Software for consumers to record local observations of the food system while allowing distributed ontologies

calvinheim's picture

I'm interested in interventions that reduce the amount of bookkeeping required to manage the complexity of a consumer's food choices. This typically involves software, but meal planning software has much room to grow to accommodate the different kinds of knowledge involved. One approach that seems promising (to me, at least) is to make it easier for the consumer to record their local observations of the food system. This recording could be done via the Resource Description Framework (RDF). RDF allows for food system ontologies to be created and used in a distributed manner, which is important for a food system with many competing goals and values. RDF also helps with the problem of irreducible complexity in food choices because it can support ontologies that account for complexity.

So what I propose is creating a simple command-line program that imports, exports, and parses HTML documents describing venues, food products, and other resource classes relevant to the consumer (such as offers for food products) to index these observations for later queries. These files would serialize metadata as Resource Description Framework in Attributes (RDFa). Clearly, some metadata classes would need to be published online in order to use them as resources in RDF. Also, the program would need some class-searching commands to find classes that are relevant to the consumer's expressions (like man -k at the command line). But the main benefit would be to address any real gaps in food system ontologies that prevent consumers from expressing the things that they observe in a machine-readable way. These gaps would be addressed by the users of the program, the document authors, who would exchange imported and exported files to communicate their observations and their creative RDF predicates. Hopefully, meal planning software would then materialize those indexed observations in the form of actionable meal plans.