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Design Thesaurus

A design thesaurus is an encyclopedia of design analogies, meant to facilitate finding new design solutions.


For each item in a thesaurus, there is a list of similar things.

  • Many of the similar things listed are so in peculiar or unexpected ways.
  • Thesauri are usually built by finding written instances of usage of terms in particular ways.

Use a wiki to develop a design thesaurus.

  • One page per entry.
    • A design term is usually more complex than just a word in a conventional thesaurus.
      • So, there should be at least a brief explanation of the term.
  • Other terms that are analogically related to the one are listed, per conventional thesauri.
    • But, the other terms are wiki-linked to their own pages.

Adding Semantics

In conventional wikis, the links are defined by the context of the anchor.

  • In page A, a link L to page B denotes a relationship between pages A and B.
  • But the text directly associated with the link is usually just the name of page B.
    • It is not the relationship between A & B.
    • Notations like [Page name | visible text] do not explicate the relationship.
      • They are usually for grammatical consistency and composition.
      • They may help explain the relationship, but
        • this is not always the case, so
        • we cannot generalize the use of this notation usefully in this situation.
  • So links in conventional wikis are basically untyped.

This means the wiki itself is unable to automate reasoning about the analogies (the relationships) themselves,

  • because the analogies are only implied.

So what is missing is an ability to tag or annotate the link in page A to page B.

  • If properly structured, this can provide the information needed by an automated system to work on the analogies themselves.
  • This suggests that links would now be typed.

Example: a kind of searching that follows types of links between terms. It could produce chains of terms from some root term that result in lists of related terms.

  • Of interest, the first and last terms in the chain could be extremely different.
    • This may suggest innovation design solutions.

How can such type information be added?

  • This is suggestive of a semantic wiki.
  • I can see two structural approaches:
    1. Build an ontology of link types a-priori, and
    2. Use a /tagging/ system to let the link types evolve through use.
  • I prefer option 2.

Use WordNet plus tools like WordNet::Similarity to measure the distance between terms.

See Also


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research/design_thesaurus.txt · Last modified: 2020.03.12 13:30 (external edit)