Narratives, facts, and events in the foundations of information science

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Abstract

This session explores three basic notions: events, facts, and narratives.

Events play a large role in our lives. Our sense of identity is largely shaped by events we have experienced. Our understanding of history is a narrative of events in the past. The humanities and social sciences are concerned with the human experience, with actions and interactions. The sciences also deal with events: changes, processes, and experiments. Events may be described factually and themselves be regarded as facts. Facts, in turn, assume their full meaning only in relation to narratives, which provide the contextual frameworks for understanding them.

In our daily lives we have little difficulty thinking and talking about events, facts, and narratives. However, information systems operate on objects (bits, data, documents). Events, facts, and narratives are not objects and difficulties arise when we try to analyze formally what they are.

Three related papers address these issues. First, a direct examination of the nature of events; second, an account of two contrasting ways of contextualizing facts; and, third., an attempt to encode events in biographical narratives.

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