Shaw - 2020 - Conceptual models as diplomatic languages.pdf (2.82 MB)
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Conceptual models as diplomatic languages

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posted on 2020-11-02, 13:09 authored by Ryan ShawRyan Shaw
Keynote presentation at the ASIST 2020 Conceptual Models in Sociotechnical Systems workshop, October 23, 2020.


Conceptual modeling is often treated as an obscure technical subfield of information science. One reason for this is that it is difficult to identify a unified tradition of conceptual modeling; instead there is a complex web of partially overlapping traditions of representing, modeling, and organizing data, information, and knowledge, each with its own preferred terminology, tools, and techniques. Despite this complexity, it is possible to conceive of conceptual modeling in a more coherent way. Understood in this way, conceptual modeling is not a subfield of information science or professional practice, but the very heart of both. Coming to understand conceptual modeling in this way requires knitting together two views of conceptual modeling found in differing proportions throughout its fragmented genealogy: modeling as description and modeling as design. Conceptual modeling is communication about communication, and as such it involves both the description of distinctions recognized by participants in particular discourses, and the design of better languages for expressing those distinctions. But the goals of conceptual modeling should not be limited to more precise description of specific discourses, or better design to meet the needs of participants in those discourses. The broader challenge for conceptual modeling, I will argue, is to construct diplomatic languages for negotiating compromises across disparate discourses and modes of communication.