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Information Resources Management Association
Advancing the Concepts & Practices of Information Resources Management in Modern Organizations

A Language/Action Based Approach to Information Modelling

A Language/Action Based Approach to Information Modelling
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Author(s): Paul Johannesson (Stockholm University/Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden)
Copyright: 2009
Pages: 4
Source title: Encyclopedia of Information Science and Technology, Second Edition
Source Author(s)/Editor(s): Mehdi Khosrow-Pour, D.B.A. (Information Resources Management Association, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-026-4.ch378


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There are several different views of the role of information systems. Two of the most important are the data view and the communicative view. According to the data view, the primary purpose of an information system is to provide a model of a domain, thereby enabling people to obtain information about reality by studying the model. In this respect, an information system works as a repository of data that reflects the structure and behaviour of an enterprise, and the system provides data that can be used for decisions about the enterprise. In contrast, the communicative view states that the major role of an information system is to support communication within and between organisations by structuring and coordinating the actions performed by organisational agents. The system is seen as a medium through which people can perform social actions, such as stating facts, making promises, and giving orders. The data and communicative views of information systems are mirrored by two different views of organisations: the functional view and the constructional view (Dietz, 2003a). The functional view focuses on the functions of an organisation with respect to its environment, in particular, the resources that the organisation consumes and produces. A model of an organisation from a functional perspective is a black-box model, as it shows the interactions with the environment but not the internal mechanisms. The constructional view, on the other hand, focuses on how behaviour and function are brought about by the operations and structure of an organisation. A model of an organisation from a constructional perspective is a white-box model as it shows the inner workings of the organisation. In information systems design, the starting point has often been based on the data view and the functional view, though frequently augmented by concepts like reasoning and monitoring. However, these views easily lead to a computerand technology-biased management of the communication taking place in an organisation, and they benefit from being complemented by the communicative and constructional views. A promising theoretical foundation for these views is the language/action approach, which is based on theories from linguistics and the philosophy of language. In the language/action approach, business actions are modelled on the notions of speech acts and discourses, which provide a basis for distinguishing between different communication phases, such as preparation, negotiation, and acceptance. The purpose of this chapter is to outline how the language/action approach can be used as a basis for the information modelling of communicative aspects in organisations.

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