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Re: The Map/Territory Conundrum in Topic Maps vs. RDF

On 19 Aug 2001 12:09:43 -0400, W. E. Perry wrote:
> At last week's Extreme Markup Languages 2001 conference in Montreal I
> heard the "map is not the territory" platitude invoked with monitory
> gravity at key moments in a number of arguments. 

The maps in some ways have become a territory in need of maps, but
that's another complicating angle...

> In markup
> the concrete instance, by incorporating both content and a particular
> gloss upon that content, is precisely both territory and map.

This is the really interesting part, I think.  In some respects, it
motivates pieces like Ted Nelson's "Embeddeded Markup Considered
Harmful" [1]. which I tend to recommend to everyone working on markup
whether they care about theory or not.

One of the most interesting things at the conference was the interplay
between the markup actually in a document and the markup various people
and organizations want to add to a document.  It was pretty clear that
different, overlapping, and even conflicting views of what may seem in
some sense to be the 'same' document are not only possible but likely.

At the same time, a number of presentations (mine included) suggested
that (X/SG/HT)ML-style markup also needs to work in conjunction with
other forms of lexical notation present in documents, acknowledging the
variety of maps built into the territory even before or in conjunction
with considering markup.  

I think the best part of the conference for me was the appearance of a
grand diversity of possible answers to possible problems.  After hearing
over and over that "we will create standards which represent information
and knowledge", it was nice to hear from a lot of people doing excellent
work in fields where that approach doesn't work.  

Multiple maps (which are themselves territories) for shifting
territories seems far more useful to me than the notion of single and
final maps for fixed territories.

[1] Nelson, Theodor Holm.  "Embedded Markup Considered Harmful."  In
_XML: Principles, Tools, and Techniques_. (O'Reilly & Associates, 1997.)
p. 129-134.  (To be proper, I should probably add a another paragraph
worth of bibliographic metadata, but thankfully it's also available at

Simon St.Laurent