Unified Rule Approach and the Semantic Enrichment of Economic Movement Data

Unified Rule Approach and the Semantic Enrichment of Economic Movement Data

Werner Scheltjens (University of Groningen, The Netherlands) and Kurt Dopfer (University of Sankt-Gallen, Switzerland)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-0327-1.ch010


This chapter suggests a methodology for semantic enrichment of spatial data resulting from economic behavior. The proposed methodology has a universal scope and could be applied to any behavior involving the movement of an entity for economic reasons. The proposed methodology has its foundations in an evolutionary approach and subscribes to the axioms of evolutionary ontology. The proposed methodology is in line with Kuhn’s claim for the design of ontologies with a focus on human activities in geographic space; but rather than applying text analysis and limiting the focus to ontology in information science, the author enriches the semantic reference system of economic movement data with an ontology based on the general analytical framework of economic evolution stated in terms of a unified rule approach. This, the authors argue, results in an analytical ontology of geographic space and an enhanced understanding of economic movement data. The ontological, analytical, and theoretical propositions are applied to a data set of historical ship movements.
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Research in contemporary economic history is dominated by two opposing approaches which can be defined roughly by their distinct methodological partiality either for quantification (positivist approach) or for qualitative narration (hermeneutic approach).

In economic history, the proponents of a positivist approach argue that, to be scientific, economic history must quantify. Followers of this approach have developed systematic methods of quantification and corresponding methods of transposition of facts into numerical systems. We wish to emphasize that by putting quantification center stage this approach has made a significant contribution to economic history.

In contrary to the positivist way of thinking, the proponents of the narrative-semantic approach have been much less concerned with methodological issues. The use of numerical data and statistics is common practice, and no verdict is issued against quantification. Still, the narrative-semantic approach favors strongly the qualitative over the quantitative aspects of the historical record. The weak point of this approach is the lack of a systematic methodological and ontological position.

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