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The Semantics of the Web

Denise Pumain
Cet article est une traduction de :
La sémantique du web

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1In the coming decades, a number of technical innovations are destined to have a major impact on scientific practices.  Infrastructures that make it possible to store information in order to recover it in ‘natural language’ are so much ‘meta-data’.  These meta-data add layers of information between research sites or journals and the macro-systems of inquiry that guarantee them a wide visibility. Such infrastructures increase the potential for the auto-organization of our knowledge.

2These innovations are not without risks, of which the most serious would be a loss of the conceptual gains made since the establishment of knowledge in its disciplinary form.  The risk is greater for disciplines in the social sciences, whose specific vocabulary is more subject to contamination by natural language and its evolution than is the case in the disciplines of law and the natural and organic sciences.

3If we wish to participate in the enterprise of semantic construction that will organize knowledge as it unfolds on the web in the future, we need to pay particular attention to our vocabulary, to the way we define concepts, to the key words we use. In the complex systems studied by the social sciences, geographers have identified the emerging properties and the forms of organization of societies that justify the existence of their discipline.  If they wish to perpetuate their knowledge, they must relate their work very explicitly to such emerging properties as agglomeration, centrality, and spatial extension, as well as to evolving entities like milieus, countrysides, regions, cities and city systems, and geographical networks.  In a competitive universe in which the survival of words will depend more and more on the frequency of their use, it is less urgent to seek to be distinguished individually by the use of neologism and specific understandings of certain term; what is urgent is the need to extend the vocabulary, at least across the mid-section of a shared semantic universe, by means of which geographers will be able to participate in the project of organizing knowledge in the social sciences.

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Denise Pumain, « The Semantics of the Web », Cybergeo : European Journal of Geography [En ligne], Éditoriaux, mis en ligne le 10 septembre 2007, consulté le 22 juin 2018. URL :

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