How to Do Things With     Documents              Barry Smith          Department of Philosophy   National Center for Ontol...
• picture of a Florida beach condo                                     2
Some processes in the social realm• In 2007, a bank in Florida lends you $1 million• You buy a beach condo for $1 million•...
Some objects in the social realm•   The bank•   The condo•   The price you paid in 2007•   The price you could get in 2008...
Some ontological questions•   What is a debt?•   What is a mortgage?•   What is a mortgage contract?•   What is a signatur...
Not your grandmother’s ontology• Catherine wheel effect (compare how  psychology became a science independent of  philosop...
Google hits Jan. 2004•   ontology + Heidegger              58K•   ontology + Aristotle              77K•   ontology + phil...
Google hits Oct. 2009•   ontology + Heidegger             1.62M•   ontology + Aristotle             1.65M•   ontology + ph...
Comparison 2004/2009ontology + Heidegger           58K   1.62Montology + Aristotle           77K   1.65Montology + philoso...
10
11
http://tinyurl.com/63q5kb9
Agenda• What holds society together  – The Searle thesis (speech acts)  – The de Soto thesis (how documents created    civ...
Systems of mutually correlated     claims and obligationsare essential to the workings of societiesboth large and smallcom...
John Searle
The Searle ThesisThrough the performance of speech acts (actsof promising, marrying, accusing, baptising)we change the wor...
In the local case, when you make a              promise• Your obligation is tied to psychological  factors: memories, expe...
The de Soto ThesisDocuments and document systems aremechanisms for creating theinstitutional orders of modern societies   ...
Hernando de SotoInstitute for Liberty and Democracy, Lima, Peru                    Bill Clinton:“The most promising anti-p...
The de Soto thesis: documents and document systems are mechanisms for creating the institutional orders of modern societie...
With the invention of documented      claims and obligations• a new dimension of socio-economic reality  comes into existe...
Hernando de Soto• first recognized the pivotal role of documents  in the ontology of socio-economic reality.• documents en...
Scope of document act theory• the social and institutional (deontic, quasi-legal)  powers of documents• the sorts of thing...
Basic distinctions– document as stand-alone entity vs. document with  all its different types of proximate and remote  att...
What happens when you sign your passport?  • you initiate the validity of the passport  • you attest to the truth of the a...
Passport acts•   I use my passport to prove my identity•   You use my passport to check my identity•   He renews my passpo...
The creative power of documentstitle deeds create propertystock and share certificates create capitalexamination documents...
The creative power of documents  insurance certificates  treaties  patents  licenses  summonses  membership cards  divorce...
The creative power of documents  documents create authorities  (physician’s license creates physician)  authorities create...
Identity documents• create identity (and thereby create the  possibility of identity theft)• what is the ontology of ident...
Hernando de SotoInstitute for Liberty and Democracy, Lima, Peru                    Bill Clinton:“The most promising anti-p...
In Africa: the realm of extra-legal      (spontaneously created) law• In Tanzania, villages are relatively isolated  from ...
Mwenyekiti             The Mwenyekiti (or             democratically elected             village chairman)                ...
identification                 Document in which a                 Mwenyekiti from the                 Kibaha area certifi...
identification                 Marks used to identify                 ownership of the cattle at                 an auctio...
adjudicationElders engaged in dispute resolution in Kisongo (Tanzania)dealing with conflicts about family matters, parcel ...
Documentation of the resolution of a dispute over land in theArusha area and of the property rights thereby established.A ...
property right• The difference between a piece of land and  property is that property can be set out in a  written documen...
registration               The Mwenyekiti               keeps records of births               deaths, contracts ...,      ...
registration• registration makes documents permanently  accessible, providing in one single source  records of the informa...
registration               42
registration• Paper documents serve as filaments that bind  different elements of social and institutional  reality in a w...
Anchoring to reality                       44
Anchoring• a photograph alone is not sufficient to establish your  identity: it must appear in the right place in the righ...
Anchoringfingerprintofficial stampphotographbar codecow brand-markcar license plateallow cross-referencing to documents   ...
The Mystery of Capitalwhen you have legal title to your house you can• use your house as an address for receiving  public ...
But what happens when it all      breaks down?                           48
• picture of a Florida beach condo                                     49
The story of what happens• In 2007, a bank in Florida lends you $1 million• You buy a beach condo for $1 million• In 2008,...
What sorts of entities are involved in this                  story?•   The bank (?)•   The condo, the keys•   The price yo...
Basic Formal Ontology       Continuant            Occurrent              Dependent    process, eventIndependent           ...
The occurrent story• In 2007, a bank in Florida lends you $1 million• You buy a beach condo for $1 million• In 2008, the v...
the dependent and independent      continuants involved in this story•   The bank•   The condo, the keys•   The price you ...
