Topic Maps

Thu, 20 Feb 2020 18:47:33 GMT   

Name Value
Identifier topic-maps
Name Topic Maps
Type Topic
Creation timestamp Thu, 20 Feb 2020 18:47:33 GMT
Modification timestamp Tue, 19 May 2020 20:47:02 GMT

There are several important aspects of topic maps that you need to understand in order to get the most out of Contextualise. These critical concepts include:

  • Topics
  • Associations
  • Occurrences and information resources
  • Scopes (sometimes also referred to as context or perspective)

Let's take a look at each of the above concepts in turn.


A topic is... well anything, really. Examples of topics include you, your project, a company, a football club, a specific interest, event, hobby or a person. Anything goes.

In practical terms (at least, in Contextualise), a topic is really nothing more than an identifier: something to which you can connect (information) resources, reference as part of a relationship between topics and attach meta data to.

Finally, in topic maps terminology, the creation of a topic to represent an abstract concept is called reification.


An association, in simple terms, is a relationship between two or more topics. It makes sense to explain the association concept with a concrete example. Let's take the most natural relationship we can think of: the relationship between a mother and her child. In topic map terms, this relationship can be described as follows: first we establish the type of the relation. In the case of a mother-child relationship we could say that the type of relationship is one of family. After we have decided on the type of relationship, we'll focus on the topics between which the relationship is being established. In this example, we have the mother, Jane; and the child, Michael. So, Jane plays the role of mother and Michael plays the role of son. If we wanted to notate this exact relationship we could do that, for example, in the following manner:

Jane [mother] ← family → [son] Michael

That's it! An association is of a given type. And each topic in the association plays a role in the specific relationship that is being asserted.

Another important thing to take into account is that in Contextualise all of the above entities are topics. So, the obvious two topics are Jane and Michael. But, also mother, son and family are all (separate) topics.

Let's take a look at another couple of associations. Specifically, we'll take a look at the relationship between Jane and her husband, Peter. And, we'll also take a look at the relationship between Jane and the company she works for, Acme Widgets. So, between Jane and Peter, her husband, we can again say that the type of relationship between them is one of family. Let's write down this association in a similar manner to what we did above:

Jane [wife] ← family → [husband] Peter

So, between Jane and Peter there is a relationship of type family with Jane playing the role of wife and Peter playing the role of husband.

And, the relationship (or association, in topic map terms) between Jane and the company she works for could be described in the following manner:

Jane [employee] ← employment → [employer] Acme Widgets

Remember, all of the entities in the above associations would be topics including husband, employee, employment, employer and the more obvious ones like Peter and Acme Widgets.

Because all of the above entities are topics, you can attach (information) resources to them. In topic maps terminology, occurrences are what connect information resources to topics.

Occurrences and Information Resources

As mentioned before, from a topic map point of view, an occurrence is what establishes a connection between a topic and an information resource. In practical terms, you don't have to really think about it like that. That is, you just attach resources to a topic, for example, by uploading an image or providing a link to a YouTube video and behind the scenes, without any further action on your behalf, Contextualise will create the accompanying occurrence (object).

To take a closer look at how occurrences and information resources are managed in Contextualise, click here.

Scopes — Context


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