The papers are presented in approximately reverse chronological order, latest first.
After a brief review of some problems in CATWOE analysis in Checkland's Soft Systems Methodology, we suggest that they may be ameliorated by employing Dooyeweerd's multi-aspectual philosophy. A systematic approach is taken, to reconceptualize each element of CATWOE within a Dooyeweerdian framework, the relevant portions of which are explained. In the process our understanding of CATWOE is enriched and made easier for the SSM apprentice to grasp.
The paradigmatic frameworks that give strategic direction to our research and practice in any area of information systems (IS) are often discussed with reference to philosophy. Thinkers working within five major areas in IS - nature of computers, shaping of information technologies, IS development, use of IS for human tasks, technological ecology - appeal to different, incompatible philosophic stances, resulting in incommensurable frameworks. Whilst variety of philosophies can stimulate creative thinking, problems arise when we view IS as a whole story. This paper reviews this variety and suggests we seek a single stream of philosophy to inform every major area of IS in a coherent way. How one philosophy might achieve this is briefly discussed.
There is a tension between guidelines and freedom. It arises from certain philosophical assumptions that we do well to question. An alternative view of freedom as 'ability to respond appropriately to the diversity of the situation' is considered. It is shown how this can work out within the guideline principles of Proximal User Interface for three classes of software.
This paper reviews some of the problems of CATWOE analysis in Checkland's soft systems methodology, and suggests that they may be ameliorated, and CATWOE analysis enriched in practice, by employing a multi-aspectual philosophy.
Jürgen Habermas is a wide-ranging thinker whose ideas have formed the philosophic foundation of Critical Systems Thinking (CST). But can the Critical approach incorporate ideas from other thinkers without abandoning its Habermasian roots? The danger of adding ideas piecemeal to address specific difficulties in CST is that the whole will eventually collapse because of inconsistencies. So if we wish to import ideas from other thinkers we need to understand the points of agreement and disagreement with Critical Theory. This requires reference to a set of criteria, though not necessarily in any rigid way. This paper applies Klein's (2002) set of criteria to a philosophic framework of ideas (that of the Dutch philosopher, Herman Dooyeweerd), not to 'score' the ideas for Criticality, but rather to understand the process of bringing the ideas of a thinker from a different tradition to bear on the Critical approach in a commensurable way.
Knowledge based systems (KBS) encapsulate human expertise in such as way that the user not only obtains expert advice but can explore the knowledge underlying it. This has allowed KBSs a variety of possible roles beyond the traditional consultancy role - such as checklist, communication, training and knowledge refinement. Each role demands different features of the KBS. So knowing in what roles a KBS may assist its users can help the designers focus on those features that are most important and avoid wasting effort on other features. These roles can be understood by means of Habermas' Theory of Communicative Action. This paper discusses how consideration of Habermas' action types might influence the design of knowledge based systems.
Keywords: KBS roles, KBS design, usability features, explanation, Habermas Theory of Communicative Action.
Knowledge based systems encapsulate human expertise in such a way that the user may not only obtain expert advice but explore the knowledge that led to it. This feature has enabled KBS to play a variety of roles, ranging from the traditional consultancy role to checklist, communication, training and knowledge refinement roles. These roles can be explained by Habermas' Typology of Action Types. This paper discusses how consideration of these actions might influence the design and construction of knowledge bases.
Keywords: Habermas, Action Types, KBS, IS,
If information systems development (ISD) is to be anything other than an ad-hoc discipline it must have a theory-like foundation. This paper interleaves philosophical discussion of ISD with practical suggestions. A philosophy with radically different presuppositions allows us to take a multi-aspectual view of I.S. that can address even tricky problems of multiple stakeholders and unintended and indirect impact.
Jürgen Habermas is a wide-ranging thinker whose ideas have formed the philosophic foundation of Critical Systems Thinking (CST). But can CST incorporate ideas from other thinkers without abandoning its Habermasian roots? The danger of adding ideas piecemeal to address specific difficulties in CST is that the whole will eventually collapse because of inconsistencies. This paper examines the philosophic framework proposed by the Dutch philosopher Herman Dooyeweerd against six criteria of Criticality - not to 'score' Dooyeweerd but rather to understand the process of examining the ideas of other thinkers.
If information systems evaluation is to be anything other than an ad-hoc discipline it must have a theory-like foundation. This paper interleaves philosophical discussion of evaluation of I.T. in use with practical suggestions. A philosophy with radically different presuppositions allows us to take a multi-aspectual view of I.T. use, benefits and evaluation that can address even tricky problems of multiple stakeholders, unintended, long term and indirect impact.
