Ontolog Forum

Purpose In general, a context is defined to be the circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be better understood and assessed. Specifying context is especially important for specific application domains.

Domain specific needs for context

Two sessions and half a dozen speakers tried to address this complex topic some with overlaps in related topics such as Category Theory, Semantics, Object Process Models (OPM) and specific examples in Healthcare and generic domains.

With context and ontology background material provided by Pat Hayes and John Sowa set the stage including external and internal representation of context, intention, demographics, temporal and dynamic nature of context and relationships to micro-theories that enter when considering domains and other Summit Tracks and Topics. When considering ontology development and applications in a domain such as Healthcare it is often possible to predefine initial event or process related parameters relating to context, specifically those presented by David Whitten for healthcare domains such as • medical decision support • patient calendars • clinical information for caregivers • drug interaction For example, Decision support rules related context includes items such as: Patient ID and demographics, age and time related medical events, admission and discharge dates, vital signs, purpose of visit and encounter, behavior, provider information, etc. Some of these parameters will change for other healthcare domain applications described above.

David Whitten and Ravi Sharma summarized the representation of context as text, NL, Audio, Visual (Image, Maps, Charts, Video /movies), etc., and context is set by the intention of the media creators / participants. Introduction, Preface, Background and specific narrations setting stage for a novel or play are often where the context is described. For specific domain applications pre-requisites often include related context such as Forms and records. For a business Loan or mortgage applications similar parameters define the context such as filling forms that contain provenance, individual, institutional, financial information. Cognition of dynamic nature of context and update is important for continuing domain application validity, for example it can be recalled that not dynamically updating the individual context in collective debt obligations perhaps contributed to mortgage related event of 2008 as the collective groupings did not account for time variant credit scores of individual instruments.

Spencer Breiner & Eswaran Subrahmanian presented Category Theory and its relationship to inter-domain ontologies through use of “Functors”. Mathematically these have relationship with formal methods (graphs, probability, dynamics, etc.) and facilitate Context-relative understanding of syntax & semantics. Domain Libraries can also be constructed using these.

Dov Dori described work on OPM – ISO 19450 and described Universal Ontology: a domain-independent set of concepts for describing systems in the universe, both natural and man-made. Ontology: a set of concepts for describing a domain (industry, banking, military, botany, healthcare…) and systems within it. OPM Things (entities, concepts): Objects and Processes, A process affects an object by changing its state. Hence, objects must be stateful – they must have states.

Ken Baclawski described situation awareness related context and ontologies and referenced publications.

Cory Casanave presented role of semantics in domain as well as integration and interoperation among ontologies: Reference Ontology: A set of concepts intended to be referenced by multiple designs, ontologies and schema in support of integration and interoperability among them. Different from: Application Ontology, intended to support reasoning in support of a particular-application. Our proposition is that successful semantic mediation requires context. Ontologies to solve these problems must be context aware. There are different kinds of context, contextual dimensions e.g., Time, Occurrences, States, Authority, Interaction. More Contextual Dimensions e.g., Social Group, Location, Type, System, Design, Source (Provenance). Things may be in multiple context at the same time. Context, such as time, can apply to other statements. Rights and Obligations are frequently contextual. Cory further elaborated context in terms of FOL, etc.

Presentations were followed by Chats documented by Ontology Summit 2018 that brought out relationship among domains, context, dynamic and changing nature of context etc.



A domain (a specified sphere of activity or knowledge) by its nature represents a perspective or distinction from a larger whole usually with some intention and is acknowledged as such by some group (e.g., of humans), the agents. An agent can be considered to be an entity that creates a distinction.

Kinds of Contexts

John Sowa included three kinds of context: immediate, background knowledge, and situational. Those three could be subdivided endlessly for any purpose.

But whatever subdivision is used, the reasons and methods are at the metalevel.