Container := place to document a piece of information or content.
Here are some of the containers traditionally used for documenting scientific content:
- Blank sheet of paper
- Article title
- Article keywords
- Article abstract
- Article introduction
- Article section 1
- Article conclusion
- Article list of references
Here are some potential alternative containers (listed here for the sake of the thought experiment, not as a concrete proposition):
- Blank page
- A pdf
Consider an arbitrary piece of information or piece of content that I’ll name ‘x‘ to avoid making x explicit. How much (scientifically meaningful/useful) information do you gain on x from me telling you:
- “It is possible to formulate x as an article” ?
- “x figures in the introduction of an article” ?
- “x is the kind of information that can be documented in a section numbered 1″ ?
- “x figures in the conclusion of an article” ?
- “x is a keyword” ?
- “x is a reference” ?
- “It is possible to formulate x as a question” ?
- “x is a definition” ?
- “x is a conclusion” ?
- “x conveys an equivalence” ?
- “x is translation” ?
x has to be documented somewhere, in some container. The natural question now is “What constitutes a good container?“
Sometimes, knowing what container x is documented in doesn’t prepare the reader at all to the reading and understanding of x. This is the case with the article and abstract containers.
Sometimes, knowing what container x is documented in helps understand the role of x. This is the case with the ‘question container‘.
It all depends on the container.
In the case of the ‘keyword container’, knowing that “x is a keyword” helps you understand that “x denotes a concept worth studying“. It also informs you that “you are not expected to understand anything new by reading x: it’s just a word”. The keyword container prepares the reader to understanding the piece of content she is about to receive. But in this case, there is nothing to understand. Arguably, the ‘keyword container’ isn’t very scientifically useful/meaningful.
The primary role of containers is to contain content.
To rely on a system of containers to express the logic that is traditionally expressed by the content inside the container, is something more ambitious. It requires a sophisticated system of containers. And solutions to make people want to face the ensuing complexity and inflexibility.
This post is about finding a good system of containers, not finding a universal way to express logic and content.
Ideally we want to strike a balance. More meaning than the traditional containers. Much more flexibility than an ontology.