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Re: [ontolog-forum] Ontologies as social mediators (was:Ontologydevelopm

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Ed Barkmeyer <edbark@xxxxxxxx>
Date: Wed, 02 Dec 2009 19:10:11 -0500
Message-id: <4B1701E3.6030602@xxxxxxxx>

> Each "content" word may be emphasized, gramamr words cannot, 
> they will not change the meaning that way. they are like nuts and bolts, So 
> it is the FOCUS that will vary meaning.     (01)

When it comes to interpersonal communication, a great many things 
contribute to the communication.  Vocal emphasis is important when the 
interface is auditory, but facial expressions, gesture and body language 
also contribute when the interface is both auditory and visual.  Word 
ordering and turn of phrase are important, and skilled speakers and 
writers know how to use the grammar of the language to advantage in that 
area.  Context -- the situation, the roles of the participants, the 
stream of discussion -- is also important.  And all of these things 
depend to some extent on the culture of the participants, which provides 
cues for the interpretation of emphasis and physical gesture and 
grammatical arrangements and word choices.    (02)

Ferenc's further point is that a statement taken out of context and 
devoid of communications cues is often highly ambiguous or utterly 
meaningless.  And I fully agree with that.    (03)

> You need to know where the fpcus is in a statement. 
>       (04)

And much more.    (05)

> But normally, our focus is very limited and missing in writing.     (06)

That is simply not true.  Some communications devices are unavailable in 
writing; others are unavailable on radio.  In each case, the skilled 
communicator knows how to manipulate the medium to convey his/her intent 
effectively.  Deaf and blind people can be remarkably astute in 
interpreting all of the communication elements that are accessible to 
them.  And conversely, some fully functional individuals can be dense as 
a log in interpreting the entirety of a communications experience.  
("She had a place in his life.  He never made her think twice. ... 
Anybody else would surely know, but the fool believes.")  Communication 
is a social process.    (07)

The underlying concern here is that all of the social communications 
cues are utterly absent in a formal ontology.  It means exactly what it 
says and only what it says.  That is a particularly difficult medium.  
Each statement alone is likely to be unintelligible, and is meaningful 
only in a fully developed formal context that is a cohesive corpus of 
statements.  An effective ontology is such a corpus -- it is only 
through the body of statements, and supporting natural language 
documentation, that the individual statements acquire clear meaning. 
Conversely, it is the semantics of the formal language that makes the 
(limited) meaning of a statement clear, and avoids unintended overloads 
and cues that may be present in natural language text.  It is a 
different kind of communication, and it is typically intended for a 
different kind of receiver.     (08)

That said, ontologies are made from viewpoints and model only the 
classes and relationships that are relevant to those viewpoints as 
perceived by the knowledge engineer(s) involved.  So "social prejudices" 
in the engineer(s), whether advertent or latent, may influence the 
content of an ontology.  They just don't influence the means of 
communication.    (09)

> Old 
> grammarians believe that words are in the centre of semantic analysis, but 
> they are not.     (010)

Words are the traditional center of semantic analysis of pure linguistic 
utterances, but the closest we can come to "pure linguistic utterances" 
is a written text corpus.  All such analytical techniques rely on a a 
notion of context that at least relates the utterances to a set of 
statements that is a corpus, and typically to a reference dictionary 
and/or thesaurus.  Some more recent work takes into account the impact 
of grammatical choices as a means of placing emphasis or steering 
interpretation.  Other work takes into account the presumed background 
knowledge of the receivers.  That said, I think words are still central 
to the analysis; the issue is how one determines what exactly was the 
intent of a use of a word.    (011)

> they also believe that there are such things as abstract nouns 
> and conrete nouns, which is not correct either.
>       (012)

I have no reason to accept this statement, and I can't imagine that any 
amount of understanding its Focus would change that, but I have never 
been much interested in metaphysical discussions.     (013)

> Identity is Not objective and fixed and a law. Do you want me to elabrate on 
> that?
>       (014)

Does it have something to do with the topic?     (015)

> There is an abstract- concrete and generic-specific continuum which is the 
> reflection of one's knowledge or learnedness. Do you want me to go into the 
> details of that?
>       (016)

Not unless it is relevant to the issue at hand.  I must say it is no 
longer clear to me what the issue at hand is.    (017)

The "social mediation" idea seems to be about the forced loss of the 
extralinguistic communications cues in a formal ontology.  But that only 
means that the discipline for effective communication via the formal 
language is different from the disciplines of public speaking or 
expository writing in natural language.  The social prejudices of the 
knowledge engineers, based on culture, education, experience, etc., may 
still enter in to the content of the ontology.    (018)

But I may be entirely wrong about the intended topic of discussion.    (019)

> Shall we change the subject line?
>       (020)

No.  We should rather agree on the subject that goes with the subject 
line, and strive to communicate effectively on that topic.    (021)

-Ed    (022)

Edward J. Barkmeyer                        Email: edbark@xxxxxxxx
National Institute of Standards & Technology
Manufacturing Systems Integration Division
100 Bureau Drive, Stop 8263                Tel: +1 301-975-3528
Gaithersburg, MD 20899-8263                FAX: +1 301-975-4694    (023)

"The opinions expressed above do not reflect consensus of NIST, 
 and have not been reviewed by any Government authority."    (024)

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