Gender Research and the Semantic Web

I enjoyed this interview with researcher Corinna Bath on Semantic Web Company's site. Her work touches on areas in my own research. This line in particular stood out for me: "Knowledge is always historically and culturally situated". Semweb triplets are so atomised that they are devoid of a context from narrative (both surrounding temporal/time & heteroglossia). However, the choice of ontology that the triplet is expressed still carries the context. Yes, the decision on the data for a particular object in a subject-predicate-object relationship is culturally dependent - but the boundaries for what the object can be are set by the ontology. The mere existence of a triplet also infers that it has some value - and that notion of value is culturally situated. The semweb allows for alternative viewpoints and for data to be expressed in whatever ontology fits the worldview you subscribe to. There is no central data-source and no central dictator of ontology. In this environment some ontologies and data-sources will become dominant. In the world of direct-linking RDF (LDI e.g. DBPedia) there will be a mainstream discourse that is powerful. However, this does not exclude alternatives. A pragmatic information consumer accepts that the information author holds certain views and adjusts. The "adjusting" applies as equally to alternative voices as it does to the mainstream hegemony. This is at the heart of the critical consumer/critical thinking or, in simpler terms, surfing with the BS filters set to high. Creative writing authors are encouraged to find their voice; the parallel for semweb information producers is to produce information in the worldview in which they can produce the most accurate information with the least amount of data. The flipside, and something I'm keenly aware of as a graphic designer, is that there must be some utility to the audience. That is, you write using your voice with an audience in mind because your voice is wasted if your intended audience will not understand or accept it. An utterance attempts to convince an audience of the truth of the utterance. This applies even to data triplets on the semweb - except that a semweb triplet is like storytelling with three word flash fiction (e.g. priest->death->saturday). My hope is that future semweb interfaces allow for the synthesis of data from multiple sources/ontologies and that indirect-linking is further developed. Indirect-linking allows for information discovery off the direct-link beaten track. This would allow users more control over what they see - hopefully allowing users tools that assist recontextualising data from the expressed worldview into the user's own reality.