Words: Events

We live in three-dimensional space. This space is continuous. To refer to space we use different types of abstractions. Some abstractions are based on objects and some are the result of our desire to put some structure of otherwise continuous space. The idea of continents, countries, states, counties, and towns are the abstractions imposed to deal with time.

Some of the abstractions are based on some natural characteristics like the concept of universe, planets, stars, continents or oceans. Others are artifact of human nature. Countries, states, counties and similar structures are partitioning of space and assigning names to them. How we partition them depends on socio-political factors and has been changing throughout the history and will keep changing. We see borders of countries getting redefined, new countries being born, new states and counties being defined, Of course then there are some objects that take a special place in space – like mountains, rivers, lakes, temples, roads. Some of these are natural and some man-made but they all get strongly linked to space because they remain relatively fixed in space. These objects have fixed position in space but we start defining space in terms of these objects. In many cases, we start using these structures to define space. We commonly specify location in terms of position on a road, in a city in a country. With popularity of digital maps, the terms to describe space in absolute terms using latitude and longitude has become more popular, but the abstractions based on natural and man-made objects and structures remain more common and are likely to remain so. These abstractions are more naturally part of our language.

Time has some similarity to space, but is different for us. Time is continuously ticking. We have three very general abstractions on time: we call them past, present, and future. We have imposed some structures on this continuous and seemingly infinite timeline. Calendars were developed in different parts of the world to provide us some structured way to specify and partition time. Obviously some aspects of this calendar are based on natural factors, like the seasonal or daily cycles, while others like hours, minutes and seconds are just a way to partition time.

Calendar is a non-semantic structure. Calendar just divides the time line in predefined uniform structure. It has absolutely no semantics associated with it. People remember time line more based on important things that happen to them or around them – like their graduation, wedding, 25th birthday, stock market crash, tsunami, and so on. They remember smaller events related to more important events and they place important event in the frame of a calendar. In fact, if you ask people to introduce themselves or somebody else, you hear important relevant events in their life. Similarly people describe their relationship to other people in terms of the common events – pleasant and unpleasant.

But events are more than that. And simple words can not easily describe them or capture, even partially, different aspects of events. Current linguistic analysis techniques have not had much success in recognizing documents related to events and event information. Events are more interesting and intriguing than objects. The next series of discussion will be about events. I have been thinking about events and in next several posts, I’ll share my thoughts and research on events and the web that gets created, the EventWeb, in next several posts.

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