Landscape Terms, Place Names, and the Question of Formal Ontology Philosophical Issues in Ethnophysiography
Ethnophysiography is a newly-defined science that seeks to understand and compare the meanings of terms that people from different cultures use to refer to the landscape and its components. Ethnophysiography is motivated by a number of fundamental questions. For example: Ethnophysiography Definition
When people look at a natural landscape, do they see it as filled up with features (objects) such as hill, lakes, and woodlands? Or do they simply see it as a continuous landscape? Perhaps they take an intermediate conceptualization, seeing scattered features over a continuous landscape field? Ethnophysiography Definition
Next, for people who see natural geographic features or objects, are the features determined by the type of landscape? Does everyone see about the same numbers of features, in the same places, with about the same boundaries, and grouped into the same kinds? Or does the identification, delimitation, and classification of landscape features vary across cultures, landscape, languages, or individuals? Ethnophysiography Definition
Third, there are the issues of naming. What things (entities, regions, objects, features, places) in the landscape are available (cognitively) to be named and talked about? Of those things, which get common names (that is, things that are considered to belong to kinds) (always, sometimes, never), and which get proper (individual) names (always, sometimes, never). From David Mark & Andrew Turk, “Ethnophysiography”. Paper presented at Workshop on Spatial and Geographic Ontologies, 23 September, 2003: p. 2. Ethnophysiography Definition
Perhaps the best way to think of ethnophysiography is as a method, which uses resources from several disciplines. But to what end? Ethnophysiography as Method
The desired outcome may be to construct knowledge. • This knowledge might be about particulars, that is, about how specific cultures represent landscape in their imaginative universe. • The knowledge might be about commonalities. That is, one might be trying to make an argument about what is shared in cultural representations of landscape. • The knowledge might be directed at demonstrating that there is a unified sub-structure to language. Given the variability of language in most situations, one might suppose that charting the diverse representations of landscape will give evidence of an invariant universal. It is worth noting that this might just as well be an assumption as a possible outcome. Ethnophysiography as Method
The desired outcome may be to create a matrix of interoperability. In other words, one may want to find an ontology robust enough to be able to contain the diverse representations of landscape in one matrix. That matrix would potentially enable localized translations, that is, translations between two language games, based on a set of equivalences in either objects or relations. Ethnophysiography as Method
The desired outcome may be universal translatability. This is a step beyond interoperability. It supposes that we could understand a cultural system and its use of landscape terms, and then have a master list which would correlate some across cultural borders and also point out the gaps or discontinuities. Ethnophysiography as Method
Framing Questions to Generate Data Data Gathering Connecting Meaning with Expression Framing Expressions as Objects (Ontology) Applying the Ontology: GIS Ethnophysiography Methodology
The questions here are not just the ones used with the participants in a culture, but the ones used by the researchers to establish the method. Framing Questions to Generate Data
Inside/Outside Specifically, what is the difference between emic/etic knowledge in this case? Are we looking for knowledge that is recognizable to the meaning-structures of participants, or knowledge that is meaningful to someone outside of the group? Framing Questions: Emic & Etic
Example from structuralism: Ask someone inside a group why they engage in a meaningful practice (e.g., getting married). Then, ask someone outside the group why someone inside the group engages in that practice. A phenomenologist will hone in on the experience of engaging in the practice, while a structuralist will focus on how the practice fits into a web of meaning within the culture. Framing Questions: Emic & Etic
The first is interested in an emic account, the second in an etic account. Is one account “true” and the other “false? And, if both are true, how do they relate to each other? Can the content of one be relevant in the other? In this method, they must be related, because we start with the first and end up with the second. Framing Questions: Emic & Etic
Once a mode of questioning has been established, data can be gathered. “Data”, though, is a term more oriented to the eventual outcome of the method than to the starting point. Data Gathering
Yindjibarndi country Fieldwork in Western Australia Perth
Yindjibarndi study: methods • Since 2002 the main method utilized is interviews with speakers of the language. • The participants were requested to discuss the landscape features displayed in a set of 40 photos (like previous images). • Each photo showed a landscape scene, and they were chosen (and ordered) to display a good cross-section of landscape features. • The sessions were audio taped and the researchers took notes.
Terms for convex landscape features do not match up Yindjibarndi Study – Some Results mountain marnda bargu hill burbaa
Yindjibarndi Study – Water Features A permanent pool called “Nangarnyungu”at Jindawarrina
There are no permanent or even seasonal rivers or creeks in Yindjibarndi country Larger watercourses have running water in them only after cyclones Permanent sources of water include permanent pools along the channel of the Fortescue River, as well as some permanent small springs, and soaks (where water can be obtained by digging) Water in Yindjibarndi country
Yindjibarndi has two terms for fluvial channels: Garga - roughly equivalent to "gully"
Yindjibarndi has two main words for water flow in nature:Manggurdu for flood, strong flow
yijirdi for shallow, narrow flow of water Here flowing into a yinda (permanent pool)
thardarr is the Yindjibarndi word for “An area of cliff where water sometimes falls, whether there is water or not.” When water is flowing, the water is manggurdu or yijirdi Thardarr
Discussion of terms for water features • The channel and the water seem to be separate entities. • In Yindjibarndi permanent and temporary water features are considered to be different kinds of features. • English, in contrast, treats permanence of water bodies and water courses as an attribute, and expresses it via adjectives like "temporary", "seasonal", "intermittent", or "ephemeral“. • The key distinction in English is still vs flowing water. • It seems that permanent water in Yindjibarndi is a yinda, whether still or flowing. • Thus there is a significant difference in conceptualizations of water features between Yindjibarndi and English.
