexical entities. It is the act of displaying the "place order" button which constitutes the making of the offer, not the button itself.

 We know why those symbols represent the "web object".

They don't. The URI denotes the web object. The image 'webarch:represents'
the web object, but that is a very unusual and special sense of
'represent': it is the sense in which the thing on your screen
'represents' the image file stored on the W3C home computer. This sense of
'represent' has almost nothing at all to do with denotation or
representation in the KR sense. It would have been better to call it
'depicts' or some such, IMO, but the terminology is now stuck.

Again, that is correct from the point of view of a machine, trying to interpret messages received according to the webarch document. But as web scientists, we can, in this case, know more about the relationship between the symbols on the badge, which count as a localized image-text speech-act precisely because that is the way the designer of the resource designed them to function.

OK, but that knowledge does not change anything I said in that paragraph.

What we know, in fact, is that URI-CD denotes a "web object" that can be
represented by that "badge"

In the webarch sense, yes
because it can be symbolized by the symbols on that "badge".

Absolutely not. The webarch:represents relation between the badge you get
on your page when you hit URI-CD, and the web object, denoted by that URI,
that sent it to you, has *nothing* to do with any symbols on the badge. If
the URI had retrieved a looping flash movie of Mickey Mouse, or a blank
white page, it would still have been a webarch:representation of the web
object that you GETted it from.

Once again, correct (but *very* problematic IMO) from the viewpoint of a machine trying to webarch:interpret material received from the web object.

No, just plain correct. The relationship between a web object (information resource) and its copy (webarch:representation) has nothing to do with any symbols encoded into the text of the object/resource. This applies whether those symbols are human or machine-readable. The same would be true if the resource were pure RDF/XML.

And again, we, with our more advantagious viewpoint and superior knowledge of the case, can know that in this case, as in the vast majority of cases on the web, HTTP is acting as a mere location transducer, and that what is GETted, represents (here used in a more traditional way), in fact, pretty much copies, the resource in question.

Well, yes, it copies it. So? What has that to do with any symbols it might encode? When you take a platen imprint on a press, the paper copies the ink shapes on the platen. That holds whether those shapes are Roman letters or Arabic or a half-tone image of Abraham Lincoln.

 And we know who created it, why they created it, and what they intended
it to be used for.

None of which matters to any of the current discussion. These are all
properties of the object, if they are anything.
All of this is surely what the "web object" *is*, and is therefore what
URI-CD denotes. Right?

Wrong. It is what it is, and it has many properties. Denoting it does not
denote its properties.
So why not call a spade a spade and say that URI-CD denotes an assertion

Even if I conceded everything up to now, that would still not mean that
URI denoted an assertion. That is a very peculiar kind of thing to denote.

Why is it peculiar? A assertion is a real thing, a kind of speech-act, and they are all around us, with names to denote them.

Well, OK, they are of course real and so can be denoted. What I should have said is that it is a very different kind of thing than we have been talking about so far in this discussion.

Consider The 'Pledge of Allegiance', which name denotes an indexical text

Yes, a TEXT.
asserting that the speaker, upon speaking it, assumes the state of 'allegiance' to the flag of the US.

No. The text is such that, when spoken by person X, that speech is a pledge of allegiance made by X to the flag. It is a script for making pledges with, just as the marriage service is a script for performing marriages. But until spoken, the text is not an act of any kind. A speech act is an act performed BY SPEAKING.

 They are on buttons, bumper stickers, signs, etc. And the difference that makes a difference between two bumper-stickers, for example, is just the human, symbol content, the message, the assertion that it contains. Internet badges are the same, there are hundreds of them, distinguished by nothing else but the different assertions they make. What is peculiar about denoting such an assertion?

OK, I guess nothing. But please be careful to distinguish a text from an act. They are not the same kind of thing.

I visited a web-site, http://www.cafepress.com/ibs_store/321477 , that sells stickers, it names each one, along with a price. For example, the first is named "Anarchy", which name denotes the assertion, "aNaRchy Never goEs ouT of style", price 3.99.

