Over the last few weeks I have found myself on a journey learning about a new concept on the internet; the semantic web. The writer and inventor of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners Lee, began writing about the concept in 1999, much progress has been made since.
The term ‘semantics’ is one of the three branches of ‘semiotics’ which the Oxford English Dictionary defines as “the study of signs and symbols in various fields”. Semantics is concerned with the study of meaning; the semantic web is about discovering the meaning behind words and phrases.
In the focus of this post I shall be reviewing what the semantic web means for the public relations industry. To begin with I shall provide a short explanation of what the semantic web is.
What is the Semantic Web?
The internet exists today as a vast collection of data which is all connected through the use of hyperlinks. This is a network of data which has been built from the foundational technologies of HTML, HTTP and URIs. Over the last 6 years we have seen the exponential growth of social networks which has re-invented our relationship with finding information.
- Past – the relevancy of information was provided through a one-way communication model. Content can only be viewed, interpreted introspectively and not openly discussed.
- Present – social networks have provided a way for information to be associated with individuals, brands and events. Content is viewed in context of conversation and information can be openly discussed.
The problem with social networks is their internal design. Any content submitted by users through symmetrical communication is under ownership of the organisation whose network it is. Information submitted to Facebook is theirs, information submitted to Twitter is theirs, so on…
The semantic web is therefore an evolution, a possible amalgamation, between the web of information and the web of social interactivity. It is the concept that the web of information will evolve around a collection of human knowledge. People will be able to add additional information to web content which includes related articles and authors.
- Hyperlinks create links between data.
- The semantic web creates relationships between data.
In turn this will mean that information on the internet will be able to exist as a database. With added meaning applied to data relation databases can be built to show a web of information but linked together through particular semantic terms. In doing so semantic search engines can be built for finding data by being created to understand the syntax behind languages.
The semantic web for the Public Relations industry will mean:
- Understanding key terms behind stakeholder groups
- Discovering the affected parties of stakeholder groups
- Learning the terms associated with unique individuals and brands
- Categorising media releases under particular terms
Perhaps it was optimistic to begin writing what the semantic web will mean for public relations. The list is endless. The semantic web will redefine public relations.
The reason I am interested in the semantic web is due to semantic analytics. I believe this will be a key area for the public relations industry to track ROI. Public relations can only show its value through proving ROI to clients. The semantic web will change everything.
I will write more about the semantic web soon.
Further Reading: http://www.w3.org/2001/sw/