Redefining Politics 2 - A New Political Ontology


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This presentation introduces a new framework for organizing political practice and knowledge through exploitation of a common meta-ontology.

This presentation is brought to you as part of Semantech's InnovatioWorx applied innovation series.

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Redefining Politics 2 - A New Political Ontology

  1. 2. The Future Begins… with an idea Web Servers are one thing, Nuclear Reactors are a bit more dangerous – there are systems which absolutely must not FAIL. <ul><li>Innovation represents the deliberate attempt to change current reality. </li></ul><ul><li>Those who believe that things can be better or can be done better have the motivation to pursue change – Innovation is the roadmap or blueprint for that change. </li></ul><ul><li>The Future consists of thousands of such blueprints coming together to build a new reality – Innovation Worx is dedicated to providing consistent and actionable Innovation for you… </li></ul>
  2. 3. Introduction “ For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled.” - Richard Feynman   <ul><li>There’s no field of endeavor where public relations and reality tend to blur more than in Politics. </li></ul><ul><li>There is also no field of endeavor where technology has had a more profound impact over the past ten years and still has the potential to transform it even more in the near future. </li></ul>
  3. 4. Voting and Election cycles represent a small part of the myriad of political processes we’re exposed to in our everyday lives.
  4. 5. Our Presentation <ul><li>This presentation, the 2 nd in our series “ Redefining Politics ,” is dedicated to illustrating just how politics is likely to evolve through the application of emerging technologies and how this will impact the practice of politics and governance. </li></ul><ul><li>The presentation is grouped into three sections: </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Semantics & Politics </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Introduction of a New Meta-Ontology </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Impacts & Implications </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Politics dictate the course of our lives & the nature of our society – improving it will reap profound benefits. </li></ul>
  5. 6. Why Politics needs to Evolve <ul><li>In recent years, despite advances in online social networking, there has been a steady increase in political apathy. Much of this is based upon negative perceptions associated with politics. </li></ul><ul><li>A key element associated with those negative perceptions is the idea that ordinary people are somehow left out of the discussion or simply cannot decipher the truth of what’s actually being said. </li></ul><ul><li>Political knowledge or information has too often been based on hearsay, accusations and deliberate falsehoods without providing mechanisms for verifying claims or examining causal relationships. </li></ul>
  6. 7. “ Those who are too smart to engage in politics are punished by being governed by those who are dumber.” – Plato
  7. 8. The Future of Politics <ul><li>The future is full of potential, but only if we act on it. Politics traditionally has been slow to adopt new practices and technologies. </li></ul><ul><li>Much of the potential associated with Politics begins with the realization that this is a field that is entirely driven by information. Once you accept that (regardless of what you may believe about the quality of that information) then it stands to reason that information technology has the power to transform or redefine many aspects of politics. </li></ul><ul><li>Examples of where IT has already begun this transformation process include Internet campaign sites,, social networking & electronic voting. </li></ul>
  8. 9. It’s fascinating to witness how preliminary forays into emerging technologies such as Facebook, Twitter and Youtube have already shifted political practice and outcomes…
  9. 10. Politics & Technology <ul><li>The most interesting opportunities for applying emerging technology to politics relate to data / knowledge / semantic approaches. </li></ul><ul><li>The reason why is the ability to discover and visualize complex relationships and provide more robust frameworks for collaboration and problem solving. </li></ul><ul><li>Why is this so? The average citizen doesn’t have time to become a policy wonk – yet all of those policies and the policy dialog impact them. How do you make credible information available that can support discovery without having to obtain a degree in political science – Information Technology… </li></ul>
  10. 11. There is a 1 to 1 relationship between politics and policy – although this isn’t always clear from an outsider’s perspective. Policy Management is already being automated in a number of different industries & contexts…
  11. 12. Political Foundations <ul><li>A Political Foundation is the conglomeration of ideas and positions that are connected to a particular philosophy, organization, individual or political party (and of course a Foundation can span all of those entities). </li></ul><ul><li>Political Foundations are Semantic in nature. Each one contains: </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>A unique organizing principle and core themes which further define it (based upon shared political dimensions). </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>A unique Lexicon. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>A mapping between key positions or agendas and expected policy outcomes. </li></ul></ul></ul>
  12. 13. Political Frameworks <ul><li>Political Frameworks represent the collection of tools and knowledge developed atop the Political Foundation. </li></ul><ul><li>A Framework requires a unique, detailed Political Ontology to define all potential elements of political knowledge and action. </li></ul><ul><li>Political Frameworks are where political practice and technology intersect. There is no one correct political framework – there will always be a collective of competing frameworks or interests. Multiple political frameworks can however be based upon one meta-ontology. </li></ul>
  13. 14. Political Framing <ul><li>Frameworks and Framing are two very different things. Frameworks are the underlying infrastructure and Framing is a practice that exploits those… </li></ul><ul><li>Political Framing is all about defining dialectic boundaries. Framing activities build upon the Political Foundation & Political Frameworks – Framing represents a Political Discipline or Practice. </li></ul><ul><li>Political Disciplines are different than Political Resources – they consist of distinct process methodologies. We will examine Political Framing in “Redefining Politics part 3”. </li></ul>
  14. 15. Section 1: Politics & Semantics Copyright 2011, All Rights Reserved – Teksouth Corporation
  15. 16. Politics & Semantics <ul><li>Semantics is the study or science of meaning. It is the basis of all linguistics (language), of culture and of information technology (computational linguistics). </li></ul><ul><li>Politics represents a dialog within any given culture about how that culture perceives itself and how it will operate and evolve. That dialog cannot exist without Semantics. </li></ul>“ All our work, our whole life is a matter of semantics, because words are the tools with which we work, the material out of which laws are made, out of which the Constitution was written. Everything depends on our understanding of them.” – Felix Frankfurter
  16. 17. Words matter – they tie promises to policy, ideas to action. If you can’t define what you believe in, how can it be expressed or supported?