The aftermath• Your mortgage was bundled with 100s of  other mortgages to form a collateralized  debt obligation (CDO)• wh...
Basic Formal Ontology       Continuant              Occurrent               Dependent     process, eventIndependent       ...
Continuant                                       Occurrent                 SpecificallyIndependent       Dependent Continu...
What is a CDO?On the one hand it is something like a mathematical structure.Yet its existence is tied to time and change. ...
The ontology of the CDO• CDOs seem to fall outside the standard  philosophical dichotomies of  – physical vs. mental  – co...
The ontology of toxic assets• In 2007, I bundle your mortgage with 100s of other  mortgages and sell the result – a ‘colla...
More ontological questions• What is a CDO?• A pattern of blips on computers? Can you buy and sell a pattern of blips?• Is...
The ontology of the CDO• CDOs seem to fall outside the standard  philosophical dichotomies of  – physical vs. mental  – co...
63
Continuant                                       Occurrent                 SpecificallyIndependent       Dependent Continu...
CODA: The ontology of (credit card)            numbers• These numbers are not mathematical (not  informational) entities –...
Continuant                                              Occurrent                 Specifically   GenericallyIndependent   ...
What is a credit card number?– not a mathematical object– not a contingent object with physicalproperties, taking part in ...
Information vs. Information Artifact ‘information’ – mass noun (Shannon and Weaver) ‘information artifact’ – count noun (I...
Information Artifacts in Science         protocol         database         theory         ontology         gene list      ...
Information Entity (labeling)       serial number       batch number       grant number       person number       name    ...
Generically Dependent Continuants                                          Generically                                    ...
Information Artifact Ontology http://code.google.com/p/ information-artifact-ontology/                                  72
Ontology of Documents, Tokyo, February 2011
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  • http://ngrams.googlelabs.com/graph?content=ontology,metaphysics&year_start=1700&year_end=2010&corpus=0&smoothing=3
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  • Ontology of Documents, Tokyo, February 2011

    1. 1. How to Do Things With Documents Barry Smith Department of Philosophy National Center for Ontological Research University at Buffalo http://ontology.buffalo.edu/smith 1
    2. 2. • picture of a Florida beach condo 2
    3. 3. Some processes in the social realm• In 2007, a bank in Florida lends you $1 million• You buy a beach condo for $1 million• In 2008, the value of your condo collapses• You owe the bank $1 million but your house is worth only $500,000• You walk away from the loan and give the keys back to the bank 3
    4. 4. Some objects in the social realm• The bank• The condo• The price you paid in 2007• The price you could get in 2008• Your mortgage• Your mortgage contract• Your signature on the mortgage contract• Your breaching of the mortgage contract• The value of the mortgage in 2007 4
    5. 5. Some ontological questions• What is a debt?• What is a mortgage?• What is a mortgage contract?• What is a signature?• What is a credit card?• What is a credit card number? Why do Plato and Kant have no answers to such questions? 5
    6. 6. Not your grandmother’s ontology• Catherine wheel effect (compare how psychology became a science independent of philosophy in the 1890s)• so today: ontology is beginning to free itself from the philosophical mother-ship to become a discipline in its own right 6
    7. 7. Google hits Jan. 2004• ontology + Heidegger 58K• ontology + Aristotle 77K• ontology + philosophy 327K• ontology + software 468K• ontology + database 594K• ontology + information systems 702K 7
    8. 8. Google hits Oct. 2009• ontology + Heidegger 1.62M• ontology + Aristotle 1.65M• ontology + philosophy 4.86M• ontology + software 6.91M• ontology + database 8.66M• ontology + information systems 9.37M 8
    9. 9. Comparison 2004/2009ontology + Heidegger 58K 1.62Montology + Aristotle 77K 1.65Montology + philosophy 327K 4.86Montology + software 468K 6.91Montology + database 594K 8.66Montology +information systems 702K 9.37M 9
    10. 10. 10
    11. 11. 11
    12. 12. http://tinyurl.com/63q5kb9
    13. 13. Agenda• What holds society together – The Searle thesis (speech acts) – The de Soto thesis (how documents created civilization)• How to do things with documents in an African village• The ontology of toxic assets 14
    14. 14. Systems of mutually correlated claims and obligationsare essential to the workings of societiesboth large and smallcompare how traffic laws are essential tothe workings of roads 15
    15. 15. John Searle
    16. 16. The Searle ThesisThrough the performance of speech acts (actsof promising, marrying, accusing, baptising)we change the world by bringing into beingclaims, obligations, rights, relations ofauthority, debts, permissions, names, and avariety of other sorts of entities making up theontology of the social world. 17
    17. 17. In the local case, when you make a promise• Your obligation is tied to psychological factors: memories, expectations, your desire to preserve your good name 18
