2006-07-26

More thoughts on that Blue Glass

John Black commented on my previous post, providing links to interesting pieces of thoughts. Anatomy of a Reference and Ambiguity and Identity are certainly in the line of what we try to entangle here.
Let's put those pieces together. John's blue glass, physically tagged with its URI is a clear example of the difference between access and naming as explained by Pat Hayes. What is accessed using this http URI is an image of the blue glass, but the URI is intended to name the glass itself. Tagging physically the blue glass with a URI sticker or a bar code is something very close to what Pat calls ostention, but it's not the silver bullet to kill ambiguity.
As John clearly points, when you stick a tag somewhere in the physical world, you still need interpretation to know which part of the world is tagged this way, since the world is not "naturally" divided, things and their limits are always the result of some mental operation of division. So a common interpretation of the tag needs a common understanding of the limits of things, and having a common understanding of classes of things, and which kind of tags you put on which class of things is really useful. This is something well known in geographical maps. On ill-designed maps, names are not printed properly, and it's often unclear what (town, river, mountain ...) is named. In well-designed maps, there are a lot of implicit or explicit disambiguation tricks, such as fonts, colors, position of the name vs the named feature etc. One has to know all that to make sense of the map (actually many people are not able to make sense of a map properly). When you come to the ground, you have similar physical tags indicating towns, rivers, streets and house numbers, and you also need similar knowledge to construe those tags in context : this kind of sticker is for a town, that kind is for a street, and so on. And even so, what is the limit of a town, a street, a valley or a mountain remains basically undecidable.

[2016-06-20] John Black's Kashori archives have moved. The reference articles are now here:
http://www.kashori.com/archives/2006_06_11_archive.html
http://www.kashori.com/archives/2006_07_02_archive.html