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[ontolog-forum] Ontologies as social mediators(was:Ontologydevelopment m

To: "[ontolog-forum] " <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Ronald Stamper <stamper.measur@xxxxxxxxx>
Date: Thu, 3 Dec 2009 16:27:23 +0000
Message-id: <E5F3B673-C783-4E27-83F8-F35C03A49615@xxxxxxxxx>
Dear Colleagues,    (01)

I’d like to contribute to the discussion of ontologies and social  
mediators but I’m limited by other demands on my time just now.    (02)

  In the 1970s I initiated a research programme to examine how better  
to fit computer applications into the social/organisational systems  
they are intended to serve instead of imposing their mechanical  
character on people who were then required to serve the machine.    (03)

  We began by studying social norms using, as our empirical material,  
legislation, which functions rather as ‘programs for people’.  The  
behaviour of people is not limited to operating on strings of  
characters and it mainly concerns operation on the ‘real world’.  So  
inevitably we had to deal with a) semantic relationships between signs  
and things, as opposed to relationships between signs and other signs,  
which interested our computer science colleagues, and b) what we mean  
by things in the ‘real world’ or ontology in its original sense.    (04)

  We found good engineering answers (MEASUR) to these questions that  
should be of interest to fellow ontologgers.  For those who build  
organisations and apply computers to their problems, the results are  
excellent both in terms of efficiency and effectiveness.    (05)

  For the present discussion, the most relevant aspects of our work  
concern the construction of ontological dependency schemas that  
specify how the existence of each thing depends upon the coexistence  
of others.  For a given domain of activity, the constraints governing  
these schemas result in the same ‘semantic normal form’ (SNF).    (06)

  (Incidentally, the generic-specific hierarchies of ontologgers’  
ontologies do not properly belong in our schemas.  They do not concern  
existence; in our system they are cognitive norms and they are  
relative to any given (micro-)culture.)    (07)

  The schema actually deals with perceptions by capturing aspects of  
them that are invariant over cultures and history.  Only the most  
extreme and rare changes cause that invariance to break down.  I  
suggest that the SNF is an important, natural social mediator that  
assists mutual understanding despite the infinite richness and  
subtlety of variations of meaning across culture and history.    (08)

  Those variations are handled by the norms that govern the existence  
of the perceived things represented by the nodes of the SNF.  Some of  
those norms can be represented by rules, some of which might be  
handled computationally but the many that are far too subtle are  
accessible via the human agents (individuals or groups) whom we trust  
and hold responsible for determining the existence of things.    (09)

  (I’m sorry if that last sentence puzzles you, but you need to take  
account of the underlying ontology-in-the-metaphysical-sense, which is  
a presentist form of actualism.)    (010)

  The SNF should perhaps be called an ontological normal form because  
it is linguistically neutral.  When one labels the nodes in one or  
more languages, it plays the role of a semantic normal form.   
Traversing across languages usually implies encountering different  
cultures; in that case the subtle differences of perception and  
consequently of meaning would be reflected in the changes of norms  
associated with the existence of the things represented.    (011)

I hope this my interest some ontologgers.  My totally inadequate  
website (www.rstamper.co.uk) contains at present only two papers but  
they do provide an overview.  As the research programme always  
followed the principles of Popper’s Refutationism, I’m very happy to  
receive criticisms.    (012)

  As soon as I’ve finished the final editing, I’ll make available a  
book on the semantic analysis process and its normal form.    (013)

Ronald Stamper    (014)

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