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Ambition #1 for 2008: Developing Roget’s 3D ontology

with 4 comments

The other day I was walking our dog in the second Weteringplantsoen, the small park close to where I live in Amsterdam. Probably due to my reflective mindset at Christmas time, I thought back twenty five years ago, just a month before my mom died. Somehow, I remembered that I had borrowed her Roget’s International Thesaurus, third edition, printed and published by Collins (London and Glasgow) in 1974. I’ve used the book ever since to improve the quality of my writing in English. Of course, nowadays I use thesauruses online but as it is, I like to use old fashion books as well. Anyway, I started to think about thesauruses and the probable complex work people put in them. Then I got an idea, combining different and apparently not associated information (thesauruses, ontologies, art, 3D, Borges’ Labyrinth and probably a lot more). And that is the origins of my first ambition for the next year: I am going to develop a 3D ontology based on Roget’s Thesaurus. And this is how I want to do it and how I imagine it (of course my process will be based on my book, using the Enneagraphical system). 

I will pick at random one word from Roget’s, put it in a Visio sheet (mind mapping tool) and put the synonyms around them. Then I will take each of the synonyms and do the same. My guess is that with around 250.000 words in the book – thus being an ending list – I will need a lot of 2D space. Meantime I will ask people if they have a clue of how to get this landscape of words (wordscape[1]) into a 3D setting as I assume that there will be overlap in certain words (with more than one homological meanings).Later on, my ambition will grow because I want to build a real 3D ontology and put it in a place for people to see.Even further in time, I would like the 3D ontology to grow in an emergent way by monitoring English written sites globally, measuring the frequency of use of words, ranking those words and developing a tool to automatically rearrange the 3D ontology. 

So, what’s the purpose? You tell me! There is something lingering in my brain that tells me to do this. It could give us visual insight in complexities (not just languages but also (social) networks and emergence, I guess). Perhaps you have some clues to help me out or even adopt parts of this project?

[1] See the page ‘Credits’ for the credits of this word


Written by Kees Winkel

December 30, 2007 at 13:05

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4 Responses

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  1. You might take a look at the following URL
    http://www.visualthesaurus.com/. They are already doing something similar.

    Barry Bitters

    January 1, 2008 at 13:47

  2. Thanks Barry, that is an interesting tool. An other example is http://www.humanbraincloud.com. Go and have a look. My idea about the 3D antology is that eventually we hook the system up with blogs and chat sites via a site scraper and then identifying the most popular words. My dream is to have a real life sculpture (think of the Atomium in Brussles) that changes with the flow of popularity of words.

    Kees Winkel

    January 2, 2008 at 11:44

  3. Good to see your new ambitions for this year. Whilst reading your post the sentence “If I can think of it then it can be created” kept repeating like a mantra in my head. Creating a 3D wordscape sound good but I guess the first step would be to define the X,Y,Z axes. I reckon the actual visualization would be half as difficult as coming up with the ‘rules’ of the system.

    Your ambition sounds a bit like; http://www.m-i-b.com.ar/mib/letter_pairs/eng/


    January 6, 2008 at 23:20

  4. Hey Kees, you might also want to take a look at the following link: http://ontosphere3d.sourceforge.net/
    I think it’s more or less what you are thinking about of creating.. Does your HU mail still work, because I’ve tried to send you this, but it did not work..?

    Thomas Groenhart

    January 12, 2008 at 18:22

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