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Re: [ontolog-forum] Data Models v. Ontologies (again)

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 20 May 2008 17:12:04 -0400
Message-id: <48333EA4.9000603@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Sean, Ed, Anders, Adrian, and Sharma,    (01)

I sympathize with your comments, but I'd like to make some points
that may clarify some of the issues:    (02)

  1. Ontology is a theoretical field (essentially a branch of
     philosophy), and data modeling is an engineering field.    (03)

  2. Engineering fields frequently apply theories from more than
     one branch of science.    (04)

  3. For data modeling, the theories include ontology, logic,
     and a variety of theories developed in computer science
     and information technology.    (05)

SB> A data model assumes a set of entities, and the choice of which
 > entity to use is implicit, both as natural language text in the
 > data model, and in the input processes of the system embodying
 > the data model.  A data modeler is primarily concerned with
 > meeting the information requirements of the system rather
 > than characterising the entities, and records those aspects
 > (attributes, properties, characteristics) of the entity of
 > relevance to the functioning of the system.    (06)

I'd replace the phrase "assumes a set of entities" with the phrase
"assumes an ontology".  That makes it clear that some kind of
ontology is required for data modeling, but it's not the only one.
Those other concerns involve the applications and goals that are
not considered in purely theoretical studies.    (07)

EB> First rule: "ontology" is IN; "data model" is OUT.    (08)

I agree, but as one of the early adopters of the term 'ontology'
(in my book that appeared in August 1983), I almost wish that I
hadn't used the term.  I tend to cringe at the way people use
it nowadays.    (09)

SB> Characteristics which may be important to a data modeler,
 > such as the time an entity was added to the system, would not
 > be significant to the ontologist, since the time the entity is
 > added in no way helps identify what sort of thing the entity
 > is (where in the lattice it sits).    (010)

That distinction is typical of an engineering discipline.
An engineer must consider many requirements of an application
that are outside the scope of various theories that are being
applied.  Since an engineer will often use more than one theory
in the design of any system, it will rarely happen that every
aspect needed for the application is covered by every theory
that is applied.    (011)

Sometimes an engineer's work will contribute to the scientific
field on which it is based.  But it is always important to
distinguish the goals of the scientists (or ontologists) from
the goals of the engineers who apply their theories:    (012)

  - Science is the pursuit of knowledge, independent of any
    particular application of that knowledge.    (013)

  - Engineering is the application of science for the purpose
    of solving some problem within the limits of available
    resources and deadlines.    (014)

John Sowa    (015)

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