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Review of  Spinning the Semantic Web

Reviewer: Scott O. Farrar
Book Title: Spinning the Semantic Web
Book Author: Dieter Fensel James Hendler Henry Lieberman Wolfgang Wahlster
Publisher: MIT Press
Linguistic Field(s): Computational Linguistics
Issue Number: 15.2773

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Date: Wed, 29 Sep 2004 19:09:00 +0200 (MEST)
From: Scott Farrar
Subject: Spinning the Semantic Web

EDITORS: Fensel, Dieter; Hendler, James; Lieberman, Henry; Wahlster, Wolfgang
TITLE: Spinning the Semantic Web
SUBTITLE: Bringing the World Wide Web to Its Full Potential
YEAR: 2003

Scott Farrar, University of Bremen

This collection is one of the first major works covering the origins,
state of the art, and enabling technologies of Tim Berners-Lee's vision of
the Semantic Web. With 41 contributors, many of whom major players in the
emerging Semantic Web, this collection offers a broad view of the Semantic
Web by including contributions ranging from the theoretical to the

Foreword by Tim Berners-Lee. Based on a talk given by Berners-Lee in 1997
at the London W3C meeting, the foreword provides philosophical and
practical motivation for the Semantic Web (SW) and the rest of the book.
Berners-Lee discusses the current state of the Web and argues for a Web
based metadata, trust, and, in general, the technology being developed by
the World Wide Web Consortium. In particular, the author stresses the need
for the Resource Description Framework (RDF).

Chapter 1. 'Introduction', by Dieter Fensel, James Hendler, Henry
Lieberman, and Wolfgang Wahlster. If the foreword precedes from futuristic
idealism, the point of view of the introduction is one of practicality for
the here and now. That is, the editors of the volume motivate the SW by
highlighting the benefits to knowledge management, Web commerce, and
electronic business. The various enabling technologies are introduced in
the context of the SW: the Extensible Markup Language (XML), Extensible
Hypertext Markup Language (XHTML), RDF, RDF Schema (RDFS), etc. Tools for
working with such languages are introduced, including Protege-2000.
Applications are adduced including On-To-Knowledge.

Part I: Languages and Ontologies
Chapter 2.'SHOE: A Blueprint for the Semantic Web', by Jeff Heflin, James
Hendler, and Sean Luke. Motivated because of the distributed, dynamic,
massive, and open-world aspects of the current Web, an ontology language
called SHOE is introduced and described. After a detailed background to
the approach, the SHOE language is formally defined and an example SHOE
ontology is given in XML. Issues of interoperability and evolution of
ontologies are presented, followed by a description of an implementation
from two test domains. Related works are also discussed.

Chapter 3.'DAML-ONT: An Ontology Language for the Semantic Web', by
Deborah L. McGuinness, Richard Fikes, Lynn Andrea Stein, and James
Hendler. The authors present the history and motivation for the DAML
ontology language, DAML-ONT. The authors discuss the Web language through
a series of examples in XML. Next, they present the axiomatic semantics of
DAML-ONT in a rigorous format, again with examples in XML, but also
including examples in RDF and the Knowledge Interchange Format (KIF).

Chapter 4.'Ontologies and Schema Languages on the Web', by Michel Klein,
Jeen Broekstra, Dieter Fensel, Frank van Harmelen, and Ian Horrocks. In
this chapter the authors discuss the relationship between ontologies and
the various schema languages of the Web (XML Schema and RDF Schema),
namely for the purpose of investigating how these schema languages can be
used to add semantics to Web content. The authors give an abstract
discussion of ontologies and schema languages and their relationships.
Next, an overview of the Ontology Inference Layer (OIL) language is given.
They discuss elements of the OIL language and give various examples. Next,
an overview of XML Schema is given. The authors then compare OIL and XML
Schema by looking at the different uses the languages were intended for.
Next, an overview of RDF Schema with many examples is given, followed by a
comparison of OIL and RDF Schema. An in-depth example of applying
ontologies to online resources in XML is presented in a step-wise fashion.
Particular attention is given to how to create hierarchies and type

Chapter 5.'UPML: The Language and Tool Support for Making the Semantic Web
Alive', by Borys Omelayenko, Monica Crubezy, Dieter Fensel, Richard
Benjamins, Bob Wielinga, Enrico Motta, Mark Musen, and Ying Ding. The aim
of this chapter is to present the Unified Problem-Solving Method
Development Language (UPML) framework and associated tools and to
demonstrate how this language provides a key enabling technology for the
SW. The UPML is presented as a framework to mark up reusable knowledge
resources and components. The authors present and detail the IBROW system
as an example of an application that takes advantage of UPML marked up
resources. Then, an in-depth description of the UPML itself is presented
with many examples in various Web syntaxes.

