[sc34wg3] Subject Schizophrenia

Bernard Vatant sc34wg3@isotopicmaps.org
Wed, 25 Aug 2004 11:16:15 +0200

The following message in SWAD-Europe forum might be of interest in this context


Quoting the author Stella Dextre Clarke:

"Just a little health warning: concepts are not so cut and dried as you
might expect. They are slippery customers, and it is often impractical
to decide when a concept has been "changed" or when the thesaurus entry
has changed without changing the concept."

One could read here, I guess, a more general "proxy" instead of "thesaurus entry" ...

In the current debate, folks seem to take for granted that subjects have some absolute
existence and absolute properties that could be represented/proxified/reified/indicated
(pick your choice, I don't mind) or otherwise "captured" in a topic map or any other kind
of representation/proxification/reification/indication, but which somehow exist out there
in the blue, independently of and beyond any
representation/proxification/reification/indication or other kind of capture.

This implicit assumption is at least questionable, as the above reminder points out. My
personal opinion on that is strongly biased both by my mathematics and hard science
background, where I've learnt that "you never know what you are talking about, nor if what
you say is right or wrong", and by too many readings in so-called "oriental" philosophy,
which basically say the same kind of thing, as far as I understood them. So I tend to
think that
1. This assumption is completely wrong (although I am ready to agree with a consensus
viewpoint that it is at least undecidable),
2. To enable any kind of language, knowledge and communication, we generally act "as if"
the subjects exist,
3. Actually we always deal with representations or proxies without being able to know is
there is something to be represented and proxified, let alone that this something have
properties isomorphic to the ones we have given to the proxies,
4. Proxies can have a longer life than whatever they are supposed to proxify. Their
changing subject, if any, is better defined by the way they are used than by anything
else, and is notoriously subtly changing over time, as Stella very well describes in the
quoted post.

So I suggest to avoid any explicit reference to this questionable subject, and stick to
the proxy level we are able to manage, by replacing:

"Those two proxies proxify the same subject"

by a more agnostic

"Those two proxies are equivalent"
(if you really believe in subjects, read "the subject is the same" if you like)

The best we can achieve then is to define agreement on

- Rules under which two proxies have to be considered as equivalent in a specific model :
this is TMDM.
- Language enabling the expression of such rules for any other model : this is TMRM.
- Process that may/should/must be applied when two proxies are found to be equivalent
under such rules : this is Processing Model, which might be or not in the scope of the
standard (I tend to think it should not)

Martin's remark tends also to make me think that two proxies can be found to be equivalent
under certain facets, or at a certain level of granularity, or under specific rules, and
distinct under other facets or at a finer level of granularity, or under other rules. Of
course, this is questioning the very foundation of the TM fundamental objective : one
proxy <=> one subject ...



Bernard Vatant
Senior Consultant
Knowledge Engineering
Mondeca - www.mondeca.com

> -----Message d'origine-----
> De : sc34wg3-admin@isotopicmaps.org
> [mailto:sc34wg3-admin@isotopicmaps.org]De la part de Martin Bryan
> Envoyé : mercredi 25 août 2004 09:38
> À : sc34wg3@isotopicmaps.org
> Objet : [sc34wg3] Subject Schizophrenia
> As an aside in his last message Steve Newcombe commented:
> > (But *having*
> >     such spurious non-relationships between two or more proxies for
> >     the same subject is whole lot better than *not* having them.  The
> >     latter case, where there are multiple unconnected proxies for the
> >     same subject, is analogous to "subject schizophrenia", because
> >     that single subject appears to have different personalities,
> >     depending on which of its proxies you happen to be using as its
> >     proxy.)
> The purpose of facets in 13250 was, in my opinion, to encourage subject
> schizophrenia. At certain points of time you are only interested in a
> certain subset of the associations between subjects - otherwise your map
> becomes too cluttered. I want a way of saying "show me the subset of
> associations which conform to this facet of the world view". If
> proxification is used in place of representation as the process controlling
> bernersleeification , can I still do this?
> Martin
> _______________________________________________
> sc34wg3 mailing list
> sc34wg3@isotopicmaps.org
> http://www.isotopicmaps.org/mailman/listinfo/sc34wg3