    18. 18. The de Soto ThesisDocuments and document systems aremechanisms for creating theinstitutional orders of modern societies The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else, New York: Basic Books, 2000 19
    19. 19. Hernando de SotoInstitute for Liberty and Democracy, Lima, Peru Bill Clinton:“The most promising anti-poverty initiative in the world” 20
    20. 20. The de Soto thesis: documents and document systems are mechanisms for creating the institutional orders of modern societiesThe Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else, New York: Basic Books, 2000 21
    21. 21. With the invention of documented claims and obligations• a new dimension of socio-economic reality comes into existence: bank accounts, stocks, shares, bonds, mortgages, credit cards• form enduring social networks – document systems – of entirely new types• debts become information entities analogous to computer software artifacts 22
    22. 22. Hernando de Soto• first recognized the pivotal role of documents in the ontology of socio-economic reality.• documents enable – new types of distributed ownership through stocks, shares, pensions – new types of legal accountability – new types of business organization 23
    23. 23. Scope of document act theory• the social and institutional (deontic, quasi-legal) powers of documents• the sorts of things we can do with documents• the social interactions in which documents play an essential role• the enduring institutional systems to which documents belong 24
    24. 24. Basic distinctions– document as stand-alone entity vs. document with all its different types of proximate and remote attachments– document template vs. filled-in document– document vs. the piece of paper upon which it is written/printed– authentic documents vs. copies, forgeries– allographic vs. autographic entities 25
    25. 25. What happens when you sign your passport? • you initiate the validity of the passport • you attest to the truth of the assertions it contains (autographic) • you provide a sample pattern for comparison (allographic)Three document acts for the price of one 26
    26. 26. Passport acts• I use my passport to prove my identity• You use my passport to check my identity• He renews my passport• They confiscate my passport to initiate my renunciation of my citizenship 27
    27. 27. The creative power of documentstitle deeds create propertystock and share certificates create capitalexamination documents create PhDsmarriage licenses create bonds of matrimonybankruptcy certificates create bankruptsstatutes of incorporation create business organizationscharters create universities, cities, guilds 28
    28. 28. The creative power of documents insurance certificates treaties patents licenses summonses membership cards divorce decrees edicts of parliament 29
    29. 29. The creative power of documents documents create authorities (physician’s license creates physician) authorities create documents (physician creates sick note) documents issued by an authority within the framework of a valid legal institutionvs. documents issued by an authority extralegally on its own behalf (cf. US Declaration of Independence) 30
    30. 30. Identity documents• create identity (and thereby create the possibility of identity theft)• what is the ontology of identity?• what is the epistemology of identity (of the technologies of identification)? 31
    31. 31. Hernando de SotoInstitute for Liberty and Democracy, Lima, Peru Bill Clinton:“The most promising anti-poverty initiative in the world” 32
    32. 32. In Africa: the realm of extra-legal (spontaneously created) law• In Tanzania, villages are relatively isolated from the influences of big-city law• but this does not mean that they are free of legal-commercial activities and of associated institutions• and of rudimentary documents 33
    33. 33. Mwenyekiti The Mwenyekiti (or democratically elected village chairman) 34
    34. 34. identification Document in which a Mwenyekiti from the Kibaha area certifies the identity of an individual from his village. Both photograph and signature are authenticated with an official stamp. 35
    35. 35. identification Marks used to identify ownership of the cattle at an auction market in Dodoma. The cattle identification by branding serves as the basis for a formal pledge system. 36
    36. 36. adjudicationElders engaged in dispute resolution in Kisongo (Tanzania)dealing with conflicts about family matters, parcel boundariesand other property issues. Evidence is brought from witnessesand community members. 37
    37. 37. Documentation of the resolution of a dispute over land in theArusha area and of the property rights thereby established.A council of notable elders is selected as judges and they followestablished rules for the hearing, for presenting and processingevidence before the community. 38
    38. 38. property right• The difference between a piece of land and property is that property can be set out in a written document with determinate meaning. This document creates and establishes the right, which ties owner to physical asset in an enduring way.• The system of such documents creates a new abstract order 39
    39. 39. registration The Mwenyekiti keeps records of births deaths, contracts ..., provides written and unwritten proof of customary rights of occupancy, participates in real estate transactions as witness 40
    40. 40. registration• registration makes documents permanently accessible, providing in one single source records of the information required to know who owns what• without this information, the combination and mobilization of assets is risky, and it is impossible to apply legal provisions against fraud and theft. 41