  17. 18. Part 1 of our Series Part 1 of the redefining politics series introduced a number of key concepts including Themes, Foundations, Framing and Frameworks. All of these concepts are Semantic in nature and linked through Ontology. These concepts define both the nature and practice of politics.
  18. 19. Section 2: A New Ontology Copyright 2011, All Rights Reserved – Teksouth Corporation
  19. 20. Political Lexicons <ul><li>The traditional definition of Lexicon is that it represents the vocabulary associated with a specific language. </li></ul><ul><li>In our context though, Lexicons are more specific. For example, professions such as Law and Medicine have their own unique Lexicons which can be further sub-divided based upon areas of specialization. </li></ul><ul><li>In politics, there are quite a few lexicons and to some extent these are dynamic. The reason why they’re dynamic is due to introduction of new terms and changes of connotation in old ones. This type of lexical evolution does occur in other fields as well. </li></ul>
  20. 21. What is a Political Ontology ? <ul><li>Political ontology can refer to any part of the larger political ecosystem or it can in this case refer to a metamodel for core political practice. </li></ul><ul><li>Examples of more specific Ontologies would be issue / position ontologies. These could be developed in a full spectrum manner or be separated based upon political spectrum segments (or topic segments). </li></ul><ul><li>Political Ontology is not just Lexicon or Taxonomy – it includes complex relationships. Ontology can be modeled, visualized and converted to automated exchange formats such as OWL or RDF. </li></ul>
  21. 22. Why We Need a New Ontology <ul><li>Because currently it is difficult or impossible to efficiently coordinate political knowledge. </li></ul><ul><li>Because it will better support concept visualization strategies and technologies that will greatly aid in illustrating complex meaning or relationships. </li></ul><ul><li>Because it provides a more coherent basis for linking politics and policy (governance), thus allowing for both transparency and traceability. </li></ul><ul><li>Because it has the ability to better support wide-scale collaboration and participation in political processes. </li></ul>
  22. 23. A Political Meta-Ontology
  23. 24. Ontology of Practice <ul><li>The diagram on the previous slide represents the meta-ontology. It consists of two major elements; a Resource Framework and an Action Framework. </li></ul><ul><li>The Resource Framework is the extended foundation for all political knowledge and encompasses the organizing principle, the core Lexicon and the basis for all knowledge that might be developed. </li></ul><ul><li>The Action Framework represents the element that exploits the knowledge built within the Resource Framework. It mirrors the systems and processes that would be involved in managing political practice or automating policy governance. </li></ul>
  24. 25. Political Taxonomies <ul><li>The main difference between Taxonomies and Ontology is the nature of the relationships involved. Taxonomies tend to be more narrowly focused and built around parent / child hierarchical relationships. </li></ul><ul><li>Ontologies can include parent / child hierarchies but can also be structured in other ways as well. </li></ul><ul><li>As an example we have taken a portion of the Meta- Ontology and represented on the following slide a strict hierarchical taxonomy focused on one part (or logical slice) of the Action Framework. Ontologies can be represented by specific data formats – taxonomies are more flexible in that regard. </li></ul>
  25. 27. Section 3: Impacts & Implications Copyright 2011, All Rights Reserved – Teksouth Corporation
  26. 28. The Impact of Political Technology <ul><li>Technology goes hand in hand with process – both are meant to serve specific mission areas. </li></ul><ul><li>Political Technology is no different except though it has a somewhat higher level of visibility as it can impact everyone living within the society where it is being employed. </li></ul><ul><li>We contend that adoption of new technologies and approaches has the ability to improve process and that those improved processes ought to lead to improved quality of outcomes. </li></ul>
  27. 29. Opinions are provided to persuade. This is a key component in our Democracy – the notion of a free and open “ Marketplace of Ideas .” Successful persuasion is an ethical practice, deliberate indoctrination or the stifling of opposing views is not.
