Knowledge Organisation


Maastricht, October 2003. Unpublished Draft. Sections subsequently  incorporated into Towards a Semantic Web for Culture


Plato and Aristotle introduced fundamental ideas of universals and particulars and the beginnings of both formal and material relations. These ideas emerged at a time when oral knowledge was shifting to hand-written knowledge. Almost two and half millennia later, the shift from printed to digital, multi-medial and multi-modal knowledge is introducing new possibilities in knowledge organization.

Key trends in knowledge production and organization from Antiquity to the present are reviewed to explain a gradual shift from ontology through taxonomy and systematics to multiple ontologies. The history of definitions, relations and semantics is examined in order to explore implications for knowledge organization and to bring into focus limitations in contemporary views of the semantic web.

This paper proposes new ways of visualizing knowledge using a time/space horizon to distinguish between universals and particulars/individuals.i It is suggested that new visualization methods make possible a history of questions as well as of answers and enable dynamic access to cultural and historical dimensions of knowledge. Unlike earlier media, which were limited to recording factual dimensions of collective memory, digital media enable us to explore theories, ways of perceiving, ways of knowing and ultimately to enter into other mindsets and world-views and thus to attain novel insights and new levels of tolerance.       

1. Introduction
2. Causes, Substance, and Accidents
3. Language and Mathematics
4. Chain of Being to Disciplines
5. Ontology to Systematics
6. Definitions
7. Relations
8. Semantics  
9. Dynamic Models
10. Conclusions

The problem of whether the machine is alive or not is, for our purposes semantic and we are at liberty to answer it one way or the other as best suits our convenience. As Humpty Dumpty says about some of his more remarkable words: “I pay them extra and make them do what I want.”


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