Supporting Knowledge-Base Evolution with Incremental Formalization

Frank M. Shipman III and Raymond J. McCall

Department of Computer Science, College of Environmental Design,
and Institute of Cognitive Science
University of Colorado
Boulder, CO, 80309


Computers require formally represented information to support users but users often cannot provide it. This paper looks at an approach called "incremental formalization", when users express information informally and the system supports them in formalizing it. Incremental formalization requires a system architecture that can integrate formal and informal representations and enable and support moving information upward in formality. The system should include tools to capture naturally available informal information and knowledge-based techniques to suggest possible formalizations of this informal information. The Hyper- Object Substrate (HOS), a system with these characteristics, has been applied to a variety of domains, including network design, archeological site analysis and neuroscience education. Users were successful in adding information informally and in incrementally formalizing that information. In particular, informal text was added, which later had attributes added and partook of inheritance relationships.

KEYWORDS: Formalization, structure, hypermedia, knowledge-based systems, knowledge representation, knowledge acquisition.