Uta Priss


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  • Uta Priss - My research interests

    Information objects - the signs that form the basic building blocks of logic, language and information

    The information objects that are central to logic, language and information are neither physical objects nor purely abstract objects, such as numbers. Physical objects are usually tangible and have a position in space and time. They are quite different from information objects which have physical components (such as print on paper, computer disks, sound waves) but which also have abstract components, such as information content. Information objects are often socially and culturally determined but traditional notions of society and culture can be too narrow, for example, with respect to information communication among computers or among bacteria. It can be difficult to describe the exact identity of information objects: for example, are different editions of a book a single object or different objects? Information objects are signs in the sense of Peirce's semiotics.

    There are many unanswered questions with respect to analysing, describing, formalising and predicting behaviour and use of information objects. My interest is not in specific instances of information objects or their social and cultural implications but instead in the underlying abstract notions, patterns and relationships of information objects. I am interested in deriving semantic models of such patterns and relationships. These can be motivated by psychological results but I usually consider information objects at a more abstract level than their actual representation in the brain of an animal.

    Humans already have a meta-language that facilitates talking about information objects. The notions of this meta-language are "concept", "word", "information", "sign", "representation", "communication", "context", "classification", and so on. The simplest patterns that can be observed are forms of duality, symmetry, Galois connections, triadic relations, hierarchy, infomorphisms, sequence, nesting and so on.

    The following (incomplete) list contains some established theories that describe some of these notions and patterns ...

    • Firstness, Secondness, Thirdness (C. S. Peirce's three categories)
    • Signs as a triad of representamen, object and interpretant ( C. S. Peirce's theory of signs)
    • Concepts consisting of extension and intension (as formalised in R. Wille's Formal Concept Analysis, see here for an overview).
    • Concept, judgment, conclusion (Kant's categories)
    • Infomorphisms among conceptual structures (as defined in Jon Barwise's theory of Information Flow).
    • Conceptual Graphs (as described by John Sowa)
    ... and here are some theories that I developed ...

    Applications of my research

    Although I am not primarily interested in applications, an understanding of patterns of information objects can improve the design of information systems, especially if these are based on formal structures, such as ontologies, classification systems, thesauri, lexical databases and similar hierarchical systems.

    I have described the following applications:

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