Social Ontology Draft Syllabus

From NCOR Wiki
Jump to: navigation, search

Social Ontology: A 300-Level Crash Course

1. Introduction to Ontology  What ontology is  The beginnings: Aristotle’s metaphysics  Ontology since Aristotle

2. Ontology Today  Ontology in the sciences  Ontology and computers  Ontological realism

3. The Ontology of Social Reality  Speech acts  Money  Chess  Football  Music  War  Debts  Institutions

4. Hernando de Soto and The Mystery of Capital  The ontology of the African Village  The ontology of Wall Street  Ontology of market collapse

5. The Ontology of Documents  How document acts differ from speech acts  From paper documents to digital documents

6. The Ontology of Organizations  Social Roles  The Organigram  Persons vs Offices

7. Human Capabilities  The ontology of teaching and learning  The ontology of intelligence  Capability and disability

8. The Ontology of Law  What is a legal system?  What is an obligation?  What is a legal obligation?  Massively Planned Social Agency

9. The Ontology of Geopolitics  Ontology of Maps  What is a nation state?  Territorial disputes  Do mountains exist?  Ontology of Terrorism

10. Careers for ontologists  Why ontologists are needed in an age of computers  Examples of ontology careers  Banking  Healthcare  Social administration  Law enforcement

Ontology of Social Reality

Diagrams and Time

A set of intermeshed diagrams called musical scores guides the complex series of human actions we call an orchestral performance. A set of intermeshed diagrams in a military field manual, similarly, guides the complex series of human actions which is a military operation. Musical scores and field manuals serve similarly as the basis for training of the users of such diagrams, which are able to perform their guidance functions only if their users have correspondingly intermeshed types of expertise.

Commanding and Other Social Acts

We begin by distinguishing speech acts from document acts, where the latter includes not only for example signing or stamping or filling in a paper document but also including the acts performed, for instance, when you are completing and submitting your tax forms using tax software. We refer to the latter as e-document acts. Planning, and especially military planning, is nowadays a matter of both paper document acts and e-document acts. Successful military planning requires that there be pre-defined types of actions which planners can incorporate into their plans. Planners must be confident that warfighters will be able to execute actions of these types in an effective way. We show how this confidence is achieved 1. through military doctrine -- which defines the relevant action types -- and 2. through military training -- which builds the warfighters who can execute them. Military plans, military doctrine and military training relate not only to the actions of individual warfighters, but also to team actions and to the sorts of team of team actions involved when entire armies are involved in military options. It is the role of military command to make this possible -- we plan team actions by planning the individual actions of commanders at different levels in the military hierarchy. The speech acts and document acts we call military commands thus occur in the typical case as part of the execution of military plans. We conclude with a comparison between the planning, training, and commanding on the side of the military with the orchestration, rehearsal, and conducting that takes place in the performance of symphonic music.

The Ontology of Terrorism

Notoriously, intelligence agencies face the problem of Connecting the Dots. 'Connecting', here, means not only cross-identifying the individuals referred to in different sources, but also combining in useful ways all the data about such individuals. Ontologies allow analysts to harvest combinable information from messy inputs by providing consistent sets of terms for describing the entities involved. Suppose, for example, that ontology terms have been used to tag collections of heterogeneous source data about, say, persons in Baghdad. Analysts can then use the results to identify all available data regarding, say, persons who speak Armenian, or persons with expertise in Java programming; and they can do this independently of the type of data (text, images, audio)which served as inputs. To be effective, however, ontologies need to contain not just terms but also definitions. To illustrate how this works we will consider some simple examples of ontology building, concluding with an ontological approach to the definition of terrorism.

The Emotion Ontology

The scientific study of emotions utilizes data of a wide range of different sorts, ranging from introspective and observational reports of individual emotional experiences to experimental data deriving from chemical, genetic, and neurological studies. Scientific ontologies provide a strategy for the integration of such heterogeneous data by providing formal definitions of the types of entities in the corresponding domains of reality and a controlled vocabulary in whose terms the different sorts of data can be consistently described. Heretofore, there has been little effort directed towards such formal representation for emotional phenomena, in part because of widespread debates within the affective science community on matters of definition and categorization. The Emotion Ontology is an attempt to rectify this shortfall. I will describe the ontology and show how it interoperates with ontologies in neighboring areas such as neurochemistry. I will also draw some general conclusions pertaining to classification in psychological and psychiatric domains, to the treatment of grief, and to the relation of all of the above to questions of philosophy.

Deontology Ontology

Basic Formal Ontology provides no obvious category under which deontic entities such as claims, rights, obligations, permissions fall. The lecture provides a summary of how such entities may be treated in a way that is consistent with BFO, focusing on the case of obligations generated through acts of promising. a longer version of this material is presented here and here. Jansen

Ontology of the Organigram

An organigram is a graph-theoretic structure consisting of nodes and edges. The nodes standardly represent three sorts of entities: divisions within the organization, offices of the persons who head these divisions, and the current holders of such offices. The edges represent relations of sub- and superordination between the entities represented by the nodes. Where such a relation obtains the subordinate has obligations based upon his consent to perform certain duties as directed and controlled by the superordinate. We will evaluate the hypothesis that an organization is itself a graph-theoretic structure that is (or is capable of being) represented by an organigram.

The Ontology of Disease

A recent paper in the journal Healthcare Informatics Research identifies a paradigm shift - 'from concept representations to ontologies' - in the ways medical terminologies and vocabularies are used to describe medical data [1]. We will describe what this paradigm shift involves, what it means to talk about 'ontologies' in the medical context, and how such talk relates to the traditional concerns of philosophical ontologists. We shall conclude with an ontological definition of disease, and illustrations of how this definition can be applied to a range of clinical examples. [1] See

How to Build an Imaging Ontology

We will provide an introduction to the field of biomedical ontology with special reference to the field of pathology informatics. We will look at examples of existing ontologies especially the Ontology for Biomedical Investigations (OBI), the Ontology for Biological and Clinical Statistics (OBCS), and the Ontology for General Medical Science (OGMS). We will then draw lessons from these examples for an ontology of pathology imaging.

The Glory and Misery of Electronic Health Records

Starting from around 2005, national programs for the introduction of Electronic Health Records (EHRs) were launched with great enthusiasm in the US and UK. EHRs were seen as a means of increasing quality, safety and continuity of clinical care while at the same time reducing healthcare costs. I will survey the results of these, pointing out both achievements and failures. Specific topics to be addressed include: problems of data interoperability; ‘meaningful use’; the role of SNOMED CT, openEHR, and FHIR; and the prospects for secondary use of EHR data in information-driven clinical and translational research.While bioinformatics has witnessed enormous technological advances since the turn of the millennium, progress in the EHR field has been stymied by outdated approaches entrenched through ill-conceived government mandates. In the US, especially, the dominant EHR systems are expensive, difficult to use, fail to ensure even a minimal level of interoperability, and detract from patient care. I will conclude by sketching an evolutionary path towards the sort of EHR landscape that will be needed in the future, in which consistency with biomedical ontologies will play a central role.

Ethics, Informatics and Obamacare

Surveys a series of ethical, economic, clinical and also safety issues relating to the application of informatics to healthcare, focusing especially on the role of informatics in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Talk presented in the University at Buffalo Clinical/Research Ethics Seminar - Ethics, Informatics and Obamacare, November 20, 2012. Slides are available here: