[sc34wg3] Some general comments on the RM (branching from thethread Re: [s c34wg3] The Norwegian National Body position on ISO 13250)

Jan Algermissen sc34wg3@isotopicmaps.org
Tue, 15 Apr 2003 23:47:00 +0200

"Mason, James David (MXM)" wrote:
> It's interesting to see you agree that the RM is syntactic at the same time
> that I'm getting other people wondering how it can possibly be syntactic.

I think that depended on the understanding of 'syntactic'....?!?

> I agree that the SAM has much more concrete semantics because it develops
> things like names and associations. But the RM has to establish some
> foundation for your ability to create those. 

Yes, that is it's very purpose.

> Is a name a type of assertion?
> I think so.

The RM let's the TMA choose. It can be an assertion type (as I see it)
or a property (if the 'TMA author' decides that the relationship between
a name and the subject that it is naming is not 'interesting' enough
to be an assertion (=to be reified).

IMHO, since the SAM want's to make statements about the relationship between
a name and the named subject (scoping the name) the SAM must choose the former.

> Is an association also an assertion? Certainly. Figure 1 in the
> current RM started out, I believe, as a detailed dissection of an
> association. 

Figure 1 shows all the subjects that the RM defines as being neccessary
to represent a real-world relationship. It might stem from the original
understanding of 'association' by SteveN and Michel years ago.

> The current figure simply removes the concrete subjects (which
> were orignially things like "Lena Horne" and "Stormy Weather" and later
> became someone with a Harvard M.D.) and leaves you with bones and no skin.
> It's OK for the SAM to start putting skin on the bones, but the RM is so
> abstract now that the wind will blow those dry bones away.

I hope not. It is hard to stand up without bones.


> Jim
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Lars Marius Garshol [mailto:larsga@garshol.priv.no]
> Sent: Tuesday, April 15, 2003 5:06 PM
> To: sc34wg3@isotopicmaps.org
> Subject: Re: [sc34wg3] Some general comments on the RM (branching from
> the thread Re: [s c34wg3] The Norwegian National Body position on ISO
> 13250)
> * James David Mason
> |
> | I observed that I felt that the RM was the place for fundemental
> | semantic grounding for TMs. At this point, the RM is still heavily
> | syntactic. It places a lot of emphasis on properties (Clause 3) and
> | constraints (Clause 4). This material, particularly in Clause 4, is
> | syntactic, though at a very abstract level. Perhaps I should say
> | it's structural, but for me the listing of properties comes closer
> | to syntax than just structure. That syntactic material is necessary
> | to provide a basis for mapping to the SAM. But it's severly lacking
> | when it comes to defining the semantics of TMs.
> I think you are right in saying that the RM is rather syntactical,
> though "abstract syntax" would probably be the most correct.
> However, I'm not sure this is a fair criticism. The RM consists of
> things and statements about things (topics and assertions) and there's
> not a whole lot of semantics you can put into that, simply because it
> is so basic.
> There are two more reasons why I am concerned that this may not be
> fair:
>   a) only the people who created the thing can really claim to decide
>      what it is supposed to do. I have said many times, and will
>      probably repeat many more times, that I don't know what it is
>      for. I'm hoping the authors will explain it to me one day, but so
>      far I, personally, don't have an understanding of what this thing
>      was created to achieve. Until I do I feel the only grounds on
>      which I can criticise it are the purely esthetical. Which may be
>      useful, but only on the microlevel.
>   b) the RM can't really describe what base names, occurrences, scope,
>      and variant names are, as these things do not exist in the RM. So
>      if you want to have the semantics of these things it just doesn't
>      work to look for them in the RM. (Whether that's what you're
>      asking for I don't know, but since nobody else is speaking up for
>      the thing I am trying to put a possible alternate view.)
> | In short: You need to be standardizing both syntax and semantics; at
> | this point you're neglecting semantics. Syntax/structure should be
> | defined as concisely as possible, preferably through notation or
> | tables rather than prose. Prose should be reserved for things that
> | can't be done in notation, which means semantics.
> The SAM does attempt to define some semantics in prose, such as
>   "An occurrence is a relationship between a subject and an
>   information resource. The subject in question is that represented by
>   the topic in whose [occurrences] property the occurrence item can be
>   found. The precise nature of the relationship is described by the
>   occurrence type, a subject which is attached to the
>   occurrence. Occurrences are generally used to attach information
>   resources to the subjects they are relevant to. [...]
>   Note that the occurrence is properly not the resource, but the
>   relationship between it and the subject. Occurrences are essentially
>   a specialized kind of association, where one participant in the
>   association must be an information resource."
> I'm not sure that it is possible to do much more than this, and
> certainly I am baffled as to how it should be done. I
> think it was the idea behind Daniel Rivers-Moore's proposal for a
> conceptual model to do more, but it would take a better mind than mine
> to do so.
> Semantics are notoriously slippery and any attempt to pin them down
> too much will be met with "but my application needs to do X", or "I've
> seen it used like this", and ... And quite reasonably so.
> --
> Lars Marius Garshol, Ontopian         <URL: http://www.ontopia.net >
> GSM: +47 98 21 55 50                  <URL: http://www.garshol.priv.no >
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Jan Algermissen                           http://www.topicmapping.com
Consultant & Programmer	                  http://www.gooseworks.org