#CritLit2010 Syntax and Semantics

An interesting analysis on syntax Reflection – fourth week by Maferarenas. May Semantic Web include a pragmatics – rhetorical analysis? I think this would be difficult. Even through coding and classification of the narratives with sensemaking tools, I don’t think it works with precision with metaphors, such as the examples quoted by George and commented by Stephen, where it is a merely of interpretation whether knowledge could be “parked” in another persons’ brain.

Like, for example, “I store my knowledge in my friends.” It sounds great, and has become almost a watchword for your theory, but it cannot be literally true, but if not literally true, it’s not clear what it means. Are your friends like a dictionary, a tape recorder, or Ann Landers? (from Stephen’s comments on George’s post on Complexifying Dave Snowden, Cognitive Edge, SenseMaker)

Are we referring to the Internet as a part of the brain, or the person merely a node in the network, and the brain within one’s head is merely a store of knowledge (or distributed knowledge)? Are there contradictions in this rhetorical statement? It requires further probing, inquiry to further clarify the meaning.

Metaphors are often imprecise, and so I wonder if “ontology” (and here on ontology) could be applied given that metaphors used in narratives are often interpreted quite differently under different context. So I think that’s why we would still have difficulties in understanding what is behind the syntax and semantics in the Semantic Web. Another example relates to the issues of translation of language from one to another, where the grammar, the choice of words may significantly affect the tone, and the meaning of the sentence and message. “The spirit is strong, but the flesh is weak” would be translated to mean (from English to Russian, then back to English): “The wine has strong taste, but the meat is stale or rotten”. The rest is “up to your interpretation”… Is this an imprecise translation, when decoded with any translators (human or machine)? I think we need human intervention, when it comes to meaningful translation for certain metaphors, in particular, to rearrange the words, or to fix grammatical “errors”, due to the translation.

Photo: from Flickr


3 thoughts on “#CritLit2010 Syntax and Semantics

  1. John,
    Thank you for your insightful views. I would like to make a distinction between Internet and the web. Internet is the worldwide network of computer and the web is like a platform where software applications are built. Even though there are some developments of AI, it is difficult that Web semantic can deal with the complexity. I replied your comment on my blog that concerns this matter.

    María Fernanda

  2. Hi John,

    I’ve started reading Words around Objects – the Metaphors of New Media (via Benoit Mandelbrot’s talk where he mentions anatomy http://paul.kedrosky.com/archives/2010/07/benoit_mandelbr_1.html)
    http://www.michaelrees.com/pdf/PARIS.pdf , reflecting on the Visible Human project and whether there is such thing as one human body:

    “We have one body and an infinite set of anatomies, which are all the bodies of all the
    humans and all the thoughts of each of those humans about their bodies and other people’s bodies.
    That’s an unusable definition. We can narrow it a bit and say in a medical sense we have a body for
    every significant moment –– in an historical sense –– of the development of our scientific understanding
    of anatomies. What of Hinduism’s metaphysical anatomy? What of Chi or of the meridians
    in acupuncture? Are these part of our knowledge of the body? Or our body of knowledge? I
    cannot leave out the psychological or psychic aspects of the body. What a shame it would be to dismiss
    the poetic body, the Vitruvian man, or the Judaic Sephiroth, the Jewish equivalent to the
    Hindu metaphysical body. Or Artaud’s organless body, or Shiva’s multi-limbed anatomy. Or any of
    the other contributions of the work of language and imagination. We may think of this as false or as
    myth, and yet it is so clear that what is true and what is false is a daily, weekly, or yearly construction.
    Let me put it a different way: It is so clear that our mental construction whether known as
    myth or as theory or as science are malleable and fluid”

    He looks at the processes he uses for 3D sculpting and how to sculpt a social (and he refers to as artificially intelligent) object with the idea of creating a sculptural user interface – bringing in multiple perspectives to create the ‘intelligent’ sculpture – or at least I think I have understood it that way.

    I’m not sure what I am trying to say but thought the paper was interesting.

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