Chapter 6.'Ontologies Come of Age', by Deborah L. McGuinness. The aim of
this chapter is to motivate the use of ontologies as laid down by Tim
Berners-Lee (see the Foreword). The author presents an introduction to
ontologies and provides several simple examples. The author then contrasts
the use of simple ontologies with more structured ones which offer
consistency checking, completion, and interoperability. Then, the notion
of ontology acquisition is discussed. Finally, the author gives the
various enabling technologies for ontologies, including languages (KIF,
DAML+OIL, and XML) and development environments that are collaborative
scaleable, and interconnected.

Part II: Knowledge Support
Chapter 7.'Sesame: An Architecture for Storing and Querying RDF Data and
Schema Information', by Jeen Broekstra, Arjohn Kampman, and Frank van
Harmelen. The authors introduce and describe the Sesame architecture and
motivate its development from the need to develop an efficient way to
store SW data. As background, they then introduce and detail RDF and RDF
Schema languages. They argue for a query language for RDF(S) and introduce
the RDF(S) Query Language (RQL). The authors then turn to the Sesame
architecture and discuss the various components, including the repository,
repository abstraction layer and the PostgreSQL language. The functional
modules are presented and experience using the system is given.

Chapter 8.'Enabling Task-Centered Knowledge Support through Semantic
Markup', by Rob Jasper and Mike Uschold. The authors' aim is to motivate
the need for various SW components that locate resources, appeal to the
users' needs, and provide a semantics. Various facets of Web problem
solving are discussed. The authors then turn to the concrete domain of
aerospace customer service and present several examples of problem
solving. The enabling infrastructure for such a Web is given with an
emphasis on semantic metadata and information and knowledge repositories.
They conclude with a worked example in XML with semantically oriented

Chapter 9.'Knowledge Mobility: Semantics for the Web as a White Knight for
Knowledge-Based Systems', by Yolanda Gil. Arguing for more knowledge
'mobility', the author introduces the TRELLIS system which aids in the
tracking of data/knowledge so that knowledge will not be confined to a
single formalism. First, the author gives a very detailed introduction to
the notion of mobility and provides examples such as translation between
agents. The author then gives a short description of Resilient
Hyper-Knowledge Bases (RHKB) and the TRELLIS system that builds them.

Chapter 10.'Complex Relationships for the Semantic Web', by Sanjeev
Thacker, Amit Sheth, and Shuchi Patel. The primary topic of this chapter
is the nature of complex relationships on the SW with an eye toward
establishing a deeper for semantics for Web content. As a practical
approach, the authors describe the InfoQuilt which is provides a framework
and a platform for answering complex information requests. They next give
many examples of complex relationships. This motivates the need for more
complex queries, or 'requests'. This notion is then expanded to the
'information scape', or IScape. The authors argue that IScapes enable
better knowledge discovery and motivate their stance with a series of
examples. The need for better visual interfaces for IScape usage is
presented and adduced by a series of examples. Finally their approach is
contrasted in a section on related work.

Chapter 11.'SEmantic portAL: The SEAL Approach', by Alexander Maedche,
Steffen Staab, Nenad Stojanovic, Rudi Studer, and York Sure. This chapter
deals with how Semantic Web data should be communicated between the
provider and the consumer of the data. The goal is to institute a
methodology, which the authors call the 'SEAL' approach. First, the
authors overview the notion of ontology and in particular ontologies for
communication. They contrast ontologies with knowledge bases and give a
formalized definition of both. Then, a methodology is given for the
knowledge engineering process at the kickoff, refinement, and evaluation
stages. The authors then describe the SEAL architecture in depth
including a description of each of the modules. In the next section a
process called 'semantic ranking' is introduced and it is detailed how
this notion relates to queries and the comparison of knowledge bases.
Furthermore, the notion of semantic personalization is introduced as part
of the SEAL architecture. The last part of the chapter discusses RDF and
how the tool RDFMaker can be used to transform data in a data base system
to RDF. Finally, the authors discuss related work in connection with each
component of SEAL.

