Interpretation and the Semantic Web

HuCo 500 – weekly questions


Semantic interpretation deals with imprecise, ambiguous natural languages, whereas service interoperability deals with making data precise enough that the programs operating on the data will function effectively. (Halevy et al, 2009).

Halevy, et al make it very clear that there is a distinction between the Semantic Web and semantic interpretation.  That difference is obvious, but also begs the question why we call it the “Semantic Web” in the first place.  What is significant about the associations of the word “semantic”?  What makes ontologies for classifying data “semantic”?


Data is useful for identifying patterns (“temporary structures”) and patterns can be used to identify a problem, but can they be valuable in solving the problem or does that require (as Moretti puts it) qualitative explanans? If that’s the case, if interpretation is required to draw conclusions based on pattern recognition, how do we quantify the interpretive act?  Returning to the article by Halevy, et al, how do we situate the “semantic” in the Semantic Web?  How do we teach machines to interpret?  Is this possible?



Halevy, Alan, Peter Norvig, and Fernando Pereira. “The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Data.” IEEE Intelligent Systems, 2009.

Moretti, Franco. “Graphs.”  Graphs, Maps, Trees: Abstract Models for a Literary History. NY: Verso, 2005.

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