The complexity of context
The relevance and significance of context have already been recognized in Document Design (1999, 1(1): 58–59; 2002, 3(1): 89–91). For its multi-faceted approach to context, a special issue of the Journal of Pragmatics (2003, 35), entitled ‘The complexity of context’, justifies a third review. Three of its eight papers have been chosen for their very different perspectives: pragmatics, cognitive science (with philosophical observations), and artificial intelligence.
In the introduction to the issue, the guest editors, Varol Akman and Carla Bazzanella, note that notions of context tend to converge towards a local point (i.e. related to the structure of the ongoing interaction), or towards a global point (i.e. independent of the ongoing interaction). While the local notion tends to be favored, the global notion also needs to be taken into account if one wants to consider both explicit and implicit knowledge. Bouquet et al. in their artificial intelligence approach appear to present a notion of context that converges towards a local point, while Mey in his pragmatic view of context seems to take both local and global notions of context into account. Andler’s cognitive science and philosophical perspective could also be considered as encompassing both notions. The specificity of each approach in these three articles allows to underline a very different aspect of context. Mey emphasizes its social relevance; Andler argues for the essentially theoretical character of the issue; and Bouquet et al. expose practical applications to solve different types of problems.