In an earlier post, I explained the importance of the Pragmatic Web as a concept to model the effective use of numerous web resources by communities.
From 21-23 September, 2006, the First International Pragmatic Web Conference was held in Germany at the University of Hohenheim, Stuttgart. Being one of the chairs, it was an especially exciting event for me. The conference was superbly hosted by Mareike Schoop and her team. To give an indication of the warm hospitality extended: we were welcomed by the rector in the magnificent Balkonsaal of the 18th century pleasure palace Schloss Hohenheim, now in use by the university. A truly grand start of what hopefully is going to be a new paradigm which will put the usefulness of web resources first.
For three days, we had a stimulating meeting of minds, both professionally and after hours. When conceiving PragWeb as the new initiative of the Language/Action Perspective research community in 2005, we set ourselves the goal to break out of our theoretical LAP communication modeling confines. Mission accomplished, since we attracted submissions from a number of additional fields that should contribute to the formation of the new paradigm: the Semantic Web, conceptual structures, argumentation theory and support, software engineering, and CSCW, to name a few. For a first edition we were very happy with the quantity and quality of participants (around 30).
Most participants did their best to relate their own research topic to the unifying ideas of the Pragmatic Web. Both the concept and its translation into the various disciplines still needs a lot of work, but some contours were becoming visible. In short, PragWeb is about the context of use of web technologies in general and formal semantics in particular: how to make good use of such web technologies and representations in real-world human and (inter)organizational communities-of-use? Issues of modeling goals, communication processes, context, and applications and designing the socio-technical systems that best match these community and individual goals are at the heart of PragWeb research.
The next edition of the conference, PragWeb 2007 is on its way. A Pragmatic Web mailing list and a permanent community portal have been created. These are important necessary conditions for the emergence of a strong and lively PragWeb community. Given the enthusiasm of the participants in last year's conference, and the many excellent ideas brought forward during presentations and the discussions, I am confident that PragWeb has an excellent future.
Towards the end of the conference, we had a plenary discussion about where to go with the Pragmatic Web. Here are the notes I took on some of the key questions asked:
- What are the different research streams touching in PragWeb?
- argumentation theory
- ontology/knowledge engineering, conceptual structures, SemWeb
- software engineering
- critiques of formal models
- contribute to pragmatics of formal models
- Why focus so much on business interactions in PragWeb description?
- the meaning really is any collaboration of people in order to achieve something, not business in the commercial sense
- focus on organizational, cultural backgrounds
- e.g. student-professor interactions
- Why Pragmatic Web?
- pragmatics is really an issue of context
- very slippery, hard to model
- two notions
- working in practice
- syntactic, semantic, pragmatic
- building on 'Semantic Web'?
- we are not just looking at pragmatics, the Web is a central focus
- application, intention, use, context of SemWeb
- does it build on SemWeb? Or does it build on the idea of the Web itself?
- maybe we should not so much just extend the SemWeb, approach, but also develop other approaches, e.g. service-oriented computing?
- Web 2.0: how to get that community into PragWeb?
- should we embrace the whole Web, isn't it better to be more focused (i.e. SemWeb)?
- we need to focus on intentions, shared background, norms, context, ontologies...
- still in favour of grounding on SemWeb
- We don't need to reinvent the wheel, when starting from SemWeb we can skip many problems. Of course, not exclusively, but at least start from there
- SemWeb is already moving into Web 2.0, e.g. 'social semantic desktop'.
- we could reinterpret state of the art of this research using our communication/context modeling theories and methods
- However, danger of jumping on that funding opportunity bandwagon
- there are also theoretical limitations of SemWeb
- We should provide a forum for people who understand power of formal semantics, but who are also interested in human aspects of collaboration, communication, etc.
- If (just) focusing on SemWeb, PragWeb could run out of steam because the issues are much bigger than (Sem)Web
- We should grow other roots as well
- Ontology, isn't that too restricting as a focus?
- we all use ontologies
- if you have too broad an interpretation, maybe the word ontology loses its meaning
- context is the real issue, ontology is a means, not an end
- ontology is fine, as long as you define your interpretation of it
- How are we going to build the PragWeb community?
- branding, attracting business
- many people are aware of limitations of SemWeb
- PragWeb is going to solve part of those problems
- PragWeb plays with name of SemWeb
- definitely, the community is expected to grow
- industry track can play an important role