Hostile Acquisition

Today, an interesting presentation was on the schedule of DHD 2014 (“Digital Humanities — Methodical Bridging or ‘Hostile Acquisition’?”). Kindly they made it online available: “Using Ontologies as Heuristic Tools: Sources in the History of Philosophy and Their Interpretation in the Semantic Web”.

The author does appreciate the reservations which many humanities scholars have against ontologies and “experts that often share the conviction of the natural scientist that their respective domain is ‘classifiable in principle'”. He acknowledges that “as soon as we enter the sphere of the cultural, the surplus of such a methodological approach is more questionable”. He points out “a neglect of contextuality” and an “overemphasis on the compositionality”, and the need to “respect the semantic interdependence of concepts and propositions”.

But he found a trick (building ontologies inductively), that would still allow automated reasoning about the cultural. And in the center of his considerations, there is still the idea of the proposition.

For me, it is a surprise that such formalization seems acceptable. I have always admired the humanities scholars for their capability to juggle with complex ideas without needing formal tools.

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4 Responses to Hostile Acquisition

  1. Howard says:

    Thanks for the reference Matthias; it’s relevant to my thoughts.
    I was thinking along similar lines today when posting this:
    Basically it say information systems need to develop ontologies that are networked instead of hierarchal, but still with the full knowledge that they can’t replace deep humanist / social science knowledges. Someone else I read also noted that there are few data scientist with deep knowledge of the social sciences and there are few social scientist with deep knowledge of computation systems.

  2. Pingback: Let’s Bring a Level of Artistry to Building Forms of Life

  3. x28 says:

    Thank you very much, Howard. I certainly agree. Ontologies should, and can, also map non-hierarchical relationships. Of course, the inheritance of properties would then be reduced and this would affect some sort of automatic reasoning, but not other sorts that leverage simple relationships like proximity and vague similarities.

  4. x28 says:

    Update: There are interesting attitudes that sound plausible to me. F. Cremer writes:
    “In confronting itself/ grappling with computer science’s love of structure and formalized way of thinking, humanities’ scholarship can also benefit methodically. […] Dialogic principles of man-machine interaction ensure that humanities are neither driven into the slavery of technology’s formalized systems of rules, nor remaining caught within the limits of human perceptiveness / capacity of conceiving/ grasping.”

    (German original: “Geisteswissenschaft kann in der Auseinandersetzung mit der Stukturliebe und formalisierten Denkweise der Informatik auch methodisch profitieren. […] Dialogische Prinzipien in der Interaktion von Mensch und Maschine sorgen dafür, dass die Geisteswissenschaft weder in die Sklaverei formalisierter Regelwerke der Technik getrieben wird, noch in den Grenzen menschlicher Erfassungsvermögens gefangen bleibt.”

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