NO! The name denotes the bumper sticker, or maybe its design. The sticker is not itself an assertion. One can make the assertion by displaying the sticker appropriately, or maybe by obliging someone to read it visually, or reading it out loud. Im not entirely sure what counts as asserting a bumper sticker. But you have to ASSERT it to get an assertion.

I won't agree that "Anarchy" denotes just the sticker, because there are hundreds of stickers, or just a sticker with an image of some text, again, hundreds of those.

This is just the type/token distinction. There is only one novel "Moby Dick" but many instances/tokens/imprints of it. But neither of them are acts.

No, the name denotes the very stuff that individuates it from all the other stickers, that assertion. Also, the same assertion can be tranported on a lapel-pin, sign, greeting card, etc., so I would consider those to be items in relation to the assertion or to be properties, and *what it is* to be the assertion itself.

You are talking about the text, not the assertion. There is no such thing as a "text act".

that the page its emissions are shown on has valid XHTML? To say that the
"web object" is JUST a "web object" or "information resource", while
ignoring the symbolic content it contains, leaves out the essential
characteristics of what is denoted by that URI. After all, a "web object"
that is Moby Dick is not the same as one that is Alice in Wonderland -
exactly because of the different symbolic human content they contain.

You are using 'symbolic' too loosely here. Web pages need not even contain
any symbols, for one thing: the "Badge" does not. But of course Im not
saying that all web objects are the same object.

Of course not. And yet you seem to be saying that the target of a denotation can not be an assertion, even though that is the very thing that individuates the web object from other web objects in this case.

Yes, I am saying that, and it isn't what individuates. The text (more generally, the visual design) is what individuates in your sense. But this individuation criterion would apply to things that cannot be used to assert with, such as images of faces or national flags.

Second, you say that the badge does "become a symbol", with indexicality,
only when it appears on a visible web page. Why is this so?

Well, I'm conceding that it is being used there with some symbolic
intention. The composer of the page intends it to mean something.
 When does this symbolic content emerge out of an "information resource"
if it was not already there to begin with?

I guess a philosophical answer would be along the lines that it becomes a
symbol when it is used symbolically to express a meaning. That happens on
your webpage when you put that badge there with that intention.

Right, *that* badge, which in this cont----er.... which in this threaded e-mail discussion - definately indicates the one particular badge under discussion, the W3C's "THIS-page-uses-valid-XHTML" badge, which name denotes a specific assertion that you can make by placing that badge on your webpage with the specific intention that badge affords to you.

NO. The name of the badge denotes the badge. USING a TOKEN of that badge in a certain way MAKES an assertion. But the name of the badge doesn't denote the assertion made with a copy of the badge. It also doesn't denote the web page on which the copy occurs, or the time of day when it was published, or a host of other things closely associated with it.

But if you
simply download it to admire the W3C graphic design, its merely an image,
seems to me.

So what? I can admire you because you are a pile of quarks too, that doesn't remove the additional layers of organization that make you a person.

You miss my point. I am conceding that one can use the image to make an assertion. My point is that the image is not identical with the assertional act that uses it, nor with the content that is expressed by such an act.

 This reminds me of what Leonardo said about the reaction of many of his compatriots to his Notebooks, "And often, when I see one of these men take this work in his hand, I wonder that he does not put it to his nose, like a monkey, or ask me if it is something good to eat."
One of my Xmas gifts was a box of fridge magnets with words
on them, for writing fridge haikus. But there aren't any haikus until I
actually make one and put it on the fridge.

But that is only possible because at the factory, one particular natural language word is imprinted on each magnet.

Of course, but that does not change my point.


Your haiku are dependent on the interpretations afforded by those factory chosen words. I know. My wife has a set too, on our refrigerator. My son liked the one that said, "dad" - so much so that he broke it into pieces. Now I can't make a haiku about me unless I call myself by some other name. If I write to the factory, I will ask for replacements of the "dad" magnet, by which name I intend to denote that particular dad magnet.


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