Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Ontologies are Scary


I heard a talk on yet another ontology effort. The domain was well chosen, and I wish other so-called 'ontologists' would show the same prudence. Too often I see the 'one giant ontology' idea rear its ugly head on one way or another. The recent framing attempt claims that 'communities of interest' are the answer, allowing small enclaves of users define the world away.

Ontology frightens me. It frightens me because I believe that language is alive. It arises out of the mutual consent of its speakers and the world they live in. It is immersed, hot, sticky, and should never be pinned down. Yes, I know it's a problem when people disagree or mis-communicate. Yes, I realize that Webster's dictionary disagrees with some of this claim. But there it is. My belief is that the freedom in interpreting language as we see fit goes straight to our basic freedom, condition, essance, soverignty, etc. The very fact that I can't find a word for this concept is exactly the point. We should all strive to be at a loss for words. It means we still have something to learn; a reason to be engaged.

So let your words fly, do not let the Semantic Web folks hold back your torrent of fluid, esoteric, post-hoc, and violently misunderstood words. Because they are your words.


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