72010 SemWebTech lecture 12: Social aspects and recap part 2 of the course

You might ask yourself why we should even bother with social aspects in a technologies course. Out there in the field, however, SWT are applied by people with different backgrounds and specialties and they are relatively new technologies that act out in an inter/multi/transdisciplinary environment, which brings with it some learning curves. If you end up working in this area, then it is wise to have some notion about human dynamics in addition to the theoretical and technological details, and how the two are intertwined. Some of the hurdles that may seem ‘merely’ dynamics of human interaction can very well turn out to be scratching the surface of problems that might be solved with extensions or modifications to the technologies or even motivate new theoretical research.

Good and Wilkinson’s paper provides a non-technical introduction to Semantic Web topics, such as LSID, RDF, ontologies, and services. They consider what problems these technologies solve (i.e., the sensible reasons to adopt them), and what the hurdles are both with respect to the extant tools & technologies and the (humans working for some of the) leading biological data providers that appear to be reluctant in taking up the technologies. There are obviously people who have taken the approach of “let’s try and see what come out of the experimentation”, whereas others are more reserved and take the approach of “let’s see what happens, and then maybe we’ll try”. If there are not enough people of the former type, then the latter ones obviously will never try.

Another dimension of the social aspects is described in [2], which is a write-up of Goble’s presentation about the montagues and capulets at the SOFG’04 meeting. It argues that there are, mostly, three different types of people within the SWLS arena (it may just as well be applicable to another subject domain if they were to experiment with SWT, e.g., in public administration): the AI researchers, the philosophers, and the IT-savvy domain experts. They each have their own motivations and goals, which, at times, clash, but with conversation, respect, understanding, compromise, and collaboration, one will, and can, achieve the realisation of theory and ideas in useful applications.

The second part of the lecture will be devoted to a recap of the material of the past 11 lectures (there recap of the first part of the SWT course will be on 19-1).


[1] Good BM and Wilkinson MD. The Life Science Semantic Web is Full of Creeps! Briefings in Bioinformatics, 2006 7(3):275-286.

[2] Carole Goble and Chris Wroe. The Montagues and the Capulets. Comparative and Functional Genomics, 5(8):623-632, 2004. doi:10.1002/cfg.442

Note: reference 1 is mandatory reading, 2 is optional.

Lecture notes: none

Course website


2 responses to “72010 SemWebTech lecture 12: Social aspects and recap part 2 of the course

  1. well, you seem to run into noteworthy points with the market research ;).

    The reason to include your paper was that I could kill two birds with one stone with it: the social aspects and to have some way to informally inform the students about LSID and semantic web services (for which there was not enough time to treat it properly during the lectures).

    As for the lectures, the official lecturing is done now. What remains are the presentations of the mini-projects, which look like that they will have some nice results that I may write about later, and the exam.

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