Saturday, 4 April 2015

Getting my head round the semantic web

A big part of what will determine whether HayleyWorld will work for readers will be how effectively I use keywords to sort and order the edited quotations from William Hayley's Memoirs that I've entered into my research database, and which I'm using as the core narrative(s).

At the moment, along with details of the volume and page numbers in the Memoirs from which each extract is taken, and, where appropriate the date(s) on which they happened, I have three sets/fields of keywords, which I've labelled –
  • "cast" ~  the people who are mentioned or referred to in the extract, or who are present at a specific event
  • "place" ~ places mentioned or referred to in the extract
  • "keyword" ~ which should, really, be called "subject", but keyword is what I called it when I originally created the database in the late 1990s as a research repository rather than a writing tool. This last field contains word lists describing what the extract is about. So, for example, an extract about mental health issues – one of Hayley's main interests – generally include the descriptors "mental illness", "depression", "melancholy" and "madness", but may also be found alongside "sensibility", "spirits" and other words that Hayley and his circle often used/which contemporary commentators use in writing on the subject.
But – how does this all relate to the semantic web? And why am I trying to get my head around it?

Because my database is (well, sort of) a primitive take on the tools and methods developed to create the semantic web. And understanding how "ontologies" (essentially sets and hierarchies of keywords) are constructed and connected should enable me to make HayleyWorld a better, more effective thing.

So, I have bought a book – Semantic Web for the Working Ontologist by Dean Allemang and Jim Hendler – recommended by Andrew Hugill, Director of the Centre for Creative Computing at Bath Spa University.

But here's the rub. Despite my lifelong love of books, I have never managed to finish reading a technical one. At each atttempt, I've run out of brain long before I've run out of pages.

So, this time, I've decided to blog about each chapter as I read it. I'm hoping this will carry me through/enable me properly understand/internalise the concepts and information I encounter. I'm aiming to do one chapter a week, but make no promises. Other priorities may intervene. And I may run out of brain as fast as usual. But I'm gonna try.

Wish me luck…

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