New Paper

After a long road, our ontology paper has finally been published.

C.C. Wellen & R.E. Sieber. 2013. Toward an inclusive semantic interoperability: the case of Cree hydrographic features. International Journal of Geographical Information Science 27(1): 168-191


There has been ample work in GIScience on the formalization of ontologies but a relatively neglected area is the influence of language and culture on ontologies of geography. Although this subject has been investigated for conceptual ontologies using indigenous words denoting geographic features, this article represents the first attempt to develop a logical ontology with an indigenous group. The process of developing logical ontologies is here referred to as formalization. A methodology for formalizing ontologies with indigenous peoples is presented. A conceptual (human readable) ontology and a logical (axioms specified in mathematical logic) ontology were developed using this methodology. Research was conducted with the Cree, the largest indigenous language grouping in Canada. Results show that the geospatial ontology developed from Cree geographic concepts possesses unique design considerations: no superordinate classes were found from archival sources or Cree speakers so ontologies are structurally flat; the ontology contains some unique classes of water bodies; and the ontology challenges our notions of the generalizability of ontologies within indigenous groups. Whereas these difficulties are not insurmountable to the establishment of a cross-cultural Geospatial Semantic Web, the current plans of the World Wide Web Consortium do not adequately address them. We suggest future directions toward an inclusive semantic interoperability.