September 28, 2003

The Web From Semania

Do you keep hearing about the Semantic Web? Scientific American has a good (not too techy) overview of it's purpose and ultimate composition. I'm not sure I look forward to participating in the "new and improved web" of the future. When it arrives we will have unprecedented power over 'resources' and access to facts and control over objects and ideas; but it will also carry the potential to separate us further from nature and the 'softer' humanizing aspects of our culture.

Consider this quote from a good basic description of the "Semantic Web" by Eric Hanson:

XML can represent real-world objects like used cars, but it can also represent concepts and ideas. Just like the ontology for a used car could unite the used-car selling and buying people of the world, an ontology for an idea could unite the people of the world around a single idea. Using XML to represent the idea that the president should be assassinated could unite would-be assassins in a single online community. XML will unite people with common interests and goals in ways never before possible. Scarry thought huh?

Our world is beautiful and complicated and cannot and will not be classified or categorized. By stretching a net of approximate categorization over our earth, a line is drawn between those things that can be classified and those that cannot. Mass produced goods take on all the beauty of a grey lego block. Things that can't be captured in this web, things like art, music, literature, nature, stand out and shine brighter. XML and the Semantic Web will profoundly affect our earth and the way we think of it. It will challenge capitalism as we know it, and unite people around common interests no matter how obscure. How soon it will take off is anybody's guess but it has the potential to revolutionize the world as we know it.

Posted by fred1st at September 28, 2003 06:09 AM | TrackBack

Sounds pretty much like every other "technology is evil" screed I've ever read.

Posted by: Lynn S at September 28, 2003 02:05 PM

Hmm . . . the implications seem both fascinating and troublesome. In some ways, the desire for Semantic Web seems to be a reaction to the information overload burnout you were discussing earlier here. One of the things the Semantic Web seems to do is to "process and present" the information in such a way that we would have to do less wading through and processing of web information for ourselves. But as information has to be programmed to be suitable for Semantic Web, this also means that information has to be manipulated in one form or another . . . and in this sense, doesn't it raise the same concerns we currently have over media, I'm wondering, which essentially processes and presents information to us? It's a fascinating cycle in that while the web emergd as an all-inclusive (and undeniably overwhelming) information source over which the user has ultimate control to choose and select information, given that the access to information is overwhelming, there's a converse swing to somehow process and control it all a bit more efficiently? :)

Posted by: Artichoke Heart at September 28, 2003 04:29 PM

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