Ontologies & Information Systems

Ontology has often been a topic of heated discussion. Specifically, the ontology of whether certain objects, theories, etc. often raises complex ethical questions. However, ontology with regards to Information Systems differs in that it focuses on the study and clarification of certain concepts, with the objective of formulating them into frameworks that are both logical and well understood.

Ontology plays an important, and often unrecognized part within Information Systems. As different people do research within their field, the way in which the gather, record, and organize their data is shaped by their onologies. More specifically, their beliefs, values, ideas, etc. influence what they perceive as important, resulting in datasets that are often unique and idiosyncratic. These idiosyncrasies make it difficult to standardize data across fields, which in turn hampers cross-field research and analysis. Therefore, an important step going forward will be to develop a sort of “Master Ontology”, a standardized and universally accepted framework. This framework would synthesize the various conceptualizations of different communities of data users in order to make data organized, standardized, and transferable.

In their conclusion, Smith and Mark remark that a complete ontology of the spatial world is needed not only to comprehend both primary theory (common sense), as well as field based ontologies that are used to model natural phenomena such as runoff and erosion. I believe this to be extremely important, as people from diverse fields must collaborate to build comprehensive, and most importantly, standardized databases in the field.

-Victor Manuel


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