Part III: Dynamic Aspect
Chapter 12.'Semantic Gadgets: Ubiquitous Computing Meets the Semantic
Web', by Ora Lassila and Mark Adler. Because the discovery of semantic
services is seen as a key aspect of the SW in the context of ubiquitous
computing, the authors of this chapter discuss how so-called 'semantic
gadgets', or devices/applications that utilize the SW, can be guided to
discover and use such services. First, the authors give a brief overview
of knowledge representation and provide an example in the museum domain.
Key notions of knowledge discover are overviewed and briefly discussed.
The notions of 'contracting for use' and 'composition of services' are
presented, following by some analysis of the museum domain.

Chapter 13.'Static and Dynamic Semantics of the Web', by Christopher Frye,
Mike Plusch, and Henry Lieberman. This chapter is aimed at highlighting
the benefits and necessity of dynamic semantics in the creation of SW
content. First, the authors describe the static view of semantics,
followed by the contrasting view of dynamic semantics. Procedural
representation and relatively rapidly changing data are given as the key
characteristics of dynamic semantics. Next, the sources of dynamic
semantics are given with a focus on Web agents. Theorem procedures are
briefly outlined and it is argued that procedural information is often
disregarded. Then, the authors give a long discussion of the proliferation
of new Web languages. They argue for enriching HTML and XML and the
concept of procedural markup is defined. At this point the Glue language
is introduced which is intended to make SW transactions easier. Examples
of Glue are given and a comparison with both Java and Javascript is

Chapter 14.'Semantic Annotation for Web Content Adaption', by Masahiro
Hori. The aim of this chapter is to present a methodology whereby SW
content can be 'transcoded' for small devices. The author begins with an
example of how an external annotation framework that uses XPATH can be
used to annotate HTML. The author then gives an annotation-based
transcoding system. One example given is how an HTML page can be split
for small-screen devices. An example of a real-life webpage is worked
through with the annotation framework. In the final section, the
discussion includes various empirical results obtained in the transcoding

Chapter 15.'Task-Achieving Agents on the World Wide Web', by Austin Tate,
Jeff Dalton, John Levine, and Alex Nixon. This final chapter focuses on
the Web as a place where one can 'do' things. The topics include:
ontologies for plans and processes in the military domain and
collaborative multiagent-human systems. First the authors give an overview
of the standards for representing activities. The ontology for activities
is then presented and motivations are given. Next, the authors
describe the generic interface for Web-based, task-achieving agents called
Open Planning Process Panels (O-P^3). Finally, three Web-based
applications are described: the O-Plan Web demonstration, the Air Campaign
Planning Process Panel and a wireless version of O-Plan.

The primary merits of the reviewed collection include its extremely broad
scope. The content of the major topics---languages and ontologies,
knowledge support, and dynamic aspect---is well represented by diverse
contributions that vary according to depth and approach. Another major
merit includes the ''all-star'' author line-up which gives the collection
a certain respectability in the emerging field of the Semantic Web. At the
same time this work can be criticized for attempting too much too soon.
With the vision of the Semantic Web largely still largely unclear, its
tone slightly too optimistic, with some contributions ignoring issues such
as the broad acceptance of the Semantic Web and a migration methodology.
Another problem is that many of the contributions overlap. For example,
there are various introductions to ontologies, and the coverage of RDF is
repeated more than once. This collection is no Semantic Web cookbook for
the beginner. Whereas some chapters are introductory in nature, no
generalized, unified approach is given. This is not a criticism of the
book, just a caveat for the potential reader. In general this collection
provides a well-structured introduction to the field, covering the basics
but also moving beyond the fundamentals.

Scott Farrar is currently a post-doctoral researcher at the University of
Bremen in Bremen, Germany as part of the Spatial Cognition
'Sonderforschungsbereich' sponsored by the German Government. His chief
current research interests include the Semantic Web, linguistic knowledge
bases, ontologies and spatial cognition; see his website at:

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