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The Gnowsis-Using Semantic Web Technologies to build a Semantic Desktop

Leo Sauermann
Mastersthesis, Technical University of Vienna, 2003.


Personal computers are gaining a more and more central role in our daily life. They are used to view images or DVDs, to listen to music, to communicate with others via email or instant messaging, and to organise our everyday life via calendars and contacts. Most of these tasks are done by standalone applications. This makes is almost impossible to link pieces of information across application borders. The Semantic Web, which is currently under development by others, will be an extension of the current web in which resources can be described with metadata and information is given well-defined meaning. By transferring Semantic Web technologies to a desktop computer, this work shall enable users to access resources in fast and convenient. Information is represented and accessed in a uniform way, independent from the software application that generated it. This functionality we will call the Semantic Desktop. The aim of this work is to build the gnowsis server, the first implementation of a Semantic Desktop. Therefore, we integrated data from different standard applications, transformed into the general Resource Description Framework (RDF) language. Additional data can be stored in a native RDF database. This allows the user to define needed links between resources such as a photo and contact information of a person. Links were stored and then used to navigate from one resource to another, across application borders. Through the use of URI identifiers and RDF, it was possible to extend this system to include different available resources and relations, taken from several standard applications. Using the gnowsis prototype, which is a result of this work, applications have access to all important information stored in a single computer. Users are able to classify and structure their information in any way they want by creating bidirectional links between resources. A prototype information management tool GnoGno based on a wiki / weblog was built to explore this possibility.

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