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Prolegomena for an Ontology of Place

  • Author(s): Ballatore, Andrea
  • et al.

The computational representation of place is one of the key research areas for the advancement of geographic information science (GIScience), bridging the gap between place-based human cognition and experience, and space-centered information systems. While many conceptual schemas, vocabularies and ontologies contain some notion of place, the concept is either left implicit or articulated in widely divergent ways. Because of its ubiquity, an ontological clarification of place seems overdue. Adopting the perspective of ontology engineering, and not that of philosophical Ontology, this article paves the way towards the formalization of a place ontology in two steps. First, it provides a critical survey of how this concept is currently represented from lightweight vocabularies to formal ontologies. Second, it presents a set of prolegomena for a place ontology which would overcome the limitations of current approaches. Acknowledging the cultural dependency of place, I argue that such an ontology should be seen as a module positioned between foundational and domain ontologies. This place ontology would provide (i) a conceptual tool to support the modeling of place in any domain, and (ii) a widely applicable ontology, whose deployment would increase the interoperability of datasets, particularly in the context of Linked Data.

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