Critical systems focuses on emancipation, yet in much practical experience with information systems other aspects often seem more important emancipation. This paper suggests a framework for critically understanding the usage of information systems that has foundations in both real-life experience and philosophy. The framework has three sections, discussing the dynamics of inserting an information technology artifact into a working situation, how to differentiate benefit from detriment, and how these considerations feed back into the design of the artifact. How the the framework is founded in the pluralistic philosophy of Dooyeweerd (1955) is described. Finally, comments are made on the critical systems approach.
Keywords: Information systems evaluation, Habermas, Dooyeweerd, Aspects, Critical Systems, Philosophical underpinnings.
Whilst investment in information technology has reached an all-time high (1.5 trillion US $ per year), the world is not seeing this amount of benefit from that investment. Many - technologists as well as sociologists, economists, etc. - recognise that there is something deeply wrong. How do we understand what is wrong? And what do we do about it?
This symposium suggests that philosophy can help us answer both of these. We first review four areas of concern - in both technology itself and in its use in real life. Philosophy is employed to give us frameworks for understanding these areas of concern, from which methodology can then be generated to help address the problems themselves. We discuss one particular type of philosophy that questions the presuppositions that have underlain Western thinking (and produced our perspectives on technology) for 2,500 years. We demonstrate how it can help us build the frameworks for understanding that we need.
This paper should be of interest to those who design and evaluate user interfaces. The design of user interfaces for industrial and other systems is guided by the ideals of clarity, learnability and standardization. Many are of WIMP type. But, for tasks that involve intensive 'flow of thinking', such interfaces "get in the way" - they are too 'distal'. This paper considers an alternative paradigm to guide UI research and development, based on Polanyi's notion of proximality. The notion of the 'proximal' user interface (PUI) is introduced, with a discussion of the different ideals and assumptions that must guide its design. Principles of PUI are presented, with an example of how they have been manifested in practical applications. It also discusses lessons that can be learned from computer games and decision support tools.
Message: To be fully 'in control' requires a new type of 'proximal' user interfaces - especially when intensive thinking is involved.
The paper describes a knowledge based system (KBS) for modelling trust in the Certification Authority (CA) of a Public Key Infrastructure (PKI). It was built using a graphical KBS toolkit, Istar, that allows the knowledge builder to easily model the important relationships between concepts of the domain. The knowledge base was initially built using published work and was subsequently extended by knowledge obtained from leading PKI experts. The first prototype system computes the trust in a CA by asking the user a series of questions about the CA's Certification Practice Statement. Examples of its use with two well known public CAs is discussed.
An important issue raised and discussed in this paper is how to map symbols in the KB to the knowledge level of human trust and beliefs, for such an ill-defined area of knowledge as trust, and four main mappings have been identified. Another issue that emerged relates to the use of questionnaires during knowledge acquisition. The expert system is currently available online via the Istar Knowledge Server, and future work is discussed.
With the growth of many different public key infrastructures on the Internet, relying parties have the difficult task of deciding whether the sender of digitally signed message is really who the public key certificate says they are. We have built an expert system that calculates the amount of trust, or trust quotient, that one can place in the name to public key binding in a certificate. The structure of the expert system is based on the CPS framework of Chokhani and Ford (RFC 2527), whilst the relative importance of the various factors that comprise the trust quotient, were determined by interviewing PKI experts from around the globe. This paper discusses the knowledge analysis strategy employed to collect this expert information and how we used it to develop the KBS. The analysis of the results of the interviews are also presented, and they can be summarised succinctly as "there are some factors concerning trust in a PKI which nearly all experts agree upon, and there are other factors in which there is very little agreement at all". The importance of identifying contextual factors when building a knowledge base is very important. In many cases, a disagreement between experts, as shown by a bimodal split in importance, was traced to differences in context and we show how this can be a source of new knowledge.
Keywords: Trust, Trust Quotient, Public Key Infrastructure, Certification Authority, Expert System, Certification Practice Statement, Certificate Policy, X.509.
Basden A, (2000), "Some technical and non-technical issues in implementing a knowledge server", Software - Practice and Experience 30:1127-1164.