  28. 30. The Ethics of Political Technology <ul><li>It’s important to take a moment to acknowledge that any technology or practice approach if applied to politics could be used for ethical or unethical purposes. In politics, more so than in other fields of endeavor many will feel that any means justify a specific end. </li></ul><ul><li>Our hope is that to some extent a more open approach to political knowledge will necessarily reinforce ethical behavior. It should not however be confused for a canon of ethics (which is also needed but falls outside of this discussion). Technology can help to further a more open political process, but it could be abused as well and we must guard against that. </li></ul>
  29. 31. In politics, much of what is said will not be agreed upon. However, the ability to say it must be protected in order to maintain a free society.
  30. 32. Reality, Relativism & Politics <ul><li>Nowhere is the concept of Relativism (outside of physics) more prevalent than in the practice of politics. Spin is makes politics what it is – there are few areas of definitive truth and lot’s of room for interpretation. </li></ul><ul><li>The highest goal that Semantics and a new ontology supporting political practice can bring is the ability to help ordinary people better navigate biased perceptions and understand what makes sense in their own contexts. </li></ul><ul><li>If we can empower people to think for themselves, understanding the motivations behind what they’re hearing – we will achieve enormous progress. </li></ul>
  31. 33. Political Architecture <ul><li>One area of impact and of opportunity is Political Architecture. What does this mean? </li></ul><ul><li>In the following slide you’ll see a couple of examples of the types of visualizations most often associated with political practice. The conventions used tend to dwell on triad or quadrant type designs. </li></ul><ul><li>This is fairly limiting given the extraordinary complexity of the subject matter being examined. Political Architecture is an attempt to enhance visualization capability through Semantic technology, complex analytics and enterprise architecture modeling principles. </li></ul>
  32. 34. Political Architecture Must Evolve Political Architecture to date has been somewhat simplistic and limited to a handful of standard conventions. If we are to utilize architecture to help reduce complexity we must address the entire problem space.
  33. 35. Policy Architecture <ul><li>Policy Architecture is an extension of Political Architecture in that it models policy – but it also represents the actual technical infrastructure used to manage complex policies and policy-related data. </li></ul><ul><li>The following slide gives an example in the context of a Logical Policy Architecture. This particular example does not specify implementation but does illustrate potential coordination and process across policies and organizations. </li></ul><ul><li>Information Technology is already becoming very adept at handling automated policy capability for other types of business capabilities such as SOA infrastructures and Cyber Security. </li></ul>
  34. 37. Example Practice Spectrum Shifting <ul><li>Spectrum Shifting is the deliberate process of moving / adjusting the parameters of public discourse with the end result of moving all players within a political spectrum in one direction or the other (Right / Left). </li></ul><ul><li>The rationale behind the practice is simple - if one can change the parameters of the debate or discourse - it becomes easier to influence the outcome of that debate or discourse.   </li></ul><ul><li>Spectrum Shifting can also occur naturally, but over the past century or so one of the major goals of political practice has been the ability to frame issues or discussions. Successful framing (across a variety of issues) leads to Spectrum Shifts. </li></ul>
  35. 38. Who exactly determines what is Left or Right ? Interestingly, the criteria for making those judgments is somewhat dynamic (e.g. some of the definitions have changed over time).
  36. 39. Example Practice Connotation Shift <ul><li>A Connotation Shift is when the meaning of a specific word / term changes over time. In most languages this is part of a normal Etymological process. </li></ul><ul><li>However, in politics there are often times when practitioners wish to redefine their own views or attempt to redefine the perception of someone else's views. The most common example of this is taking a word that identifies a particular position or philosophy and attempting to add meaning or negative perceptions to it. </li></ul><ul><li>While there are concerns as to whether this approach is entirely ethical, it does fall under Free Speech. </li></ul>
  37. 40. Politics is Power, Knowledge is Power – Politics can be knowledgeable, and when people feel empowered they will participate.
  38. 41. Conclusion <ul><li>The InnovationWorx Redefining Politics Series will continue to examine the topics introduced in the first two parts in more detail in future presentations. </li></ul><ul><li>The goal of this series is to highlight a new approach to the practice of Politics and also to illustrate an example of Applied Innovation. </li></ul><ul><li>Semantech Innovation Worx provides strategic political consulting as well as policy consulting and policy framework automation. </li></ul>
  39. 42. Semantech Inc. is InnovationWorx <ul><li>Semantech Inc. is a solutions provider founded in 2007. Our company is located in the Dayton, Ohio metro area. Since our inception we have supported clients in a more than half a dozen industries nationwide. </li></ul><ul><li>Our company represents a unique approach – we’re not offering just IT or Management Consulting. We specialize in facilitating complex organizational Transformations. This is why Innovation Worx was created. Semantech was founded to facilitate change… </li></ul>