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Re: [ontology-summit] Potential Tracks for Ontology Summit 2013

To: Ontology Summit 2013 discussion <ontology-summit@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Jack Ring <jring7@xxxxxxxxx>
Date: Thu, 13 Dec 2012 09:02:26 -0700
Message-id: <6A8AAA57-F453-4805-B1B1-ADFFA4F58F1B@xxxxxxxxx>

Responding to Todd's request and considering the several messages posted meanwhile this message gives a summary of what I and a few others are striving to do, our presumptions about the benefit of ontologies toward that end and some of the properties and characteristics that would be important about any ontology.

Caveat Emptor. I focus on making things work, mostly things that people say can’t be done, the larger and more complex the better, fun-wise. However, my notion of ontology may not square with current accepted practice so feel free to calibrate me as needed.

One objective is ‘enabling interoperability among systemists.’ Systemists ‘engage in knowledge exchange and choice making regarding the conceptualization, realization, utilization and evolution of systems.’ Interoperability entails bridging respective languages, mental models, interpersonal styles and values as individually favored by the estimated 1 million systemists world wide.

We presume that Interoperability is not likely to be achieved by standardization of these factors. Instead we seek a unifying framework that will support the context-sensitive formulation of such bridges as necessary and a transformation engine that can assemble semantic modules to compose the actual bridge in a given situation. Once the languages bridge is established construction of the mental models, styles and values bridges can proceed.

We intend to unify the ontic view and the transaction or flow view of systems and dissolve the differences that now prevail among those focused on natural vs. man-perceived vs. man-devised kinds of systems.

In systems work the most important but unfortunately least honored aspects are System Progress Properties and System Integrity Properties. Ontology developers should ensure these are expressed. Otherwise people get into big trouble pursuing the chimera of Reuse. Just because something is reusable does not mean it will be reuseful.

Our approach is to craft concept maps, c.f., Learning, Creating and Using Knowledge by Prof. Joseph Novak, 2nd Edition, until we achieve a reasonable degree of mutual understanding about the vocabularies and bridges then work with ontology builders to create well formed bridges and bridge-composing engines 

We envision this capability being used wherever humans engage in knowledge exchange and choice making such as in designing systems, co-learning for avoiding tragedy of the commons, avoiding unintended consequences, cleansing a body of laws, helping leaders know what is not happening, helping everyone detect the ‘parts of they know that ain’t so,’ etc.

Because the things that comprise a system can be both operators and operands and even change roles (perspective shift) we have encountered the confusion of the ontic/existence view vs. the transaction/flow view of operation, the latter generally harbored by engineers and programmers. For example, a well known problem in industry is the battle between the engineering Bill of Materials and the manufacturing Assembly or Routings view. Today, when engineers engage in ontic analysis they inevitably clutter up the picture with cause-effect stories.

Is an ontology in the form of a human artifact simply the minutes of a system design session? This is concerned with the content and structure of the ontology, not the format and style of the artifact. 

Does an ontology include every element, interrelationship and behavior of a thing? If so, a) can an ontology be seen as a nascent system and b) can an executable ontology evidence behavior?

Is Fit for Purpose equivalent to Guarino’s ‘making the intended meaning of a vocabulary explicit’ or a larger purpose, ‘revealing the similarities and differences between two vocabularies?’

When it comes to citing Best Practices should there be justification of ‘best?’

Why not cite Worst practices? These lead to faster learning than entraining lemmings with best practices.

Is not an ontology a model of X? Does George Box’s caution, ‘All models are wrong, some are useful’ bear repeating?

Regarding Warfield’s warning that as a system (ontology?) gets larger and more complex its users experience cognitive overload usually resulting in underconceptualization. The over- and underspecialization concern is secondary.

FWIW, I echo David Price's note regarding the possible lack of industrial experience in this group.


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