Distinguishing Properties of Ontologies as We Know Them    (10R4)

This is an experiment in collaboration and intellectual dialog. The question is:    (10R6)

Can a group of people who care passionately about the definition of a word or concept collaborate effectively via a wiki on a description of what it is?    (10R5)

Process    (10RC)

The process for this wiki page is simple but it is important that we follow it to give the experiment a fair try.    (10R7)

What: an attempt to characterize the notion of 'ontology' as it is used by practitioners    (10RB)

Who: please only contribute to this page if you have built an ontology that has been shared over the Internet, or have used such an ontology in a computer program.    (10R8)

Format: this page consists of a set of distinctions - properties of things that distinguish ontologies in this sense with other entities or artifacts that have been called ontologies.    (10R9)

Rules of engagement: Under each distinction, add a bullet with text that makes your case, and sign it. Don't erase or modify other people's bullets. You may add a new distinction if desired, but please justify why it is essentially different than the distinctions already proposed. If you don't like the wording on a distinction, say that in your bullet commentary.    (10RD)

Etiquette: Please write your comments offline in a word processor, then paste them in to this page when you are done. Otherwise we will have conflicts when multiple people try to edit the page at the same time.    (10RP)

Distinctions    (10RE)

Word Sense: Is there a word sense of "ontology (computer science)"?    (10RF)

Should there be a separate entry in Wikipedia to discuss the notion of ontology as is used by the field of AI, the Semantic Web standards, and standards for data interoperability -- as compared with the subfield of philosophy from which the term originates? If you prefer another term for this distinction, such as applied ontology or computational ontology, why is it important for our field to use this term instead?    (10RH)

Representation or idea: Is an ontology (CS) a representation or an (idea | theory | view | abstraction) that is represented?    (10RI)

Is an ontology (CS) an abstract idea -- like a Platonic ideal -- which exists independent of any form, or is it something that must be expressed in some form in order to be an ontology? Is the expression of an ontology like the implementation of an algorithm in the sense that people can talk about THE quicksort algorithm without referring to the programming language in which it is implemented? If an ontology must be expressed in some form, can it be translated into equivalent forms? If so, is there an important semantic difference between the two?    (10RJ)

Conceptualization: What is the * represented or specified by an ontology (CS)?    (10RL)

What is a good name and description for "the objects, concepts, and other entities that are assumed to exist in some area of interest and the relationships that hold among them"?    (10RM)

Realism: Must all ontologies be about a One Shared Universal Reality?    (10RN)

Or could ontologies represent abstractions of data with meaning that is independent of measurement or observation?    (10RO)

Formalism: Should the form (or medium) of an ontology be a necessary or sufficient condition or is it incidental?    (10RQ)

Should all things we call ontology (CS) be encoded in some formalism with some specific properties? Is so, why distinguish those ontology-like entities that are represented in some other form? Should all things encoded in some class of representation be an ontology by definition? Is machine-readability a necessary condition?    (10RR)

Specification: Is "ontology as specification" intrinsic to ontology (CS)?    (10RS)

Or is the use of ontology as a specification only one of many possible uses?    (10RT)

Vocabulary: Is it intrinsic that an ontology define vocabulary or representational primitives?    (10RU)

What is the essential distinction between an ontology and any other representation or logical theory?    (10RV)

Original proposal by TomGruber 26 April 2007    (10RG)