[sc34wg3] For or Against N323! [Was:Topic Maps land and SAM land]
Fri, 14 Feb 2003 08:12:31 -0500
Catching up on topic map email! ;-)
Mary Nishikawa wrote:
> Hi Sam,
> Whenever someone says that such and such a description/method/model is
> "essence of the meaning of that that thing, and can be used to define
> all instances
> of that thing,"we are in metaphysical territory.
> This is in your general statement that inherent TM data in any
> software could be
> specified using the RM, and that defines the tool as an RM tool.
> This is also related to Patrick's statement, "The RM is designed to
> define the
> essence of what it means to be a topic map and provides a heuristic
> device for
> evaluating topic map models and topic maps separate and apart from any
> data model or implementation or instance of a topic map."
> The RM is either a particular type of graph model for topic maps or it is
> in some other realm. I hope that it is the former.
I don't think you have to get into metaphysics to reach the distinction
I was trying, probably poorly, to make.
The levels I was trying to describe are:
1. "Essence of topic maps" : not metaphysics but on what grounds do we
distinguish a topic map from some other method of handling information?
Well, it is certainly not a simple array since it contains more than a
list of single items. It is probably more than a relational database,
although a topic map could (and has been) implemented on top of such. In
other words, what are the distinguishing rules/requirements, etc., that
enable us to determine if something is or is not a topic map.
2. Graph model for topic maps: A way of expressing the rules I mention
in #1 to make it easier to have conversations about the
design/implementation of both topic map models, processing software and
even topic maps.
Noting that you probably can't do #1 without #2 (or something similar)
since you need a vocabulary for talking about both topic maps as well as
other information structures. Conceptually I think they are distinct,
even if in practice they are used so closely as to make the conflation
of the two almost unavoidable.
I really don't think metaphysics, in the traditional sense, such as in
Plato, is really an issue. Newcomb and I can converse on the reference
model even though we do not share a common view of metaphysics in the
traditional sense of the word. The graph language of the RM works to
enable communication without regard to our respective positions on
Some people, who I greatly respect, see topic maps as enabling all sorts
of social progress and good. I personally hope they are correct. For my
part, however, I have real users with practical information management
problems that topic maps can address better than any other information
technology. It is a question of cold pragmatics for the SBL, with topic
maps we can have effective access to information resources that dwarf in
complexity any modern information system, or, we can continue a
catch-as-catch-can approach to biblical research. I prefer the former.
Director of Research and Development
Society of Biblical Literature
Co-Editor, ISO Reference Model for Topic Maps