International Conference on Computational Approaches to Diversity in Interaction and Meaning

An Interdisciplinary Conference Organised by the ESSENCE Network

7th to 9th October, 2017, San Servolo, Italy


SAN-SERVOLO_elabConference venue

Join us for three exciting days of research presentations, invited talks, and discussions in an informal and interdisciplinary environment to develop new perspectives for AI research that capitalise on advances in technologies that bridge diverse conceptualisations of knowledge through interaction!

Over the past four years, the ESSENCE (Evolution of Shared Semantics in Computational Environments) Network has developed a new vision of intelligent systems that emphasises diversity among the building blocks of these systems, and addresses issues of bridging their heterogeneous notions of meaning through interaction.

This stands in contrast to the mostly "monolithic" approaches that are currently prominent in mainstream AI research, and which rely on a single designer developing a single system that solves a well-defined problem by processing large amounts of data that captures the regularities in the problem space and relies on a strong correspondence between data and solution. Acknowledging the strengths of existing approaches, as demonstrated in many recent systems that excel at solving single AI problems previously considered unsolvable for machines, we believe that the future breakthroughs in AI will emanate from the integration of multiple human and machine contributions, each of which may have different views of the world and different objectives.  Emerging problems related to the explainability (gap between the semantics of human users and machine models of meaning), reusability (semantic gap between original and novel domain conceptualisation), and compositionality (semantic gap between different components) of state-of-the-art AI systems are early indications of the significance of this perspective.

Diversity-awareness has been researched by many communities across several disciplines in the past, many of which have inspired work done in ESSENCE, including:

  • Semantic technologies that address semantic interoperability and alignment of divergent domain conceptualisations
  • Multiagent systems that provide methods to aggregate objectives, preferences, and activities of heterogeneous agents
  • Knowledge representation and reasoning techniques that integrate heterogeneous reasoning systems or viewpoints
  • Natural language processing and computational linguistics that study semantic agreement, grounding, and language evolution
  • Human-centric computing methods that develop ways of bridging human and machine views of an application problem

Building on the success of the initial workshop we organised on this topic at ECAI 2016, this conference will provide a forum for the ESSENCE community and leading experts from the above (and other) areas to synthesise novel ideas that will help take this agenda further, exchange insights from different disciplines, and engage in intensive discussions on the key research issues surrounding diversity-aware AI. The conference is also the final event organised by the ESSENCE consortium, and will be used to showcase results from its research and explore follow-up projects with colleagues from various research communities.

The conference will take place the island of San Servolo in Venice from Saturday 7th – Monday 9th October, 2017 (arrival on Friday 6th October, departure on Monday afternoon)  at the campus of Venice International University. The island of San Servolo is an oasis in a unique urban setting, 10 minutes by boat from Piazza San Marco with a peaceful park spread across 12 scenic acres and a panoramic view of Venice.

The event is deliberately planned as a small-scale conference with up to 60 participants that emphasises discussion, debate, and synthesis of existing work. Participants will not be required to submit original research papers, and no formal proceedings are planned, though selected participants may be invited to contribute to an edited volume or journal special issue after the event. Please note this conference is by invitation only and there is limited accommodation availability on the Island of San Servolo.

If you are interested in participating or have any queries please contact us at We will consider expressions of interest to participate based on available places.

A detailled programme of the conference will be posted here in due course.




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Evolution of Shared SEmaNtics in Computational Environments – A Marie Curie Initial Training Network