Increasingly, knowledge, as well as information and data, is being transferred over the World Wide Web. There is great potential in linking traditional KBS technology with the Internet, so that "the future holds the promise of sophisticated and intelligent information delivery" (Sehmi and Kroening, 1997) because each technology can overcome limitations in the other. In particular, it might enable expert knowledge, that has hitherto been confined to those who possess the correct computing platforms, to be made available to SMEs and people in developing countries.
Five types of KBS-Internet integration are outlined, of which one, the knowledge server, is discussed in detail in this paper. It examines the issues and problems that must be addressed if existing KBS inference software is to be integrated with the World Wide Web, and discusses, in depth, solutions as implemented in the Istar knowledge server. The paper shows how technical design and implementation decisions can be influenced, not only by the technical characteristics of the Internet, but also by a range other, 'softer' issues. In particular, it shows how real life styles of WWW browsing, and a desire to make knowledge available to developing countries, influences both overall architecture and detailed implementation decisions.
Kuosa T, Basden A, (2000) "Predispositions as determinants of the future", Futures Nov 2000.
Futures studies has been dominated by the concerns of forecasting and control. This paper suggests that predispositions held by people, especially attitudes and assumptions, have a significant impact on the future and thus constitute an important field of research in futures studies. It discusses three major types of predisposition, and outlines two mechanisms by which they affect the future, especially as it relates to technology. Four examples drawn from real life are then discussed to illustrate the operation of these mechanisms for the three types. Since predispositions are often deeply hidden, methodology must be developed for detecting them reliably, and some features of a methodology are discussed.
It is not the intention of this paper to provide an full treatment of the topic, but rather to make an initial proposal. So, finally, the simplifications made in the paper are discussed, and suggestions are made about fruitful avenues of further research.
No abstract. Instead, here is the first two paragraphs:
I first met Pertti Järvinen a few years ago at a conference in north Sweden, and encountered a person who had not only intellectual rigour and a professional approach but also a warm, encouraging and responsive approach to life. I had the priviledge of visiting Pertti at Tampere to assist in his Postgraduate Programme, and, at his request, gave lectures on topics that interested both of us. One of these was the multi-aspectual nature of information systems, based on a little-known but highly original philosophical framework. I am delighted to contribute a paper based on the contents of this lecture, which has never before been published, in honour of Pertti Järvinen.
The paper will be written in reverse. Instead of presenting a problem then proposing a solution, I will first present what it was about the philosophical framework that I believe interested Pertti, and, after each point, briefly discuss its significance for Information Systems (I.S.).
The user interface too often "gets in the way" of users. This paper argues that to get it out of the way requires not just improvements on existing interfaces, but a completely different approach: a 'proximal' user interface. It questions a number of basic mutually supportive assumptions regarding user interfaces and so constitutes a new paradigm for user interface research and development. However, much can be accomplished immediately, even with our partial knowledge of proximality. This paper sets out some draft principles of the proximal user interface, and demonstrates how they have been worked out as guidelines for interface design.
Hegel's idea of dialectic has permeated much of our thinking, especially in the guise of a process of development, and hence it is important to understand it. This paper suggests three things. First, there is more agreement between Hegel's deepest ideas and those of Dooyeweerd than at first might be expected. We find that Hegel is reaching towards what Dooyeweerd takes as his starting point. Therefore, second, applying Dooyeweerd's ideas can enrich Hegel's and suggest three fundamentally different types of dialectic. Third, Dooyeweerd's concept of irreducible aspects provides an explanation of the dialectic process: an engine, and one that has advantages over other proposals. This is illustrated with the development of environmental thinking.
Basden A, (1999), "Web-mediated knowledge servers: some technical issues", Research and Developments in Expert Systems, XVI, Springer.
We are in the era of web-mediated knowledge, delivered by servers to distant clients. The initiative for obtaining knowledge is either with the client (searching the World Wide Web) or with the server, where automated (intelligent) agents proactively send messages. Between these are mixed initiative systems, where the knowledge server and client work together to seek, select and deliver relevant knowledge tailored to the user's needs. But this territory is, as yet, sparsely populated; true knowledge servers are rare, especially ones that deliver expert knowledge. It is a unique opportunity for traditional knowledge based systems, with their shared locus of control, their ability to tailor knowledge and advice precisely and dynamically to the needs of the user, and long experience in providing expert knowledge. Moreover, delivering their knowledge over the WWW might overcome some of the problems of knowledge isolation found with traditional KBS.
Though papers have been published on linking KBS to the Internet, none seem to have addressed the technical problems in detail in a way that would allow others to follow suit. This paper examines such problems and describes and discusses solutions as implemented in the Istar knowledge server.
