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Meta-relationships in link-based diagrams? (Read 10442 times)
Fir Bolg
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Meta-relationships in link-based diagrams?
May 02nd, 2008, 12:01pm
 
This is a general question having to do with the representation of a relationship that occurs frequently in text (and in human discourse generally.) Namely, that some words in the text can be about other words in the same text (Or, to be more precise, about what the latter is referring to.)

This  relationship is almost always  present in any writing that is of interest to anyone, but it is  often not made explicit. This can be the root of much confusion. It enables muchprevarication and deception. Also, from long experience in writing, both factual and fictional, difficulty in writing  clearly can often be traced to  ultimately to  code asleepa failure to get clear in my own mind what  part of what I am writing is about  which other parts, and how precisely.

Writing doesn't write itself, but if you don't get the "about" part right,  in the words will fight you. When that happens, and then no matter how facile you are with the words per se, you won't be able to write yourself to clarity.

I won't rave on about this point anymore. But it seems to me that a tool like Tinderbox, which is often used at the "prototyping" stage of writing, and which allows one to move stuff around in a diagram or outline to best capture how ideas relate to one another, would be a natural and maybe ideal place to represent these "about" relationships explicitly, as part of one's representation of some text.

Has anyone done anything with Tinderbox that relates to this semi-coherent query?

I should say that, if I am worried about the importance of the "about" relationship, it is really fundamental hand deserves/requires more than simply "coloring" a link between two items.
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Mark Anderson
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Re: Meta-relationships in link-based diagrams?
Reply #1 - May 2nd, 2008, 12:52pm
 
Quote:
I should say that, if I am worried about the importance of the "about" relationship, it is really fundamental hand deserves/requires more than simply "coloring" a link between two items.

If colour alone is not enough, don't forget you can also set a title to the link type so you can classify different strands of linkage. By the same token, the title could let you indicate the strength of 'aboutness' in your links. The link type titles can be set via a pop-up list on the dialog used to create links
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Mark Anderson
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Mark Bernstein
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Re: Meta-relationships in link-based diagrams?
Reply #2 - May 2nd, 2008, 1:16pm
 
Another way to express this relationship is simply adjacency in the map.

This has the advantage of allowing continuity: you can express the notion that "these two things have related concerns, but they're not as tightly related as those two."

But it has a disadvantage of informality: you can't as easily ask, "what things are 'fairly near' each other?" as you can, "what things link here."

Some useful references: Marshall and Shipman, "Formality Considered Harmful".  The "meta space" chapter in The Tinderbox Way. Perhaps Patterns of Hypertext[url]http://www.eastgate.com/patterns/Patterns.html/url].  

The same question could be recast as a classic of knowledge representation, which has long worked to represent meta-knowledge of various kinds.  This research was one of the inspirations for Tinderbox, but Im not sure the older texts would really serve these days.  Perhaps others can suggest references here?
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Paul Walters
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Re: Meta-relationships in link-based diagrams?
Reply #3 - May 2nd, 2008, 4:29pm
 
The stretchtext approach implemented with Tinderbox by Nate Mathias  can be useful in expressing meta relationships.  It takes some work to get the stretchtext output ready, so this is more a method for putting work into published form on a web than rapid brainstorming.

See Nate's work at http://www.natematias.com/stretchtext/, where his template can also be downloaded.
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Fir Bolg
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Re: Meta-relationships in link-based diagrams?
Reply #4 - May 2nd, 2008, 4:40pm
 
On "colors."

It is certainly possible to represent any relationship with attributes such as color or adjacency after the fact, so to speak. But doing so may not be illuminating and it isn't as stable as I would like. In database terms, the entity-relationship diagram would be real simple. It would just have a lot of attributes, and the values of which in any instance of the database would describe its logical structure. But what I am after in the writing realm is something that depicts the "about" relationship  At the "schematic" level, so that I wouldn't have to know or keep in mind  that in this text, yellow means "about" but aquamarine means "causality not known."

So I guess that's what I'm saying: I want to depict and work with semantic information at the schematic level. But -- and here's the real question -- I don't want to be able to formalize any and all knowledge. At least I don't think I do! I just want to be able to show and work with the fact that in this particular piece of text, this sub-piece  is about the fact sub-piece.

Of course, this may be an impossible "just."
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