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[ontac-forum] Fwd: [CL] Working on a definition of "ontology"

To: cg@xxxxxxxxxx, ontac-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx, protege-discussion@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, topicmapmail@xxxxxxxxxxxx
Cc: Frank Farance <frank@xxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Rich Morin <rdm@xxxxxxxx>
Date: Mon, 10 Apr 2006 17:28:06 -0800
Message-id: <p062309d5c060b5462237@[]>
I only saw this on the CL (Common Logic) list.  I think some folks
on some other lists I get may also find this interesting...    (01)

 --- Begin Forward ---    (02)

 Delivered-To: cl@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
 Date: Mon, 10 Apr 2006 18:45:36 -0400
 To: cl@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
 From: Frank Farance <frank@xxxxxxxxxxx>
 Subject: [CL] Working on a definition of "ontology"    (03)

 [This E-mail has been cross-posted to a handful of lists, sorry if you've
 received it twice.]    (04)

 Hello-    (05)

 We know this topic has probably been debated to death.  However, we have
 given a lot of though to this problem, especially when trying to apply the
 terminological methods and methodology of ISO TC37 (Terminology).    (06)

 We've heard the term "ontology" used in many ways and we're thinking about
 how this is used in the information technology sense, i.e., the kinds of
 things we talk about here when we speak of "ontology".    (07)

 We've looked at a couple well-known definitions, such as:    (08)

         - specification of a conceptualisation of a knowledge domain. An
 ontology is a controlled vocabulary that describes objects and the
 relations between them in a formal way, and has a grammar for using the
 vocabulary terms to express something meaningful within a specified domain
 of interest. The vocabulary is used to make queries and assertions.
 Ontological commitments are agreements to use the vocabulary in a
 consistent way for knowledge sharing. ...    (09)

 The "specification" part seems problematic.  A specification of X,
 inherently, is about identifying a class of objects that satisfy certain
 criteria.  So a "specification of a conceptualization" means that someone
 is identifying one or more conceptualizations that meet certain criteria.    (010)

 In the end, this doesn't address anything computable, which is something we
 see as essential to "ontology" -- at least the use of "ontology" in the IT
 sense.    (011)

         - Ontologies resemble faceted taxonomies but use richer semantic
 relationships among terms and attributes, as well as strict rules about how
 to specify terms and relationships. Because ontologies do more than just
 control a vocabulary, they are thought of as knowledge representation. The
 oft-quoted definition of ontology is "the specification of one's
 conceptualization of a knowledge domain."    (012)

 Then "ontologies" according to this definition are no different than
 "concept systems", as defined by ISO TC37.  TC37's concept systems have
 relationships among concepts (with no particular requirements on their
 simplicity or complexity), so the description above is equivalent to TC37's
 "concept system" ... and if "ontologies" are only "concept systems" then we
 should call them as such, but we believe there is more.    (013)

         - Ontology is the newest label attached to some KOSs. Ontologies
 are being developed as specific concept models by the Knowledge Management
 community. They can represent complex relationships between objects, and
 include the rules and axioms missing from semantic networks. Ontologies
 that describe knowledge in a specific area are often connected with systems
 for data mining and knowledge management.    (014)

 We agree somewhat with this definition because there is clearly the
 computational component to it.  All "knowledge organization systems" are
 TC37 "concept systems" (these KOS might have more than TC37 requires in its
 definition).  And the "rules and axioms" imply some thought towards
 computation, as evidenced by the reference to "often connected with systems
 for data mining and knowledge management".    (015)

 So in conclusion, we have found the following definition to be a reasonable
 definition that is reasonably precise:    (016)

         [context: information technology]
         ontology: concept system and its computational model    (017)

 With the above definition, taxonomies and knowledge organization systems
 all could be ontologies, as long as they include their computational model.
 For example, a taxonomy of objects in the field of X is just a concept
 system, but a taxonomy of objects in the field of X that includes a
 computational model (e.g., producing common/differing characteristics,
 finding lowest nodes with common features, etc.) could then be an ontology.
 Whether the computational model is expressed in procedural code (e.g.,
 programs) or non-procedural code (e.g., axioms and statements) is
 irrelevant.    (018)

 We'd like feedback on this.  We're working on this in INCITS/L8 (the US
 metadata standards committee) and its corresponding ISO committee ISO/IEC
 JTC1 SC32 WG2 Metadata.    (019)

 If you have some improvements to suggest, please feel free to contact us
 (put "ontology" in the Subject line).  Naturally, this can all start a
 flame war -- no one has the time for this.    (020)

 Thank you in advance for your comments.    (021)

 Frank Farance (Farance Inc.)
 Dan Gillman (Bureau of Labor Statistics)    (022)

 Frank Farance, Farance Inc.    T: +1 212 486 4700   F: +1 212 759 1605
 mailto:frank@xxxxxxxxxxx       http://farance.com
 Standards/Products/Services for Information/Communication Technologies    (023)

 CL mailing list
 http://philebus.tamu.edu/mailman/listinfo/cl    (024)

 --- End Forward ---    (025)

http://www.cfcl.com/rdm            Rich Morin
http://www.cfcl.com/rdm/resume     rdm@xxxxxxxx
http://www.cfcl.com/rdm/weblog     +1 650-873-7841    (026)

Technical editing and writing, programming, and web development    (027)

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