“What is a model, and what can it do?”

In preparation for Dr. Richard Urban’s discussion and lecture on Nov. 6,  Julia Flanders asks a question most pertinent in setting the tone for this week: “What is a model and what can it do?”  Reflections on two of the articles presented will speak to this question.

Ariaan Ciula and Oyvind Eide, in “Reflection on Cultural Heritage and Digital Humanities,” compare two modelling traditions.  This comparison focuses on pragmatic concerns and presents the comparison at an abstract level. The two selected are CIDOC-CRM and TEI.  The former is used in cultural heritage programs and the latter in modelling in the digital humanities.  The authors present strong emphasis on the dominant differences in the two modelling standards.  TEI, used to represent textual features, is created in research conducted in 1987.  This standard then evolved into the Consortium Structure established in 2001.  CIDOC-CRM provides a semantic framework.  Cultural heritage information is mapped by museums, universities, private companies and research centers.

Ciula and Eide state that strong epistemic values of the models reside in the fact that, while being dependent upon theory, the models themselves transcend theory.  Modelling characterizes the dynamic and heuristic.  Discussion is presented on the implementation of the CIDOC-CRM model in the Norwegian Documentation Project in the 1990s.  The purpose of the two modelling systems is reiterated by the authors: TEI encoding appears as textual context and CIDOC-CRM is based upon a specified model of the world.  Though two quite differed modelling standards are presented, the authors provide in-depth comparison, model structures and uses.  Purpose and utility promoted within the article is summed up succinctly by the authors:

While this exercise is interesting in itself as an investigation into modelling strategies, it also has a pragmatic aim of raising our own awareness about the choices made in certain modelling practices.  Rather than being seen as a divider between communities and traditions, such awareness enables a certain freedom. The different approaches combined can help envisaging imaginary constructs which can be used to model cultural artefacts and their interpretations in new ways.  (p. 40)

Offering another framework, J. Iivari’s “A Paradigmatic Analysis of Contemporary Schools of IS Development” outlines seven major schools: software engineering, decision support systems, infological approaches, database management, implementation of research, management information systems and sociotechnical approach.  These Schools also present seven similar assumptions:

  1. view of data/information is a descriptive fact
  2. information systems are a technical artifact with social implications
  3. technology is viewed as a matter of human choice
  4. a predominately structural view
  5. values of IS research reflect organic and economic qualities
  6. minds-end-oriented view of IS science
  7. a positivistic epistemology

Three diagrams included in the article compliment the text and deal with these subjects:  the major contributions of contemporary schools of IS development, presenting in framework of paradigmatic analysis, and the epistemological assumption and research methods.  Findings and results promoted in this article proved support for the assumption of the existence of an identifiable ‘orthodoxy.’  This is expressed with the exception given that there are certain variations between all the schools discussed. The authors’ study provides positive support for the work of Hirscheim and Klein (1999).

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