Exploring Dialogue Games for Collaborative Modeling

Exploring Dialogue Games for Collaborative Modeling

S.J.B.A. Hoppenbrouwers (Institute for Computing and Information Sciences, The Netherlands), H. Weigand (Tilburg University, The Netherlands) and E.A.J.A. Rouwette (Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-466-0.ch017
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In our search for better understanding and support of the activities constituting collaborative modeling processes, we have developed a framework viewing them as enacted dialogue games. We have also developed and evaluated a number of experimental game-like procedures, exploring ‘modeling as a game’. In this chapter, we present our generalized findings and experiences so far, discussing some key aspects underlying the analysis and design of collaborative modeling activities as dialogue games, with some emphasis on the support and guidance of novice modelers (as opposed to expert modelers).
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In the light of a rapidly increasing need for high quality “light-weight formal models”1 (e.g. process models, formal ontologies, business rules, and so on) to fulfill the technology-based promises of information systems and AI (including the Semantic Web: Berners-Lee et al., 2001), the lack of operational methods for formal modeling and, as an embodiment of such methods, tooling to support them, is becoming a problem. The increasing need for truly collaborative modeling can be added to this (de Moor, 1999).

Current State of Support for Formal Modeling

Current tools for modeling are mostly editor-like, technical environments that at best offer some automated model checking, versioning, and file management. Contrary to what many seem to believe or claim, even advanced graphical editors for, for example, UML and BPMN schemas (Booch et al., 1998; OMG, 2006) still require technically skilled and above all experienced people to wield them successfully. Beyond editing, very little real support for the interactive process of collaborative modeling is offered, in particular if such a process is to be carried out by relatively inexpert participants (‘novice modelers’). As argued at length in (Hoppenbrouwers, 2008), this is not an acceptable situation in the long run, mostly because experts (modelers, facilitators) in formal modeling are relatively few and expensive. Lightweight, collaborative formal modeling will have to be brought to the masses, somehow. Creating interactive, low-threshold digital environments seems to be a highly promising way of enabling this. The image of “modeling wizards” presents itself. However, such tools simply do not exist at the moment. Creating them involves both the setting and the answering of a score of research questions, and requires a long-term effort.

This chapter presents results of three years of small-scale exploratory research into the games-for-modeling approach, and offers a general insight in our current approach as well as concrete lessons learned. It does not present extensively validated general principles, but an elaborate update on a slowly maturing direction in collaborative modeling research.

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