TECH621 Discussion: Web 2.0 Ontology–A Soil and Plants Metaphor

I was always thinking ontology is a very abstract term from philosophy, but it shows up more and more frequently in my reading recently, so now I realize in information science, an ontology formally represents knowledge as a set of concepts within a domain, and the relationships between those concepts. It can be used to reason about the entities within that domain, and may be used to describe the domain. 

In the last TECH621 class, we were discussing the concepts of Web2.0, Social Media, and Social Networking Sites (SNS), and the relationship between them, so basically, we are creating a ontology about this set of concepts. The purpose is to come up with a better way to describe this domain, to establish a common base of communication and to provide a framework for conducting research.

Here is the result of our discuss guided by Dr. V. I added my own thoughts about CSCW (Computer-Supported Cooperative Work) in the process of trying to find the position of email, but then I kind of think it’s not necessary to include CSCW here to mess up with other concepts. I also add internet to include the whole thing, just because I am not very comfortable that half of the CSCW circle is leaving outside.  This is based on our class discussion, but I don’t particularly like using the circles to illustrate here out of the reason specified after this picture. (Please click and zoom in to see clearly)

My Unfinished Thoughts:

(1) Most things we are talking about are based on the modern Internet and the recent and mainstream thinking about social media. There maybe particular cases that are not of interest to research in this field, which we chose to not consider. I feel we are defining things to provide a base of academic communication, also, what our result is heavily influenced by what we refer to in our daily communication in academia. One thing I learned for being a researcher is that (I don’t know whether this is right or wrong), to live with confusion, and to leave things that are not crucial to your research out of mind.

(2) Here are two concepts of platforms and two concepts of channels, which I think is resulted by comparing things of different types. The relationship between Social Media and Web 2.0 is more of “based upon”, so Web 2.0 is platform in the sense of an Operating System. Web 2.0 and Social Media are things of different types, like the soil and the plants. The relationship between Social Media and SNS are more of “include”. They are things of the same type, like plants and a certain family of plants. To illustrate this whole thing using circles (I mean Venn Diagram) is fine, as long as we pointed out that the two platforms are in different senses as Dr. V did it in class, because drawing circles is a very intuitive way of showing relationships. However, personally, I think it’s better to only using circles (I mean Venn Diagram) when categorizing things of the same type, here I more like to use the soil and plants metaphor to illustrate the relationships between Web2.0, Social Media and SNS:

Web 2.0 is like a particular type of Soil with a number of characteristics such as user participation and contribution. That is to say, this soil needs human beings to interact with it to become meaningful soil, otherwise it’s just a piece of empty ground. Web2.0 can also address other possibilities because of this interactive nature, that’s where Social Media comes into play. Social Media is a family of plants that growing in this Web2.0 soil, besides user participation and contribution, it also address user communication. SNS is then a sub-family of the Social Media plants.

Unfinished thoughts, welcome commenting and helping me articulate.



McAfee, 2006