A perennial question in information technology research communities is the nature and ontological status of the various types of entities that present themselves, and the relationship between them. For instance, how do we account for the following, and in what ways can we say that they 'exist': hardware components, memory blocks, shapes on computer screen, programs, data structures, models, the knowledge that is encompassed in them, and, being discussed in more recent times, the people that use it? These questions are pertinent to virtual environments, where the not only is the range of different types of things more varied but it is closer to the users.
Dooyeweerd's radical view of entities, relationships and modal aspects seems to address these questions with an elegance and 'fit' not found in any other approach. This paper explores the application of his ideas, especially his concept of enkapsis, to questions of 'existence'.
Basden A, Evans J B, Chadwick D W, Young A, (1998), "Coping with poorly understood domains: the example of Internet trust", pp.114- 32 in Miles R, Moulton M, Bramer M (eds.) Research and Developments in Expert Systems, XV, Springer.
The notion of trust, as required for secure operations over the Internet, is important for ascertaining the source of received messages. How can we measure the degree of trust in authenticating the source? Knowledge in the domain is not established, so knowledge engineering becomes knowledge generation rather than mere acquisition. Special techniques are required, and special features of KBS software become more important than in conventional domains. This paper generalizes from experience with Internet trust to discuss some techniques and software features that are important for poorly understood domains.
Application of information technology and environmental planning share two very important characteristics: that they are both concerned with planning, evaluating and directing human activity in a wider context, and that this activity is multi-aspectual, multi-modal, multi-disciplinary in scope. Further, the ideal in both cases is sustainable, long-term activity that brings overall good rather than harm.
This paper discusses the multi-aspectual nature of environmental sustainability, and shows briefly how this understanding can be translated across to the field of information systems.
Basden A, Hibberd P R, (1996), "User interface issues raised by
knowledge refinement", Int. J. Human Computer Studies, v.45,
This is companion paper Design of a user interface for a knowledge refinement tool, in which the style of user interface needed is discussed.
The concept of ease of use has evolved over the last 30 years, keeping pace with developments in user interface technology, in the manner of Carroll's Task-Artifact Cycle. This paper argues that recent developments in knowledge engineering require yet further changes in the concept and discusses what implications they might have for user interface design.
The development in question is that construction of knowledge bases is, in many cases, no longer a matter of assembling pieces of knowledge that have been made available by knowledge acquisition, but takes on the nature of creative design which results in the generation of new knowledge at the user interface. A key difference is that while knowledge base assembly can be seen as a series of discrete events, creative design is more of a continuous process in which the user's flow of thinking must not be interrupted. This means that traditional WIMP and GUI interfaces are no longer appropriate and a more 'proximal' form must be found.
Basden A, (1996), "Towards an understanding of benefits of contextualized technology", Proc. 25th Anniversary Conference of the Swedish Operational Research Society, Lulea, October 1996.
There is much present concern about the failure of information systems when set in their working context. In addition to the many high profile catastrophes that have caught the news recently, it is a common finding that information systems fail to yield the benefits expected.
One problem is that there is no clear understanding of how implementing an information system in its working context brings benefits, nor of how to predict what benefits it might be expected to bring. This paper examines the issue of what it means to apply technology in context, and proposes an initial model of usage and benefits. This model, which has emerged from multi-aspectual ontology, can not only provide a theoretical yet contextualized understanding of usage and benefits but also suggest a way to predict and evaluate benefits.
Basden A, Brown A J, Tetlow S D A, Hibberd P R, (1996), "Design of a
user interface for a knowledge refinement tool", Int. J. Human
Computer Studies, v.45, pp.157-183.
The companion paper, User interface issues raised by knowledge refinement, explains the need for this kind of interface.
As argued in a companion paper, Basden and Hibberd (1996), there is a need for a more 'proximal' form of user interface than is currently offered by traditional WIMP styles of interface. This is necessary for knowledge representation tools used in ill structured domains, in the use of which new knowledge is generated by the very act of representation. The tool should ideally then become so 'proximal' that the user's flow of creative thinking is not interrupted.
In this paper we examine traditional principles that guide the design of user interfaces and find them suited to user activity that is a series of separable, goal-directed events but not to activity that is a continuous, holistic process. While some of the principles are applicable, others must be replaced or augmented and most must be made more specific. We describe a set of principles that we found important to guide the design of a knowledge representation tool, some of which do not seem to have been brought together before in the way described here, and discuss what forms their implementation might take.
