"Mini-Dagstuhl" Seminar: Foundational Aspects of Conceptual Modelling

By its very nature conceptual modelling is aimed at the (re-) construction of concepts. The focus on concepts is motivated by various aspects. On the one hand, it accounts for the fact that information systems are linguistic artefacts: They are created through language and the only way using them is through language, too. On the other hand, it is aimed at building a linguistic bridge between the domains of discourse where a targeted information system is supposed to be used and the language(s) used to implement the system. For this purpose, it will usually be required to focus on the invariant essence of concepts and to remove ambiguities inherent to natural language. Against this background it is obvious that there is need to clarify the conceptual foundation of the field itself, i.e. to develop concise and purposeful definitions of key terms such as domain, model, method, modelling language and clarify relationships between concepts such as the distinction between models and modelling languages. Even if one does not go as far as the authors of the FRISCO report who suspected that "a surprisingly large number of terms in the information systems area have been coined by suppliers of IT products and services, or by pseudo scientists", it seems that foundational terms are often used in a rather pragmatic way that will hardly endure a critical review.

Some may regard the quest for a convincing conceptual foundation as dispensable, since it would be enough to know what we mean. However, if we follow Kant who regarded concepts (besides intuition) as the foundation of any cognition, we should better aim at an elaborate conceptual foundation of our field. It is the purpose of this seminar to contribute to this objective. In order to promote open and enthusiastic discourses, the seminar follows the model of the renowned Dagstuhl seminars. Therefore, participation is by invitation only. Every invited participant is supposed to prepare a short presentation (5 min.) to illustrate his perspective on foundational aspects. During the seminar the participants will focus on selected concepts and aim at developing elaborate definitions.

Seminar organizers: Ulrich Frank, Erik Proper

Motivation: It addresses core terms that are essential for understanding the development and use of business information systems. At the same time, there is need for further classification, because prevalent definitions of these terms usually remain on a superficial level.

Structure: The intended duration and structure of the seminar.

The seminar is scheduled for one day. The intended structure is as follows:

1. Each participant gives an overview of the most urgent conceptual/terminological problems of the field that he/she sees (10 min. each)

2. Splitting up into work groups focusing on particular aspects (2 hours)

3. Lunch

4. Discussion of preliminary work group results (2 hours)

5. Wrap up and if appropriate recommendations for further steps