The semantics of similarity in geographic information retrieval


  • Krzysztof Janowicz The Pennsylvania State University
  • Martin Raubal University of California, Santa Barbara
  • Werner Kuhn University of Münster


semantic similarity, geographic information retrieval, ontology, similarity measure, context, relevance, description logic, user interface


Similarity measures have a long tradition in fields such as information retrieval, artificial intelligence, and cognitive science. Within the last years, these measures have been extended and reused to measure semantic similarity; i.e., for comparing meanings rather than syntactic differences. Various measures for spatial applications have been developed, but a solid foundation for answering what they measure; how they are best applied in information retrieval; which role contextual information plays; and how similarity values or rankings should be interpreted is still missing. It is therefore difficult to decide which measure should be used for a particular application or to compare results from different similarity theories. Based on a review of existing similarity measures, we introduce a framework to specify the semantics of similarity. We discuss similarity-based information retrieval paradigms as well as their implementation in web-based user interfaces for geographic information retrieval to demonstrate the applicability of the framework. Finally, we formulate open challenges for similarity research.