Basden A, Brown A J, (1996), "Istar - a tool for creative design of knowledge bases", Expert Systems, v.13, n.4, pp.259-276, November 1996.
This paper gives a comprehensive explanation of the Istar knowledge representation software tool. Not only does it describe the features and facilities found in Istar, but it discusses why they are as they are.
Istar is one of a new generation of knowledge representation tools, aimed at ill-structured domains of knowledge. While it can be used in traditional KBS projects, in which pieces of knowledge from a domain expert are assembled to form a working knowledge base, it is designed for situations in which there is a large element of creative design: knowledge refinement and generation resulting from the knowledge representation process.
The knowledge representation 'language' is purely graphical; the knowledge engineer 'draws' knowledge on an easel as a box and arrows diagram. Behind this diagram is the knowledge base itself, in the form of integrated inference nets, Bayesian nets and semantic nets. This paper discusses the reasons for these design choices and, briefly, some of the issues faced in development of Istar.
This note illustrates an algorithm which can be applied to the rule-bases of expert systems in order to support the inference procedure. One way of viewing a rule-base is as a set of rules; each rule having a condition and a conclusion part. The condition part consists of statements about one or more pieces of knowledge, the conclusion part consists of a statement about what the value of some piece of knowledge should be on the basis of these conditions being satisfied. A set of rules of this type can be modelled by a Graph.
Basden and Hibberd, 1996, "Knowledge refinement and generation", in Watson ID, Macintosh AL (eds.), "Research and Develoopment in Expert Systems XI", BHR Group Ltd. Expert Systems '96.
Research and development of inference-based knowledge based systems has slowed in recent years as the technology has achieved wider usage. But new problems have arisen that need addressing, from the operation of the 'Task-artifact cycle'. The nature of much knowledge engineering is changing from assembly to creative design. This is a major change, and cannot be adequately supported using current KBS tools. In particular, the user interface must be more 'proximal'.
This paper examines the nature of creative design of knowledge bases, in which new knowledge is generated by the very act of its representation, and differences from conventional assembly. It then discusses how these differences make a new, more fluid, type of user interface necessary for knowledge representation toolkits.
This paper suggests that we need to move towards developing a Theory of Application of information technology. For this, a radical rethink of information systems and their application is needed. Five diverse areas in which a radical approach is being followed are discussed: the acquisition, expression, integration and representation of knowledge in the application domain, and a new approach to research itself. They are illustrated by reference to two projects concerned with Intelligent Authoring of Construction Contracts.
Basden A, (1994), "Three Levels of Benefit in Expert Systems", Expert Systems, v.11, n.2, pp.99-107.
This paper is not about knowledge representation, nor knowledge structures, nor knowledge elicitation, nor even Expert Systems methodology. It is about the use of Expert Systems in their working context. Little has been written about the usage of Expert Systems from a theoretical point of view. What has been written from a practitioner's point of view often lacks structure, and thus can make only minor contributions to understanding and predicting the usage of Expert Systems.
In an attempt to fill this gap, this paper proposes a model of benefits of Expert Systems. The model has three levels, and benefits of various kinds are classified into three types. The paper presents a deductive argument for the model, rather than an inductive one since full empirical studies have yet to be carried out. However a case study is outlined that indicates the applicability of the model.
Basden A, (1993), "Appropriateness", in Bramer MA, Macintosh AL (eds.), "Research and Develoopment in Expert Systems X", pp.315-328, BHR Group Ltd.
This paper is based on the difference between knowledge representation and programming. In knowledge representation three things have traditionally been aimed for: sufficiency, efficiency (tractability) and expressive power. Though important in supporting other work in Articifial Intelligence, they have not led to knowledge representation formalisms that make it easy to encapsulate real life knowledge in the computer. Most require expert programming. While there have been some attempts at 'stitching together' various formalisms, the results have not been impressive. We are as far away as ever from the situation in which lay people can encapsulate their own knowledge.
A new, additional goal is needed: appropriateness. This paper explains appropriateness and discusses how it might be achieved. It proposes an ontological approach, leading to the idea of irreducible aspects of knowledge. This idea has explanatory power concerning the deficiencies of current formalisms. It also has implications for design of knowledge representation systems, for integration and for evaluation metrics.
Created: 30 January 2003. Last updated: 18 February 2006 added some abstracts, new fmt.