Context in Context

A special issue of

guest edited by Bruce Edmonds and Varol Akman.
To be published as the 3rd and 4th issue of FOS, volume 7, 2002.


A common motivation behind many approaches to context are: first, their properties are specified using a top-down ‘design stance’ and second, they assume that the appropriate notions of context are general. In other words, they involve essentially guessing at the properties of the relevant contexts without any recognition that these properties might themselves be context-specific.

In this special issue, we have tried to focus attention upon the opposite approach.  We assume that the world is, to a large extent, a messy and contingent place.  This means that the transfer of knowledge from learning to application is only possible by a diverse collection of heuristics which exploit a heterogeneous set of commonalities which occur for a variety of reasons in different domains.

The alternative approach is to: search for local commonalities and heuristics in particular contexts and see how they can be utilised to produce useful techniques.  Later some careful and incremental generalisation might turn out to be possible. In this way, we can truly start to ‘map out’ the practical limits of generality using context-like constructs and maybe avoid deceiving ourselves with overambitious schemes which later fail to scale up. This special issue includes half a dozen papers exemplifying this approach.

Foundations of Science is published by Springer. See  Springer's FOS page for ordering information:

Bruce Edmonds,