In my work we might look at implementing pragmatic lessons on the web in two ways: 1) the technical solution seeks to represent the data ‘pragmatically’ somehow; 2) the user solution seeks to scaffold the user to understand the pragmatic context of the data (but doesn’t try to ‘build in’ those into the system). The two are probably not mutually exclusive – in fact, it would probably be inappropriate to be entirely one or other. On the technical side, the tendency to CONTEXTUALISE ALL OF THE THINGS has issues because: 1) [personalisation to users/contexts can mask other facets of information]1; 2) pragmatic elements of information are often dynamic and discursive – it isn’t just that systems may not represent those properties, it’s that in seeking to do so they become a part of the discursive environment; 3) systems don’t define use (although, they may be a part of the context of use, as in ‘2’). On the latter, the point is to assist users in (and perhaps be involved in) the appropriate giving and asking of reasons for the given context of use, it is about good sensemaking, and facilitating understanding through the ways we represent data, provide “perspectives” and embed data use in high quality discourse. Contextualising all of the things will not – in the philosophical sense – give us the pragmatic web. It will give us semantics+ (it might give us the linguistic sense of pragmatics, although even here I’m not sure).  Philosophically pragmatic approaches emphasise context, but they also respect testimony, understanding the normative properties of warrants, and highlight that use – and understanding the querying of entitlements and commitments – is important. This isn’t possible in any current search engine.  Context of use (or, ‘environment’) isn’t everything, although use as context might build in more of those important aspects (but I’m not sure this is how it’s being used). I’ve been reading a bit around the pragmatic web recently, and the below is a sort of “narrative through quotation” on that which reflects the elements of the literature I’m most interested in/most support/I think best reflect philosophical elements of pragmatic theory.

“the Semantic Web is a necessary step from the syntax (HTML) level to the semantics (meaning) level. However, still one crucial level is lacking: that of pragmatics: what is the purpose of the information? How do we use it?” p.3

Moor, Aldo de. “Patterns for the Pragmatic Web.” In Conceptual Structures: Common Semantics for Sharing Knowledge, edited by Frithjof Dau, Marie-Laure Mugnier, and Gerd Stumme, 1–18. Lecture Notes in Computer Science 3596. Springer Berlin Heidelberg, 2005.

“In our vision of the Pragmatic Web, interaction is based on the intentions of people which are materialized  by  actions  (we  do  not  yet  want  to  enter  the  discussion  whether  to  call  the concept  action,  activity,  act,  etc.),  i.e.  interaction  abstracts  from  a  service  provider who enables the actual action and gives people the control on how the results of their actions are presented and with whom and under which conditions they are shared. ”  p.79

“HCI research has acknowledged a long time ago that humans are not simply components of a system that can be studied in isolation in a laboratory environment [^5].  This has led to what some researchers call “post-cognitivist theories”, theories that go  beyond the study of cognitive abilities, and that have a substantial amount of quantitative  and  significantly  less  qualitative  elements  than  more  traditional  HCI  theories rooted in cognitive psychology, human factors or ergonomics. Post-cognitive theories and models often start from the notion of language and the notion of action as a form of  language  use.  Examples  are  activity  theory,  distributed  cognition,  actor-network theory, phenomenology (see [^6] for a comparison of the four theories from the point of  view  of  activity  theory),  or  the  language/action  perspective  [^7].  Some  of  these theories are also employed in the field of information systems research [^8].” p.75

Hornung, Heiko, and M. Cecília C. Baranauskas. “Towards a Conceptual Framework for Interaction Design for the Pragmatic Web.” In Human-Computer Interaction. Design and Development Approaches, edited by Julie A. Jacko, 72–81. Lecture Notes in Computer Science 6761. Springer Berlin Heidelberg, 2011.

“The central quest in accomplishing automatised question answering in information discovery is to find out  logical relations between questions and answers. This, in turn, hinges on the theories of presuppositions. (The  task is also related to the extensions of Peirce’s theory of abduction.) This is because requests for information  can be viewed as epistemic statements. The query “Bring it about so that S” (S is any proposition of one’s  preferred modelling language) has a meaning in non-imperative epistemic sentence “I know that S”. As to the  second item, the web nodes are to be viewed as knowledge providers, and via that emerging structure the  epistemic statements can be translated to mean that “the user knows S in the information state w if and only if  S holds in all the web nodes accessible from w”.” p983

Pietarinen, A. V. “The Semantic+ Pragmatic Web= the Semiotic Web.” In Proceedings of the International IADIS/WWW Conference, 981–984, 2003.

“In a pragmatic web, the web services need to be able to facilitate communication and negotiate  between service consumers and service providers. The multi-agents in the pragmatic  web will aid in such processes by catching user’s requests and providing support in  each decision point in the business process.”  p4

“The concept of the pragmatic web is first proposed by Singh [^17] as a preliminary  thought which introduced the three principles of the pragmatic web: user before provider,  process  before data,  and  interaction  before  presentation. ” p5

Liu, Kecheng. “Pragmatic Computing – A Semiotic Perspective to Web Services.” In E-business and Telecommunications, edited by Joaquim Filipe and Mohammad S. Obaidat, 3–15. Communications in Computer and Information Science 23. Springer Berlin Heidelberg, 2009.

 “In order to provide the collective intelligence with meaningful content, it should be embedded in the context of social practices around shared objects and processes of technology use rather than assumed to represent transcendental bodies of thought and ethereal interactions. From syntax (logical forms and symbolic structures) and semantics (meaning of symbols), the idea of the pragmatic web is to move toward pragmatics through addressing the contexts and  practices  of  creating,  using,  and  developing  epistemic  artifacts  [de  Moor,  02; Singh, 02]. This implies that users, their communities and network, as well as their evolving  epistemic  practices  become  essential  in  creating,  interpreting,  sharing, applying, and extending knowledge.” p.686

 “While  the  semantic  web  has  been  preoccupied  with standardization  of  knowledge  and  systems  of  knowledge  based  on  ontologies determined mainly by experts beforehand, the envisioned pragmatic web is oriented toward adapting to the special needs of customers and user communities. Rather than simply assimilating to already existing knowledge ontologies, the vision is to engage user  communities  in  active  negotiation  and  interpretation  of  meaning  and  to  the development  of  knowledge  structures  grounded  on  their  evolving  practices  and epistemic pursuits [de Moor, 02].” p.687

“The  pragmatic  web  may  elicit knowledge creation by 1) providing a technological infrastructure for augmenting the functioning  of  more  or  less  distributed  epistemic  communities,  2)  facilitating automated analysis and interpretation of large bodies of data generated by the users, and 3) adapting to and coevolving with human knowledge practices.” p688

“When  users  participate  in defining  and  generating  concepts,  they  can  create  user-centered  and  contextually sensitive semantics in epistemic technologies they use” p.690

“The  advancement  of pragmatic web for CSCL should offer not only means for negotiating of meaning, but a way to facilitate sustained collaborative efforts to advance shared artefacts and elicit other social practices relevant for creating and advancing knowledge. “p.691

Hakkarainen, K., R. Engeström, S. Paavola, P. Pohjola, and T. Honkela. “Knowledge Practices, Epistemic Technologies, and Pragmatic Web.” In Proceedings of I-KNOW, 9:683–694, 2009.
Schoop, M., Moor, A., & Dietz, J. (2006). The pragmatic web: a manifesto Communications of the ACM, 49 (5) DOI: 10.1145/1125944.1125979


  1. “Personalising for Diverse Results – Diversity Aware Search”