We utilize the ever-evolving global web of information at every turn of our daily lives from documents to data and information.
As we progress with both the quantity and quality of information we share and retrieve, the Semantic Web refers to our ability to retrieve information based on what we mean (i.e., information in context, our intent, what we were really looking for). A slightly older (2007!) but interesting look at semantic apps is here.
Thus a semantic search on Google (see here for an interesting SEO look), will take into account who is searching, where are they searching, their past searches, and when are they searching in order to assign meaning to the search terms and produce results that are very close to what you were looking for. Thus it is in some way about hyperconnectivity, when we are able to easily and seamlessly make connections between information and knowledge. See an interesting Forbes article on Google search here.
What is the Semantic Web, after all?
From its original appearance in Scientific American in 2001 (and Berners-Lee’s vision) to today, the semantic web is “a Web of actionable information–information derived from data through a semantic theory for interpreting the symbols” (Shadbold, Hall, & Berners-Lee, 2006, article here).
The semantic theory provides an account of the “meaning in which the logical connection of terms establishes interoperability between systems” (Shadbold, Hall, & Berners-Lee, 2006, article here). The need for shared semantics enables assimilation of knowledge and information from different fields.
Ontologies and Challenges Therein
The challenge for semantic web is to develop shared ontologies (similar to those, say, in the life sciences), or language standards, that can be deployed on the Web. Ideally, the authors argue, the ontologies that will help us frame the semantic web will allow users to define parts of the data world and show interactions between the different forms of data.
Historically, in 1997, with the W3C defining the first Resource Description Framework (RDF) and the URI (Uniform Resource Identifier), the Web’s interoperability and functionality was enhanced. An ontology can be understood as an overarching knowledge framework from which to characterize the Web (or any field) and can be deep (such as those in science) or shallow (such as terms that enable categorizing data).
In reading the article, in a page or more, reflect on the following:
- How is tagging on the social web (consider apps that you use, e.g., Flickr) a form of metadata. How is Web 2.0 a form of social software?
- In considering the future, how will recent debates (assumptions about social behavior, copyright rules) inform the future development of the semantic web?
- What is the OWL–what does it mean for this discussion?
How does our discussion on the Semantic Web inform online dating web sites’ goals?
- What are the implications for algorithmic search and matching?
- What challenges do you see?
- How can future developments address them?