Role of Spirituality“Warlu left permanent water here for the Aboriginal people”If each yinda has a spirit (warlu), how does this contribute to its conceptualizationby Yindjibarndipeople?
Some General Conclusions from Yindjibarndi Study (1): None of the Yindjibarndi terms for landscape features that we have examined in depth so far is exactly equivalent to one single term in English. Yindjibarndi terms divide up sub-domains of geographic reality differently than do English terms.
Yindjibarndi Pictorial Landscape Dictionary • In late 2008 we completed a photo-illustrated Yindjibarndi landscape dictionary for community use. • Includes about 100 landscape terms: • 49 basic (simple) landscape terms • 49 additional terms that combine with some of these to produce compound landscape terms
1. Whole/parts (mereology) – where do we start in our analysis of language in place? Do we start by describing details, and then developing a larger cultural knowledge out of that, or do we start with understanding a culture’s values and epistemology and then fit in the significant terms? After all, just because there are terms for landscape objects or experiences, doesn’t make them all equally significant. Issues in Data Gathering
2. Just as most people regard landscape as equivalent to land, and thus fail to see that our view of the land has been constructed through a long history of visual representation and technological innovation, so too it is possible to regard the sum of landscape words and place names in a culture as equivalent to that culture’s knowledge about itself. We can fail to see that despite our best efforts we may be unable to not bring assumptions about the ontologies of others to the “formal ontology” that ethnophysiography strives for. Issues in Data Gathering
The phenomenological work involved in collecting data based in experience must be transformed into manipulable data based in structure. This is an issue in most human sciences. How does it manifest itself when dealing with place-terms? Connecting Meaning with Expression
What is lost in the translation? What is gained in the translation? What are the philosophical assumptions about both emic and etic perspectives? Connecting meaning with expression
An ontology in the information system sense is part of the semantic web, that is, the WWW project which attempts to model relations among objects, to context, and to a whole, as opposed to attributes of discrete unrelated objects in a context-less domain. Ontologies are an example of Tim Berner-Lee’s “Web 3.0”, or the semantic web. Framing Data (Ontology)
Consider the difference between an old-style Yahoo search, a Google search, and what Google cannot search: Yahoo: searched meta-data and content. Google: Does what Yahoo did, plus orders by “Pageranks”, that is, user “feedback” in the form of links from other popular pages. What Google doesn’t do: relate pages in a meaningful way, so that a search for the word “place” differentiates between casual and technical senses of the term. Ontologies
Based in OWL (Web Ontology Language) Library of projects: http://protegewiki.stanford.edu/index.php/Protege_Ontology_Library John Bateman’s Ontology Portal: http://www.fb10.uni-bremen.de/anglistik/langpro/webspace/jb/info-pages/ontology/ontology-root.htm Barry Smith’s Ontology Page: http://ontology.buffalo.edu/smith/ DOLCE http://www.loa-cnr.it/DOLCE.html MUSIL http://musil.uni-muenster.de/ ONtologies
Once an ontology has been generated, the final step to integration with GIS is relatively straightforward. However, it is not the end of the philosophical issues. Applying the Ontology (GIS)
What does “useful” mean, and to whom should the ontology be useful? • Is the goal of the implemented ontology • Representation of a system? • Interoperability (translation across two ontologies)? • Universal translation of landscape representations? Applying the Ontology (GIS)
How can the phenomenological data-gathering techniques connect with and not undermine the structural ontologies? How can an ontology, in the information science sense of the term, co-exist with a phenomenology? Central Philosophical Question
An initial approach: Let’s suppose the question has to do with the location of meaning. In phenomenology, meaning lies in experience. In a structural system, meaning lies in the interaction of the components of the system. Where is Meaning?
Consider: At the beginning of the method, the goal is to capture the structure of meaning for a culture as seen in its landscape terms. Those terms might be generic, but the line between the generic and the proper may be fuzzy. And, in both cases, there may be narrative or mythic content, that expresses the collective meaning of a people for itself. Phenomenology (and its heir, hermeneutics) seems appropriate to this task. Ethnophysiology: Meaning
But at the other end of the method, meaning resides in the interrelations of objects within an ontology. Just as in structuralism, the relations between objects matter. The objects themselves do not, nor does the person who is the source or subject of the objects within the ontology. Ethnophysiology: meaning
This might be seen as an inherent problem. We might think that no ontology could ever really capture the lived meaning of a culture, when it comes to landscape, and no phenomenology could ever adequately provide the material necessary to build an ontology. The locations of meaning are too far apart, and there is no reliable mechanism to move from one to the other. Ethnophysiography: Meaning