Exploring Geopolitical Realities through Taxonomies: The Case of Taiwan


  • Yi-Yun Cheng University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Bertram Ludäscher University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign




In the face of heterogeneous standards and large-scale datasets, it has become increasingly difficult to understand the underlying knowledge structures within complex information systems. These structures may encode latent assumptions that could be susceptible to issues such as ghettoization, bias, erasure, or omission. Inspired by a series of current events in the China-Taiwan conflict on the sovereignty of Taiwan, our research aims to develop methods that can elucidate multiple, often conflicting perspectives and hidden assumptions. We propose the use of a logic-based taxonomy alignment approach to first align and then reconcile distinct but overlapping taxonomies. We specifically examine three relevant taxonomies that list the world entities: (1) ISO 3166 for country codes and subdivisions; (2) the geographic regions of the US Department of Homeland Security; (3) the Center Intelligence Agency’s World Fact Book. Our results highlight multiple alternate views (or Possible Worlds) for situating Taiwan relative to other neighboring entities. We hope that this work can be a first step to demonstrate how different geopolitical perspectives can be represented using multiple, interrelated taxonomies.