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Re: [ontolog-forum] Just What Is an Ontology, Anyway?

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Phil Murray <pcmurray2000@xxxxxxxxx>
Date: Thu, 29 Oct 2009 12:09:59 -0400
Message-id: <4AE9BE57.6030204@xxxxxxxxx>
With apologies for injecting my personal slant on things ...    (01)

Steve Newcomb wrote:    (02)

 > We can more successfully strengthen communication (and, therefore,
 > strengthen our ability to share systematic/logical tools like 
 > by focusing, first, not on the "logic of rhetoric", but rather on 
 > itself, with no prior demand or expectation that rhetoric be logical or
 > even modelable, in the normal sense of modeling.    (03)

I have to agree, but *communication (rhetoric) is not concerned with 
representations of the "aboutness" of resources, either*. Communication 
of information on which we act is not the same as findability. And it is 
not the same as "representation of knowledge."    (04)

Many years ago I met and worked with a professional indexer of 
mathematical texts. She was always in demand by publishers and the 
authors whose works they sold. She had a deep understanding of how to 
create a back-of-the-book index that would be effective for readers. But 
she had no formal education in mathematics. She could not, by her own 
admission, compete with anyone on the playing field of mathematics. 
However, she was highly intelligent and intuited or understood at a more 
abstract level the names of the things that mathematicians were playing 
with and some of the relationships among those things.    (05)

She created maps to knowledge expressed in information objects 
(resources). She did not -- and could not -- represent the knowledge 
expressed in those objects.    (06)

Topic Maps are precisely that: Maps to topics. That's not a bad thing. 
It's a great thing for organizing the thinking (as expressed in 
resources) about a domain or discipline. But it's also not the best 
foundation for connecting knowledge with reality, for enabling people to 
put knowledge to work.    (07)

Knowledge representation as expressed in ontologies -- in the sense 
normally used in this forum -- has a similar deficiency. But let's not 
call it deficiency. In my world, it's incompleteness in the face of the 
challenges of making work better and more effective. For me, the area of 
greatest concern is how to express the meaning behind the ideas we use 
on a daily basis, how those ideas are connected, and how that meaning 
contributes to the creation of value. Lessons from UML and from software 
design and engineering itself -- as well as from modeling of all work, 
both physical and intellectual -- can be enriched to support such 
representations.    (08)

Ontologies and Topic Maps both complement that activity, but they do not 
express it.    (09)

Phil Murray
Chief Knowledge Architect
The Semantic Advantage
"Turning Information into Assets"
Blog: http://semanticadvantage.wordpress.com
Web site: http://www.semanticadvantage.com    (010)

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