Submissions/A Smart Dictionary. From Information to Knowledge

From Wikimania 2011 • Haifa, Israel

This is an open submission for Wikimania 2011.

Review no.


Title of the submission

A Smart Dictionary. From Information to Knowledge

Type of submission (workshop, tutorial, panel, presentation)


Author of the submission

Susana Martin

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Country of origin


Affiliation, if any (organization, company etc.)

Personal homepage or blog
Abstract (please use no less than 300 words to describe your proposal)

This presentation is focused to show a smart dictionary up and running. This is not really a dictionary, but an Intelligent Definition Server which is able to contextualize the search and channel and prioritize many content sources such as dictionaries, bilingual dictionaries, encyclopedias (including Wikipedia), images from Google images and visual dictionaries, etc. Any content that can help you better understand a term.

Since the publication of the novel Nineteen Eighty-four, we know that language is one of the best instruments of domination. The guardians of the Orwellian Newspeak removed words from the vocabulary to eliminate concepts out of minds. Thus, the best way to squander human freedom would be deleting the word freedom, or better still, restricting its meaning to the non-presence of a component in a compound, like in expressions such as caffeine-free or sugar-free.

Although we do not intend to alarm with this dystopia, it is conspicuous the trend to use dictionaries less and less. Digital natives believe that dictionaries are tools of the past. For example, Daniel Ek, Spotify’s C.E.O and founder, said, in an interview with the newspaper El Pais published on February 21, 2010: "I’ve used a dictionary only twice in my life. I look everything up on the Internet." Sounds as if dictionary and the Internet were contradictory terms.

To properly understand what you read, it is essential to know the meaning of terms used in the text and know them in the specific context in which they are used. To do otherwise and always deduce meaning of words from context, takes you to be more exposed to manipulation by language. This has often been denounced by the linguist Noam Chomsky, in books such as Profit over people.

It therefore seems appropriate to give users better tools to access the meanings of words. Our technical team has developed a Smart Dictionary that can serve this purpose in two ways:

1. Rank content: In the Internet is easy to find a concept and read what the search engine offers as a result. The texts in websites often have hyperlinks that take us to further information about people, places and concepts. We can also open another browser window or tab and do a search on something that you do not understand. But in all these cases the hierarchy of content is all the same. No matter what content you were reading in the first place and what content is secondary. We think it is important to prioritize the content and we have found a way to do it:

a. Main content: the content the user has chosen to read.
b. Accessory content: the instrumental content, allowing the user to better understand the concepts, terms and expressions used in the main content. This content is displayed in a small window, which is evoked by a gesture as double click on the word, or similar, and goes away by just clicking anywhere on the main content. It is possible that the accessory content comes from the same source as the main content, but the role is different and therefore, the way to access it, to present it, etc. should be different.

2. Contextualizing: Just as contextual advertising has distorted the advertising world as it was known before the Internet, a contextual dictionary will forever change the way you use a dictionary. The smart dictionary is contextual in two ways:

a. It provides the definition of the word on the spot, without losing the gist, without leaving the application in which you are reading. In the case of an e-reader device or Tablet PC, without leaving the e-book you are reading.
b. It offers the most appropriate definition to context: It analyses the context of the word, detects the language, finds the function of the word in the sentence and chooses from among various dictionaries and encyclopedias (including Wikipedia), the most appropriate definition of the word in this context.

We believe that dictionaries should evolve and become more immediate, useful and usable tools. If you are reading a newspaper article and you don’t know what The White House is, it makes little sense to look it up in a dictionary and find the meaning of "house" or the meaning of the colour "white." The ability to capture and interpret the context, derived forms and multi-word expressions is fundamental to find the most appropriate meaning or the proper translation, to really understand what you read and to absorb information and turn it into knowledge.

Track (People and Community/Knowledge and Collaboration/Infrastructure)

Wiki and Education - Wiki in Knowledge Collaboration - Semantic Wikis.

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  1. Blahma 12:54, 1 May 2011 (UTC)[reply]
  2. Vibhijain 07:16, 8 May 2011 (UTC)[reply]
  3. Amir E. Aharoni
  4. Roy Emanuel 07:08, 30 June 2011 (UTC)[reply]