Thursday, 25 June 2009

Minutes from ASFA team discussion about the project

In the last years we have been working jointly on the creation of a digital environment for artistic collaboration, creation and research.

Previous attempts (like, the Delphous, MySquare, and now the InBetween platforms [1], [2]) were initiated by our need to overcome reality imitation and create new relationships and expressive means in the digital space.

Despite the fact that we rejected social and ethical conventions (thus defining in this sense a “non space”) we still kept some of the fundamental physical principles of the real world (like ground, gravity, Euclidean geometry), and in some cases expressive tools borrowed by traditional Arts (e.g. painting, cinema) and computer games.

This year, triggered by our need to discover a new, autonomous language of expressing concepts in the digital “non space” – an indeed ambitious goal – we try to completely degrade both the space and our thoughts, and come out with basic elements (audiovisual materials, concepts) and basic structures (like in the molecules) that can be integrated in order to give an evolving environment.

We have been investigating the term ontology both from its philosophical perspective, and the engineering one.

In Philosophy, ontology [3] deals with the nature and organisation of reality, the Science of Being (Aristotle, Metaphysics, IV, 1). It tries to answer the questions:

· What characterizes being?

· Eventually, what is being?

The term ontology has also been adopted by Artificial Intelligence and recently by the Semantic Web terminology [4], for defining taxonomies of knowledge (which is machine interpretable!).

“The Semantic Web is not a separate web but an extension of the current web in which information is given well-defined meaning, better enabling computers and people to work in co-operation.“ [Berners-Lee et al., 2001]

Scientists of Artificial Intelligence and Knowledge Engineering have defined the term ontology in many similar ways (you can check in [5])

Some of these definitions are:

· An ontology is an explicit specification of a conceptualization. (Gruber, 1993)

· Ontologies are defined as a formal specification of a shared conceptualization. (Borst, 1997).

· An ontology is a formal, explicit specification of a shared conceptualization (Studer and colleagues, 1998)

In any case, an ontology – in its scientific and not philosophical meaning – is a tool for formally and explicitly defining concepts and properties of the real world in such a way that they can be machine readable (not only human readable) and can be easily shared.

Generally, ontologies may be composed of the following elements:

Classes: Concepts of a field usually organized in a taxonomy (e.g. humans are such a class).

Properties: ears, legs, hands, etc (all humans have them)

Relations: A kind of interaction between concepts (e.g. subclass-of, is-a) (e.g. women are a subclass of humans)

Functions: The n-nth element of the relation is uniquely determined by the (n-1)-th elements (I can’t think of any right now – you can check [6] – “The Digital Human Ontology”)

Axioms: They represent clauses that are always true. (e.g. all humans die, a man and a woman is needed for reproduction)

Instances: Specific elements of a class (e.g. George, Mary, any of us)

The most currently known language for writing ontologies for the Semantic Web is the OWL [7]. But, there are many other ontology languages, targeting other fields of knowledge [8].

Ontology languages are usually declarative languages, and are commonly based on either First-Order logic [9] or on description logic for reasoning [10]. Reasoning is the process of validating that a certain piece of knowledge is consistent with the ontology.

More to come after out tomorrow meeting!


1. 7th IEEE International  Conference on Advanced Learning Technologies,
Towards  Defining a Suitable Environment for Teaching Digital Arts – 
The Delphous Experiment, 
Manthos Santorineos, Stavroula Zoi, Nefeli Dimitriadi, Chu-Yin Chen             
July 18-20, 2007, Niigata, Japan

2. The In-Between project –

3. Ontology -

4. Semantic Web -

5. Ontology scientific definitions -

6. Digital Human Ontology -

7. OWL -

8. Ontology languages -

9. First Order Logic (

10. Reasoning -

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