E-mago. Knowledge Platform for Psychoanalysis in a Semantic Network

Psychoanalysis & Semantic Network

2012–2017 / Project Head: Prof. Dr. Lilli Gast, Arkadi Blatow M.A.


Project Description

The "semantic network" is a formal model of concepts and their relations with each other. Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the HTML (hypertext markup language) and the founder of the WWW (world wide web) availed of this model in 2001 to denote his vision of the future of the internet. The most important precondition for the "semantic web", which has been created with much effort for ten years now, is that information worded in human language is supplemented by a clear description of its meaning(s) [semantic] which can also be "understood" or, to put it better, "processed" by computers. With the help of "semantic annotations", the rows of letters also represent classifiable information for the computer. By means of adequate annotations, the data from the most diverse databases worldwide are linked to each other, an integration that is named after Berners-Lee's "Linked Data". It is becoming increasingly unimportant "where" something is in the internet provided the content concerned has been subject to appropriate classification.

Biologists and pharmacists have been the pioneers in the development and implementation of semantic tools. Thus it is no surprise that they are a good decade ahead of all other scientists with the semantic annotation of their data. An equally pertinent cause of the fact that the so-called humanities are "trailing behind" here can be found in their consistently ambiguous prosaic form. Regardless of how unambiguous a computer would like to have everything, a protein can still be described in a clearly better manner than can a dream.

The "Psychoanalysis & Semantic Network" project is investigating the applicability of several modern information technologies ("semantic annotation", "OWL reasoning"…) to four areas of psychoanalytical theory construction: Collection, organisation, analysis and synthesis.

1) Collection: Over the last four years, almost 900 monographs and journals from classic psychoanalysis have been digitised and made available for free and text-recognised under the name "Collection of the International Psychoanalytic University, Berlin" on the archive.org platform (direct access under cotipub.org).

2) Organisation: The basic framework for a digital organisation of psychoanalytical literature is being achieved by the incorporation of bibliographic data in accordance with the latest FRBR standards (Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records). The "Drupal" web interface permits digital data already available in the widest array of areas (the university's own OPAC, Library of Congress, Worldcats, and many more) to be combined and further built upon using the manual evaluation of the Grinstein Index, which has a central place in psychoanalysis. The complete "E-mago" index of psychoanalytical literature being aimed for here has been developed for two years now and currently includes approximately 90,000 data sets.

3) Computer supported analysis requires the breaking down of scientific and academic publications into the theoretic micro-parts contained within them, so-called "triplets" (subject-predicate-object), and their complete arrangement in so-called "triplet stores". Concrete metapsychological statements are especially suited for this method; for that, "clinical experiences" seem to be able to elude this thesis extraction even more vehemently.

4) The totals of this collection of theoretic micro-parts, which are quite arduous to compile, can then be examined automatically with the help of the "semantic reasoning" method with regard to their contradictions and inconsistencies ("syntheses"). The aim is not to resolve the contradictions, but rather to retain them for more detailed consideration. The combativeness of the psychoanalyst almost gives rise to the general impression that nothing remains unchallenged, with no ever-so-small theoretic micro-parts remaining together. However it would be quite informative to examine this general assumption – and to also head off on a search for the strangely little disputed.

In addition to the new technological options here, several challenges in this undertaking also need to be addressed. There are a whole series of readings of the works by Freud and his disciples, with the result that it is not possible to succeed in identifying the most adequate meaning for the semantic annotation in every case. The "automatic recognition" of entities and relations which is already applied in biology cannot necessarily be used in our case. However for that, modern databases do permit contradictory views to be placed next to each other and for them to be highlighted, rather than aborting the calculation process. A further difficult can be found in the dependence here on the computer scientists involved, who for their part still have to agree several standards. There have been several promising approaches here over the last few years, together with annotation tools. But their development had to be discontinued before they matured to a feasible application stage. Thus the implementation of the analytical and synthetical part of the project is dependent on the further development of the software for collective semantic annotations. However no other area of the "science of the internet" is currently experiencing so much attention and support as the "semantic network", with the result that the prospects for semantic tools – which are more suitable for psychoanalysis – are promising. A further positive aspect here is that it has proven possible to gain a series of valuable interim findings on the route to having a semantically annotated knowledge platform for psychoanalysis.

Arkadi Blatow, M. A.
Wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter
Theorie & Geschichte der Psychoanalyse
International Psychoanalytic University Berlin GmbH
Stromstr. 3, 10555 Berlin
Telefon: +49 30 300 117-747
E-Mail: arkadi.blatow(at)ipu.berlin.de