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Social Meaning on the Web: From Wittgenstein To Search Engines

Halpin, Harry (2009) Social Meaning on the Web: From Wittgenstein To Search Engines. In: Proceedings of the WebSci'09: Society On-Line, 18-20 March 2009, Athens, Greece.

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Abstract

One could hypothesize that the essential bet of the Web is that in a decentralized information space multiple agents can share the meaning of a URI. On the Semantic Web, does a URI get its meaning from its owner, or from the formal interpretation of statements that use it? We consider the positions of Berners-Lee and Hayes, comparing them to the descriptivist and causal theories of names, and giving the common problems of both of them. We reconcile these viewpoints by explicating the public language theory of meaning, where names are fundamentally given their meaning by social and linguistic agreement. This position was first articulated by Wittgenstein in a repudiation of his earlier strongly logicist viewpoint. This view is ultimately compatible with Frege, wherein the meaning of any expression, including URIs, are grounded out not just in their formal truth values, but in their sense. The notion of sense can be reconstructed to be construed in terms of the socially-grounded norms that are necessary in order to grasp the use of a name across a language. Thus, the infamous slogan "meaning is use" arises. For a name in a public language to be successful, it must be adopted by a community, who in turn comes unto some sort of minimal, and so often ambiguous and unconscious, agreement on the use of a name. We demonstrate a system that inspects the aggregate behavior of search engine users to approximate the social meaning of URIs. We present a system and a experiment using a search engine query log from a major search engine and real Linked Data in order to test the system. We then conclude by asserting that a study of social meaning is essential to Web Science. As put by Berners-Lee, "We are not analyzing a world, we are building it. We are not experimental philosophers, we are philosophical engineers."

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Uncontrolled Keywords:Social Meaning, Public Language, Philosophy, Semantic Web, Search Engines
Subjects:Web Science Events > Web Science 2009
ID Code:190
Deposited By: W S T Administrator
Deposited On:24 Jan 2009 08:45
Last Modified:25 Oct 2011 16:53

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