Managing Semantic Ambiguity

Topic maps do not and cannot eliminate semantic ambiguity. What topic maps can do is assist users in managing semantic ambiguity with regard to identification of particular subjects.

Consider the well-known ambiguity of whether a URI is an identifier or an address.

The Topic Maps Data Model (TMDM) provides a way to manage that ambiguity by providing a means to declare if a URI is being used and an identifier or as an address.

That is only “managing” the ambiguity because there is no mechanism to prevent incorrect use of that mechanism, which would result in ambiguity or even having the mechanism mis-understood entirely.

Identification by saying a subject representative (proxy) must have properties X…Xn is a collection of possible ambiguities that an author hopes will be understood by a reader.

Since we are trying to communicate with other people, there isn’t any escape from semantic ambiguity. Ever.

Topic maps provide the ability to offer more complete descriptions of subjects in hopes of being understood by others.

With the ability to add descriptions of subjects from others, offering users a variety of descriptions of the same subject.

We have had episodic forays into “certainty,” the Semantic Web being only one of the more recent failures in that direction. Ambiguity anyone?

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