A long time ago, in a world that is ours, the internet was born. It was a place that consisted of pages, data and connections. You had to “dial in” in order to connect. You could create your own pages. But then, the internet changed forever. There were a couple of guys changing the way we searched and indexed the internet. They based their algorithm on relations. How many incoming links were there? That was the measurement of popularity. Just like in high school, the more Valentine cards you got, the more popular you were.
Another shift was that of wiki’s. They were knowledge bases on the internet. You could share your knowledge and find information you were looking for, and more. It was like a digital encyclopedia. Wiki’s are based on relations as well, but then semantic relationships. This is the kind of relationship that is built upon subject knowledge. Data was internalized, turned into useable information and shared. (Internalization is the process of relating and applying data to existing knowledge turning it into information)
An example of this would be a wiki page of an athlete. Related pages would be those of his coach, the Olympics, the sport itself or his/her sponsors. Another example would be that of a certain tax. The responsible minister would be one semantic related topic, the governing or judging party would be another.
The great thing about semantics is that it’s distributed, and with knowledge management tools we can share this knowledge. No one can ever know it all, even though Dr. Watson (IBM) is trying. Since I mention it, Dr. Watson learns a topic by inserting information. Topic experts interact with the system to teach it what they know, and the system then internalizes that ‘data’. It used to be explicit knowledge, where tacit knowledge is hard to communicate. It is “ephemeral and transitory” (Hey, J. 2004 – The Data, Information, Knowledge, Wisdom Chain) and “cannot be resolved into information or itemized in the manner of characteristic of information” (Oakeshott, M. 1967 – Learning and Teaching […]). Luckily the technology has developed and with AI (Artificial Intelligence), NLP (Natural Language Processing) and Big Data. “An Introduction to NLP: Exploring What Works” (Damian Hill & David Kerr, 2013) is a great book to get you started on NLP.
To conclude this little side step into the world of semantics; we’ve come a long way from the static internet, moving into a world where physical meets digital and where psychology will be applied to spread knowledge. This will result in a smarter, more efficient world. Maybe we then can solve some real world problems.