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2 minutes to read Posted on Tuesday November 13, 2018

Updated on Monday November 6, 2023

portrait of Marieke van Erp

Marieke van Erp

Language Technology and Semantic Web expert , KNAW Humanities Cluster

Trip report: International Semantic Web Conference 2018

EuropeanaTech community member Marieke van Erp presents a brief trip report capturing a small part of the wide variety of fundamental, applied and industrial research presented at ISWC 2018, with her observations on the conference with respect to cultural heritage (research).

ISWC Minute Madness session, Marieke van Erp, CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

From 8-12 October, the 17th International Semantic Web Conference took place in beautiful Monterey California, USA. The conference attracted some 470 participants from 33 countries. The main conference was preceded by 16 workshops, six tutorials and the doctoral consortium. The conference itself featured three excellent (female) keynote speakers, 27 paper sessions (three or four in parallel), a posters and demos session and various social events (such as the Ada Lovelace celebration during which participants could edit Wikipedia entries for women in STEM).

Cultural heritage gets everywhere

As has been the case for many years in the conference, cultural heritage use cases are presented in many different sessions (all session information, papers and presentations are linked at the end of the article). There was for example a presentation on the The Rijksmuseum Collection as Linked Data in the Scholarly Data session, a presentation on Building Linked Data from Historical Maps in the Semantic Science Workshop, a resources paper in the Ontologies and Data Integration session on DOREMUS: A Graph of Linked Musical Works, a paper on a historical recipe data web that I co-authored in one of the Information Extraction sessions, research on the Exploration of Grateful Dead Concerts and Memorabilia on the Semantic Web and U.S. Congress Prosopographer—A Tool for Prosopographical Research of Legislators in the Posters and Demos session, an industry track paper How to Maintain a Linked Data Cloud in a Deployed Semantic Portal using a WOII use case, and an entire workshop devoted to Semantic Application for Audio and Music.

I was excited to see that so many different perspectives on semantic web research cultural heritage in all ‘corners’ of the conference this year. Especially the move to modalities different from text such as maps and audio is quite exciting. Whilst there were no dedicated cultural heritage sessions such as that for healthcare, it was difficult to not come across any cultural heritage work at the conference.

ISWC Posters and Demos session, Marieke van Erp, CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
ISWC Posters and Demos session, Marieke van Erp, CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Even non-linked data has value

The three keynotes were definitely among the highlights of the conference (Jennifer Golbeck on Personal Data, Privacy and the (Semantic) Web, Natasha Noy on Not linked data is data too, and Vanessa Evers on Socially Intelligent Robots).

In particular, Natasha Noy’s keynote illustrated what many practitioners in the cultural heritage data have long known: we don’t need to use RDF or link our collections to make our data valuable as datasets can have great value in and of themselves. However, we do need to know the provenance of our data and provide good metadata. CHIs have long been keepers and describers of collections, so we are probably a step ahead of some other fields here.

She also presented some more background to the new Google Dataset Search. It is, of course, interesting to link cultural heritage datasets, but only when there are relevant sources to link to. And of course, converting to linked data is not something that is possible for every institution so I think it was good that this perspective was heard (loud and clear) at ISWC.

ISWC Minute Madness session, Marieke van Erp, CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
ISWC Minute Madness session, Marieke van Erp, CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Cultural heritage and Wikidata

One other interesting development for cultural heritage is the increasing popularity of Wikidata. Where in previous years DBpedia would have been the default knowledge base to link to or derive factoids from, Wikidata was mentioned in more and more papers (e.g. A Novel Ensemble Method for Named Entity Recognition and Disambiguation based on Neural Network and That's Interesting, Tell Me More! Finding Descriptive Support Passages for Explaining Knowledge Graph Relationships; winner best research paper). This collaborative platform may be an interesting venue for CHIs to collaborate and showcase (parts) of their data.

California sunrise near the Asilomar conference venue, Marieke van Erp, CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
California sunrise near the Asilomar conference venue, Marieke van Erp, CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Reliving the conference

Most sessions were recorded by Since I missed the industry panel, I will definitely revisit that when the videos come online. The proceedings of the conference can be found here. For some other perspectives on the conference, here are some trip reports by Helena Deus, Paul Groth, and Juan Sequeda.

Next year’s ISWC will take place in New Zealand, see you there?

Further resources (mentioned above):