Information Modeling and the Problem of Universals

Information Modeling and the Problem of Universals

John M. Artz (George Washington University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-144-5.ch015
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Abstract

Earlier work in the philosophical foundations of information modeling identified four key concepts in which philosophical groundwork must be further developed. This chapter reviews that earlier work and expands on one key area—the Problem of Universals—which is at the very heart of information modeling.
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Introduction

For several decades now, articles have been appearing periodically, in the Information Systems research literature, criticizing the field for (1) a lack of theory, (2) no core set of concepts, and (3) no accepted paradigm. All of these criticisms point to a lack of philosophical grounding which would help provide a common basis from which researchers could work, a collection of central problems, and a collection of agreed upon methods for advancing knowledge in the field. It is difficult to tell exactly when this self flagellating critical self-examination first began. But a reasonable point at which to establish the basis of this critical self-examination would be an article by Peter Keen at the 1st International Conference on Information Systems which begins with the observation that “At present, MIS research is a theme rather than a substantive field.” (Keen, 1980, pg. 9) Keen goes on to criticize MIS research for a lack of a cumulative tradition and other factors that are key requirements for a scientific discipline.

This idea was elaborated upon several years later by Culnan who cited Keen’s remarks, and embarked upon an analysis of the Information Systems research literature looking for common themes and potentially competing paradigms. Culnan points out that “As a field matures, new theories are proposed and compete until paradigms emerge.” (Culnan, 1986, pg. 156) Or, at least, that is the way it is supposed to work. Culnan concludes that the Information Systems research literature consists of “research themes rather than paradigms or even well defined subfields” (Culnan, 1986, pg. 167) but excuses the field for its shortcomings with the observation that “MIS is very much a young academic field.” (pg. 167)

Culnan’s approach was empirical in that she analyzed existing journal articles. Weber, on the other hand, took a theoretical approach sketching out what we should be looking for from a conceptual perspective. Weber observes “If a science progresses only when it has a paradigm, it behooves the members of a field to seek paradigms and to articulate paradigms via normal science as their primary research activities.” (Weber 1987, pg. 9) He also remarked, with regard to referent disciplines, that “the IS discipline must develop its own paradigm rather than rely on other disciplines’ paradigms if it is to survive in the long run as a distinct discipline.” (Weber, 1987, pg. 4)

Orlikowski and Iacono coalesced the concepts of paradigm, cumulative tradition, and core concepts in the “IT Artifact” which may be one of the most important concepts in all of information systems theory and research.

We believe that the lack of theories about IT artifacts, the ways in which they emerge and evolve over time, and how they become independent with socio-economic contexts and practices, are key unresolved issues for our field and ones that will become even more problematic in these dynamic and innovative times. (Orlikowski and Iacono, 2001, Pg. 133.)

This is an important observation and certainly sharpens the focus of the investigation, but doesn’t answer the question - What is the “IT Artifact”? Weber (1987) attempts to answer that question. He cites E.F. Codd’s (Codd, 1970) paper as one of the most cited articles in Information Systems and one that could be considered a candidate as a paradigm suggesting that the IT Artifact is some kind of a data model. In a later editorial in MIS Quarterly, Weber points out, “After a long period of discernment, we found we could identify only one class of phenomena, for which theories sourced from other disciplines seemed deficient— namely, phenomena associated with building conceptual models and designing databases.” (Weber, 2003, pg viii) So maybe the IT Artifact has something to do with information models or information modeling. This is possible since data modeling and information modeling are, perhaps, the only intellectual developments that are unique to information systems. Yet the theories in these areas are sketchy at best.

