How Formal Ontology can help Civil Engineers

In this paper we report some considerations on the developing relationship between the
area of formal ontology and that of urban development. Even in the studies on urban
and territorial systems we register a phenomenon common to most applied domains:
the increasing interest on ontology and the difficulties to understand its novelty. Indeed,
the area of applied ontology spans a variety of methods and ideas, some of which
have been developed much earlier in other approaches. This older group of 'ontological
tools' (among which we find classification methods, taxonomic organization, graph and
lattice theories) are well-known techniques and form the basis of most university programs
(from engineering to geography, from computer science to cognitive science). It
is natural that the domain experts that want to introduce applied ontology to their domain
find easy to get hold of these old techniques since, in a sense, these are already
part of their background. Unfortunately, these techniques have already reached their
limits and now have little to say in ontology research:1 they are substantially the same
as thirty or forty years ago (even relatively recent proposals like dynamic taxonomies
are just innovative applications of well-known knowledge techniques).

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Springer-Verlag, Berlin, DEU
Ontologies for Urban Development, edited by Jacques Teller, John R. Lee and Catherine Roussey (Eds.), pp. 37–45. Berlin: Springer-Verlag, 2007
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