What’s in a URI? Part I: The School of Salamanca, the Semantic Web and Scholarly Referencing

Starting from experiences of the the philosophical and legal-historical project "The School of Salamanca. A digital collection of sources and a dictionary of its juridical-political language", this article discusses an experimental approach to the Semantic Web.1 It lists both affirmative reasons and skeptical doubts related to this field in general and to its relevance for the project in particular. While for us the general question has not been settled yet, we have decided early on to discuss it in terms of a concrete implementation, and hence the article will also describe preliminary goals and their implementation along with practical and technical issues that we have had to deal with.

In the process, we have encountered a few difficult questions that — as far as we could determine — involve (arguably) systematic tensions between key technologies and traditional scholarly customs. The most important one concerns referencing and citation. In the following, I will describe a referencing scheme that we have implemented. It attempts to combine a canonical citation scheme, some technologies known primarily from semantic web contexts and a permalink system. Besides the details of our particular technical approach and the very abstract considerations about risks and benefits of the semantic web, I will point out some considerable advantages of our approach that are worthwhile pursuing independently of a full-blown semantic web offering.

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