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Table of Contents
Preface
Vijayan Sugumaran
Chapter 1
Hong Lin
In this chapter a program construction method based on ?-Calculus is proposed. The problem to be solved is specified by first-order predicate logic... Sample PDF
Designing Multi-Agent Systems from Logic Specifications: A Case Study
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Chapter 2
Rahul Singh
Organizations use knowledge-driven systems to deliver problem-specific knowledge over Internet-based distributed platforms to decision-makers.... Sample PDF
Multi-Agent Architecture for Knowledge-Driven Decision Support
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Chapter 3
Farid Meziane
Trust is widely recognized as an essential factor for the continual development of business-to-customer (B2C) electronic commerce (EC). Many trust... Sample PDF
A Decision Support System for Trust Formalization
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Chapter 4
Mehdi Yousfi-Monod
The work described in this chapter tackles learning and communication between cognitive artificial agents and trying to meet the following issue: Is... Sample PDF
Using Misunderstanding and Discussion in Dialog as a Knowledge Acquisition or Enhancement Procecss
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Chapter 5
Sungchul Hong
In this chapter, we present a two-tier supply chain composed of multiple buyers and multiple suppliers. We have studied the mechanism to match... Sample PDF
Improving E-Trade Auction Volume by Consortium
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Chapter 6
Manoj A. Thomas, Victoria Y. Yoon, Richard Redmond
Different FIPA-compliant agent development platforms are available for developing multiagent systems. FIPA compliance ensures interoperability among... Sample PDF
Extending Loosely Coupled Federated Information Systems Using Agent Technology
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Chapter 7
H. Hamidi
The reliable execution of mobile agents is a very important design issue in building mobile agent systems and many fault-tolerant schemes have been... Sample PDF
Modeling Fault Tolerant and Secure Mobile Agent Execution in Distributed Systems
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Chapter 8
Xiannong Meng, Song Xing
This chapter reports the results of a project attempting to assess the performance of a few major search engines from various perspectives. The... Sample PDF
Search Engine Performance Comparisons
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Chapter 9
Antonio Picariello
Information retrieval can take great advantages and improvements considering users’ feedbacks. Therefore, the user dimension is a relevant component... Sample PDF
A User-Centered Approach for Information Retrieval
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Chapter 10
Aboul Ella Hassanien, Jafar M. Ali
This chapter presents an efficient algorithm to classify and retrieve images from large databases in the context of rough set theory. Color and... Sample PDF
Classification and Retrieval of Images from Databases Using Rough Set Theory
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Chapter 11
Lars Werner
Text documents stored in information systems usually consist of more information than the pure concatenation of words, i.e., they also contain... Sample PDF
Supporting Text Retrieval by Typographical Term Weighting
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Chapter 12
Ben Choi
Web mining aims for searching, organizing, and extracting information on the Web and search engines focus on searching. The next stage of Web mining... Sample PDF
Web Mining by Automatically Organizing Web Pages into Categories
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Chapter 13
John Goh
Mobile user data mining is about extracting knowledge from raw data collected from mobile users. There have been a few approaches developed, such as... Sample PDF
Mining Matrix Pattern from Mobile Users
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Chapter 14
Salvatore T. March, Gove N. Allen
Active information systems participate in the operation and management of business organizations. They create conceptual objects that represent... Sample PDF
Conceptual Modeling of Events for Active Information Systems
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Chapter 15
John M. Artz
Earlier work in the philosophical foundations of information modeling identified four key concepts in which philosophical groundwork must be further... Sample PDF
Information Modeling and the Problem of Universals
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Chapter 16
Christian Hillbrand
The motivation for this chapter is the observation that many companies build their strategy upon poorly validated hypotheses about cause and effect... Sample PDF
Empirical Inference of Numerical Information into Causal Strategy Models by Means of Artificial Intelligence
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Chapter 17
Yongjian Fu
In this chapter, we propose to use N-gram models for improving Web navigation for mobile users. Ngram models are built from Web server logs to learn... Sample PDF
Improving Mobile Web Navigation Using N-Grams Prediction Models
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Chapter 18
Réal Carbonneau, Rustam Vahidov, Kevin Laframboise
Managing supply chains in today’s complex, dynamic, and uncertain environment is one of the key challenges affecting the success of the businesses.... Sample PDF
Forecasting Supply Chain Demand Using Machine Learning Algorithms
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Chapter 19
Teemu Tynjala
The present study implements a generic methodology for describing and analyzing demand supply networks (i.e. networks from a company’s suppliers... Sample PDF
Supporting Demand Supply Network Optimization with Petri Nets
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About the Contributors