Thursday, August 12, 2010

Semantic Engineering - What is the Common Ground?

There are a number of people trying to make ontologies a practical tool for designers of information systems; many are engineers and use the term "semantic engineering", e.g. the title from a paper by Werner Kuhn to which he recently refered but I find other other papers with the same title. There is even a conference ICOSE 2011 - International Conference on Ontological and Semantic Engineering . I assume that not everybody uses the term in the same sense, but perhaps there is more agreement between the Semantic Web community and the GIScience ontology community in the use of the phrase.

Reading the paper by Kuhn triggered by his comments on my blog entry "Ontologies for what?" identified much commonality in his treatment and my thinking. Presentations by Helen Couclelis at GIScience 2008 (Ontology, Epistemology, Teleology: Triangulating Geographic Information Science) and recently in Las Navas identified some common grounds as well. Even reading the slides of a presentation by Pierre Levy in Banff 2007 I find similarities to Kuhn's paper.

I am wondering, how much we agree? Disagreement may result from fundamentally different philosophical positions, but more often, it is a difference in the use of terms. For example, Kuhn uses 'concept' to describe the triad 'symbol, thought, referent' and I used it in the blog to describe 'thought' only. Would it be possible, to start a wiki in which a small group of semantic engineers tries to establish a rational, agreed base for acceptable and necessary assumptions (ontological commitments) and terminology. I hope there is more commonality hidden behind confused terminology.

For a very different use of the term "Semantic Engineering" read "American Thinker" on the "war on words" !

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