The UCSD Meaning and Computation Lab is concerned with both human aspects of information technology, and technical aspects of meaning. Topics include information integration (e.g., ontologies, heterogeneous distributed databases), user interface design and its foundations (our approach is called algebraic semiotics), observational logic (our approach is called hidden algebra), computational narratology (with applications to new media, video games, etc.), and semantics and verification of software and hardware systems, such as communication protocols and CMOS circuits.
Our current main research project is SEEK, Science Environment for Ecological Knowledge, the goal of which is to provide integrated information infrastructure to support a distributed community doing long term ecological research. Our work within SEEK addresses problems of data and ontology integration. We are constructing a general schema matching tool called SCIA, and exploring the use of ontologies, especially by developing a general foundation based on the theory of institutions; we are also interested in the critical exploration of limitations of such tools and methods. Information on the full scope of this project can be found on the SEEK homepage.
Our research on social aspects of information technology includes social aspects of science and technology, ethical aspects of artificial systems, including information technology, and requirements capture and analysis, particularly its social side. For systematic expositions of some basics, see the websites of the courses CSE 275 and CSE 175. There is also recent work on social, cognitive, and mathematical models of computation, including problems related to consciousness. Other more recent topics include applications of nonlinear dynamical systems theory to contemporary musical forms, and to the philosophical problem of qualia in consciousness studies, for which see the Arts, Music and Consciousness page. Our work on user interface design is discussed at the end of this page.
A previous main research project was Tatami, which concerned tools to support the design, construction, evaluation and verification of concurrent distributed systems, including the Kumo proof assistant and proof website generator, and the BOBJ system for behavioral specification and verification, for which the circular coinductive rewriting algorithm was the most significant development. The theoretical foundation for this is hidden algebra, which gives an effective proof theory and semantics for concurrent distributed systems. Hidden algebra is not only intended to ease mechanical proofs, but also to subsume semantic aspects of abstract data types, process algebra, transisition systems, and related formalisms. The most important new proof techniques are forms of coinduction, which have been implemented in the BOBJ and Kumo systems. This project was supported by the large international CafeOBJ Project (see also the CafeOBJ Project Press Release), and the National Science Foundation. We are exploring applications to practical software engineering, including web-based distributed cooperative design and refinement of object systems, and algebraic approaches to architecture description. An additional topic is the theory of institutions, an abstraction of the notion of logical system; this area is a "logic of logics," and the most recent research concerns morphisms of institutions, which are translations among logical systems, which can be used (for example) to migrate theorems and theorem proving sytems, from one logic to another.
User interface design is another research focus in the lab, with the user interfaces of Kumo having been a major case study. An important technique in this effort is algebraic semiotics, which combines algebraic semantics with social semiotics, and allows us to design novel data structures that support logical, cognitive and social aspects of cooperative work. A basic new concept here is that of semiotic morphism, which captures the notion of representation, so that it can be studied rigorously. See the "world famous" UC San Diego Semiotic Zoo for an "astonishing menagerie" of semiotic morphisms, each an example of bad design arising through failure to preserve some relevant structure. Two related topics are narrative structure and blending. For a systematic exposition of some basics, see the website of the course CSE 271 on user interface design.
See also my research projects homepage for further information.