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Meaning of Semantics Revisited May 7, 2008

Posted by Andre Vellino in Collaborative filtering.

I considered attending the Semantic Technology Conference later on this month, but the $1,800 registration fee seemed a bit steep. Judging from the wide variety of presentations in the program (note the cool “customized schedule” feature), “semantic” is still a very ambiguous word.

For some, e.g. Yahoo Open Search, “semantics”, in the context of the web, really means “information rich” and “annotated”. Which is incredibly useful, but is it really “semantics”?

The Wikipedia defines semantics as “the study of meaning in communication”. As I have indicated in a previous post I like the formal definition of “semantics for X” wherein expressions in a language have “models” that “satisfy” those expressions (it’s interesting to note that the formal theory of semantics for RDF is couched in just this model-theoretic way.)

Perhaps there’s a way of reconciling the “we’re merely adding tags to data” sense of semantics and the “formal model theory for a language” sense. For instance Tags (names) and tag-types could be viewed as a kind of formal model that satisfies certain documents to which they are attached. Given the wide variety of uses for a given tag, I can see that this might be a field of application for paraconsistent logic.


1. Daniel Lemire - May 7, 2008

Conferences registration costs have really gone up lately. We got a paper accepted at a nameless conference in Europe and the registration cost was over CA$1000. That’s a bit insane.


Semantic is one of these popular terms that sell tickets and papers. It sounds serious. It sounds applicable. But it is pretty much a meaningless term if only that it indicates a vague intent. Do not worry, it will soon go away and be replaced by another fashionable term.

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