Sense and Reference on the Web is Harry Halpin’s thesis seeking to answer the question: “What does a Uniform Resource Identifier (URI) mean?”
This thesis builds a foundation for the philosophy of the Web by examining the crucial question: What does a Uniform Resource Identifier (URI) mean? Does it have a sense, and can it refer to things? A philosophical and historical introduction to the Web explains the primary purpose of the Web as a universal information space for naming and accessing information via URIs. A terminology, based on distinctions in philosophy, is employed to define precisely what is meant by information, language, representation, and reference. These terms are then employed to create a foundational ontology and principles of Web architecture. From this perspective, the Semantic Web is then viewed as the application of the principles of Web architecture to knowledge representation. However, the classical philosophical problems of sense and reference that have been the source of debate within the philosophy of language return. Three main positions are inspected: the logicist position, as exemplified by the descriptivist theory of reference and the first-generation Semantic Web, the direct reference position, as exemplified by Putnam and Kripke’s causal theory of reference and the second-generation Linked Data initiative, and a Wittgensteinian position that views the Semantic Web as yet another public language. After identifying the public language position as the most promising, a solution of using people’s everyday use of search engines as relevance feedback is proposed as a Wittgensteinian way to determine sense of URIs. This solution is then evaluated on a sample of the Semantic Web discovered by via using queries from a hypertext search engine query log. The results are evaluated and the technique of using relevance feedback from hypertext Web searches to determine relevant Semantic Web URIs in response to user queries is shown to considerably improve baseline performance. Future work for the Web that follows from our argument and experiments is detailed, and outlines of a future philosophy of the Web laid out.
- Choose a non-Web reference system.
- What is the nature of those references? (3-5 pages, with citations)
- Compare those references to URIs.
- How are those references and URIs the same/different? (3-5 pages, with citations)
- Evaluate Halpin’s use of Wittgenstein. (5-10 pages, with citations)