From database to normbase

R. Stamper, K. Liu, M. Kolkman, P. Klarenberg, Y. Ades, C. van Slooten

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After the database concept, we are ready for the normbase concept. The object is to decouple organizational and technical knowledge that are now mixed inextricably together in the application programs we write today. The underlying principle is to find a way of specifying a social system as a system of norms. Our existing languages, developed to handle machine-like structures, do not enable us to embed our technical systems comfortably into the far more subtle human systems they should be serving. The present approach to the design of formal systems incorporates a philosophical position that obstructs one's thinking about the relationship between social systems and technical systems. The existing specification languages embody a view of the world as an objective reality. But social systems are constructed by their participants, so we propose a language that treats the world as essentially subjective. Our way of doing so introduces two fundamental postulates: (1) there is no reality without an agent, and (2) the agent only knows the world through actions. Based on these postulates, a formalism has been created that enables us to represent systems of social norms. In this system, meaning is regarded as a relationship between sign and behaviour (more strictly, invariants in the flux of behaviour). Semantic analysis is an essential prelude to norm analysis. A new prototype implementation of this normbase is under construction. The goal envisaged is explained in terms of an illustration of how the normbase would be used to develop a system. At every stage of design, the specification is turned immediately into a default version of a working system. The application programmer can then concentrate on tuning this system or developing another that can perform the business functions in the most efficient technical manner. Experiments have already shown the viability of the concepts and methods incorporated in this normbase.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)67-84
Number of pages18
JournalInternational journal of information management
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1991

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