Terminology and Mental Models

When parties from various backgrounds (and cultures) work together, it is inevitable that misunderstandings occur, i.e. texts (written or spoken) are easily interpreted in ways other than what the author intended. More often than not, such misunderstandings go undetected, and rightfully so, as in most cases it doesn't cause serious problems.

In the context of eSSIF-Lab we expect people from such various backgrounds (and cultures) to work together in order to realize its objectives. Because of its nature, we must expect misunderstandings to become problematic. In order to prevent them, and also to efficiently and effectively resolve those that do occur, we provide mechanisms to detect such misunderstandings, develop terminologies that reduce the likelihood of them occurring, and resolve problems/disputes that may occur around terms and definitions. Using these mechanisms is not compulsory - they may be used (or not) as participants like.

The mechanisms we provide include:

Background

Many cultures have stories, similar to that of the Tower of Babel, that observe that the big feats, such as building a "tower, whose top may reach unto heaven", cannot be achieved unless there is linguistic unity. While is generally recognized (the EU parliament building in Strasbourg resembles the Tower of Babel as depicted by the painter Brueghel), one can also observe that the part of the people that care about this and want to achieve a workable 'linguistic unity' lack means and tools that are easy to use.

The traditional tool for fostering common understanding is using glossaries or dictionaries, such as the (Oxford English Dictionary (OED)), the Sovrin Glossary and the NIST Glossary. Other initiatives produce documents with explanations, e.g. the terminology for talking about privacy by data minimization by Pfitzmann and Hansen (2010), or the EBSI Terminology (login required).

Traditional tools usually come with drawbacks that reduce their practical usefulness in this electronic era: dictionaries leave their user to decide which of the various meanings a term may have was intended, glossaries typically provide a single meaning, but lack a specification of the scope/context in which they are applied or authoritative, and documents rarely explain the ideas (concepts) behind terms they use.

The eSSIF-Lab terminology effort is an attempt to improve on this, by

  • creating and using tools that help authors and readers to understand the texts the create/read;
  • creating and maintaining a Terminology Corpus that documents such understanding;
  • automatically regenerate terminological artifacts (e.g. glossaries or dictionaries) as the corpus is being updated.

eSSIF-Lab Terminology Engine

As the corpus is being used, we expect ideas for improvement

Here is how you may contribute to this terminology effort.

Here are some characteristics of the tools being supplied:

  • When a reader sees a highlighted term (meaning that it is documented), (s)he will see a short description when hovering over the term, and the complete description by clicking onit.
  • When an author writes a text in which he wants to tag a term with its definition, (s)he simply writes \%\%text-to-be-tagged|referenceid\%\%, where referenceid is usually the term name. For details, please refer to the instruction for authors
  • Author wants to contribute to the Corpus of Terminology, i.e. modify existing documents or creating new ones, are supported by templates and guidance for authoring terminology documents.
  • The glossary will be automatically updated as contributions to the terminology orpus are being made merged into the master branch.