Faculdade de Letras da Universidade do Porto - OCS, 15th INTERNATIONAL ISKO CONFERENCE

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Roger De Miranda Guedes, Maria Aparecida Moura

Last modified: 2017-12-01


Semantic warrant can be considered a permanent commitment of information systems and contexts to analyze, justify and review semantic elements denoted in knowledge representation (CAMPBELL, 2008). Although the earliest notions of semantic warrant date back to the beginning of the last century, with the considerations of E. W. Hulme regarding the adequate criteria for recognizing, identifying and selecting terminology for bibliographic classifications, the semantic warrant principle continues to be a central concept in current research issues in knowledge organization (KO). It remains a relevant organizing principle when applied to knowledge organization systems (KOS).


To meet the need of expressing useful meanings to an audience, the developers and maintainers of KOS need to make careful choices regarding the perspectives that they wish to prioritize in these systems. According to Howarth and Jansen (2014), several perspectives of warrant can be identified among the development processes of classification systems, including cultural warrant. This warrant stipulates that a KOS should be based on the premises and concerns of a given culture. In other words, it will be more representative and useful to people of a certain culture if it is based on the assumptions, values and predispositions of the culture in which they are embedded (LEE, 1976; BEGHTOL, 1986).


Regarding cultural warrant, although there is no consensus concerning a technical systematization of the best method for defining it, certain traits can be identified in the knowledge representation instruments that signal its propensity by considering with greater sensitivity the manifestations of culture in the recognition of information and what it seeks to signify.


Although there is no objective procedure to identify how hospitable a KOS is with regard to the contexts it serves, certain comparative inferences can be made when analyzing two controlled vocabularies that are known to represent the multiculturalism of the audiences that use them. These are the EuroVoc Thesaurus and the UNBIS Thesaurus. The EuroVoc is a multilingual and multidisciplinary thesaurus on the activities of the European Union. It is published in twenty-three of the languages of the EU member countries. The UNBIS Thesaurus is a multilingual vocabulary developed by the Dag Hammarskjöld Library (DHL), which is connected to the United Nations Department of Public Information. It is published in all the official languages of the United Nations (UN). Both instruments were projected to meet the needs for information in highly heterogeneous sociocultural groups, which is the main justification for choosing both of them. This is a challenge for KOS that need to handle diverse criteria that may guide the validation of meanings in their conceptual structures. In other words, there is a need to evoke multiple perspectives of semantic warrant that cover increasingly refined and politically demarcated levels of meaning.


To conduct a brief empirical analysis of both representation instruments, the English terms migration and terrorism were chosen. The reason for choosing these terms and the concepts that they represent is related to their use in recent years due to sociopolitical phenomena in the global context. The terms were analyzed in English because, although the EuroVoc contains the corresponding terms in Portuguese, the UNBIS does not. An effort was made to examine the terms migration and terrorism in the two thesauri considering all the terms presented with some kind of relationship to them.


The analysis was intended to compare them and highlight the assumed attention in the two instruments regarding the manifestation of the cultural identities of their audiences. In the case of the term migration, its relationships from the development of more specific terms, in the EuroVoc Thesaurus, reveal a need of the audiences it serves (and the discourses contained in documents produced in the environment of the European Union) to specify notions and concepts that emerged in the wake of events in the concrete social reality of the individuals served by the KOS. The same exclusive development of terminology appears not to occur in the UNBIS Thesaurus, which contains fewer specific terms related to migration.


Bearing in mind the historical and social issue of migratory waves on the European continent, it could be inferred that the context of creation and the audiences served by the EuroVoc required greater details of the sociocultural aspects experienced by them. Thus, it provides conditions of meaningfulness of the KOS in question, activating cultural warrant as a criterion of representativeness. From the analytical support through culture, viewed as a sensitizing element, useful meanings are captured by individuals embedded in a language game, finding meaning by relating migration to terms such as diaspora and brain drain.


In the second example, the term terrorism is represented in both thesauri, showing a clear semantic relationship with the other specific terms. It should be noted that in the UNBIS Thesaurus there is a greater need to portray characteristic concepts of a certain social reality. This does not occur in the EuroVoc, which contains fewer conjugations between terrorism and specific terms in direct relationship with this term. In this case, the influence of the proposal of the UNBIS Thesaurus, derived in the institutional dimension of the UN, despite being an international organization with an extraterritorial characteristic, implies covering a repertoire of a domain of activities that, in some cases, need to be more nuanced.


To meet the needs of knowledge representation for their audiences, negotiations of meaning reverberated in each decision involving the unveiling or omission of a concept. In the case of the UNBIS Thesaurus, there is a need for a direct relationship between the concept of terrorism and the historical event of the terrorist attacks (11 September 2001) in the United States. Thus, in the term terrorism and its terminological relationships, the manifestation of a cultural hospitality is recognized, activated to meet the needs of meaning provoked by the historical, social and cultural context.