Supporting Electronic Collaboration in Conceptual Modeling

Supporting Electronic Collaboration in Conceptual Modeling

Peter Rittgen (University of Borås, Sweden & Vlerick Leuven Gent Management School, Belgium)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61692-016-6.ch012
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The authors study collaborative modeling by analyzing conversations and loud thinking during modeling sessions and the resulting models themselves. They identify the basic activities of the modeling teams on the social, pragmatic, semantic and syntactic levels and derive a schema for the pragmatic level. The authors’ main conclusion is that team-based modeling is largely a negotiation process. Drawing on these results the authors derive an architecture of a system that supports the distributed development of conceptual models.
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Background And Issues

Collaborative modelling processes have been studied from a number of different angles, e.g. the structure of the process itself, its organizational environment and techniques to support it. In (Bommel, Hoppenbrouwers, Proper, & Weide, 2006) modelling involves domain experts, modelling mediators and model builders. It is viewed as a form of information gathering dialogue where knowledge is elicited from the domain experts. This view can be challenged because modelling is a social and communicative process where much of the information is created by and through the process rather than gathered from domain experts. We have therefore studied situations where the participants, apart from the facilitator, had no a priori roles but contributed to the modelling session in the way they deemed reasonable.

(Frederiks & Weide, 2006) emphasizes the importance of natural language as the primary medium and identifies two principal activities and associated roles: the domain expert who concretizes an informal model and a system analyst who abstracts a formal model. (S. J. B. A. Hoppenbrouwers, Lindeman, & Proper, 2006) distinguishes between an elicitation and a formalization dialogue and develops a modelling procedure by generalizing existing procedures. They also acknowledge (S.J.B.A. Hoppenbrouwers, Proper, & Weide, 2005) that modelling is not only a knowledge elicitation process but also a knowledge creation and dissemination process. It is viewed as a structured conversation.

We agree that modelling is a conversation but we claim that it is a specific type of conversation, namely a negotiation. This idea is implicitly present in (S.J.B.A. Hoppenbrouwers, et al., 2005) where the dialogue structure contains negotiation elements such as propose and accept. We elaborate this point in the following sections. (S.J.B.A. Hoppenbrouwers, et al., 2005) also advocates the use of controlled language and validation. We consider the latter as problematic as it has often been observed that domain experts falsely agree with a model not being fully aware of all its implications or making assumptions that others are not aware of.

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