    41. 41. registration 42
    42. 42. registration• Paper documents serve as filaments that bind different elements of social and institutional reality in a way which leads to the creation of new types of value.• A network of social relations is created by the network of cross-referenced and cross- attached documents. In this way, the registry of documents forms a mirror of the network of legal and property relationships. 43
    43. 43. Anchoring to reality 44
    44. 44. Anchoring• a photograph alone is not sufficient to establish your identity: it must appear in the right place in the right sort of document that has been marked in the right sort of way by signatures, counter-signatures, stamps, ID numbers 45
    45. 45. Anchoringfingerprintofficial stampphotographbar codecow brand-markcar license plateallow cross-referencing to documents 46
    46. 46. The Mystery of Capitalwhen you have legal title to your house you can• use your house as an address for receiving public utility services such as mail and electricity• buy insurance on your house• use your house as collateral on a loan – your house allows you to live in it and at the same time use its value to build a factory
    47. 47. But what happens when it all breaks down? 48
    48. 48. • picture of a Florida beach condo 49
    49. 49. The story of what happens• In 2007, a bank in Florida lends you $1 million• You buy a beach condo for $1 million• In 2008, the value of your condo collapses: you owe the bank $1 million but your condo is worth only $500,000• You walk away from the loan and give the keys back to the bank 50
    50. 50. What sorts of entities are involved in this story?• The bank (?)• The condo, the keys• The price you paid in 2007• The price you could get in 2008• Your mortgage contract (?)• Your signature on the mortgage contract (?)• Your mortgage (pre-default)• Your commitment to repay the mortgage• The same mortgage (post-default) 51
    51. 51. Basic Formal Ontology Continuant Occurrent Dependent process, eventIndependent Continuant Continuant quality, thing.... ..... ....... role,… 52
    52. 52. The occurrent story• In 2007, a bank in Florida lends you $1 million• You buy a beach condo for $1 million• In 2008, the value of your condo collapses: you owe the bank $1 million but your condo is worth only $500,000• You walk away from the loan and give the keys back to the bank 53
    53. 53. the dependent and independent continuants involved in this story• The bank• The condo, the keys• The price you paid in 2007• The price you could get in 2008• Your mortgage contract• Your signature on the mortgage contract• Your mortgage (pre-default)• Your commitment to repay the mortgage• The same mortgage (post-default) 54
    54. 54. The aftermath• Your mortgage was bundled with 100s of other mortgages to form a collateralized debt obligation (CDO)• which was sold to investors• Some CDOs were bundled to form CDO2s, CDO3s, ... CDOns.• In 2008 this whole family of investment vehicles collapsed in value 55
    55. 55. Basic Formal Ontology Continuant Occurrent Dependent process, eventIndependent Continuant Continuant quality, thing.... ..... ....... role,… 56
    56. 56. Continuant Occurrent SpecificallyIndependent Dependent Continuant Continuant Realization Quality Role
    57. 57. What is a CDO?On the one hand it is something like a mathematical structure.Yet its existence is tied to time and change. Plato would have regarded such a combination of properties as something impossible. 58
    58. 58. The ontology of the CDO• CDOs seem to fall outside the standard philosophical dichotomies of – physical vs. mental – concrete vs. abstract – ens rationis vs. ens realis• They are in some sense normative entities (‘obligations’), that can be bought and sold, aggregated and stored, spliced and diced, engineered and re-engineered 59
    59. 59. The ontology of toxic assets• In 2007, I bundle your mortgage with 100s of other mortgages and sell the result – a ‘collateralized debt obligation’ (CDO) – to investors.• This first CDO is supported directly by mortgages• It is bundled with 100s of other CDOs to create a CDO2, backed not by mortgages, but by other CDOs• ... and so on, with CDO3, ... CDOn, ad indefinitum 60
    60. 60. More ontological questions• What is a CDO?• A pattern of blips on computers? Can you buy and sell a pattern of blips?• Is it made of molecules? Can it stand in physical relations of cause and effect?No; It is more like a mathematical structure.Yet its existence is tied to time and change.Already Plato would have regarded such a combination of properties as something impossible. 61
    61. 61. The ontology of the CDO• CDOs seem to fall outside the standard philosophical dichotomies of – physical vs. mental – concrete vs. abstract – entia rationis vs. entia realis.• They are in some sense normative entities (‘obligations’), that can be bought and sold, aggregated and stored, spliced and diced, engineered and re-engineered 62
    62. 62. 63
    63. 63. Continuant Occurrent SpecificallyIndependent Dependent Continuant Continuant Quality Role
    64. 64. CODA: The ontology of (credit card) numbers• These numbers are not mathematical (not informational) entities – they are ‘thick’ (historical) numbers, special sorts of cultural artefacts – they are information objects with provenance: abstract keys fitting into a globally distributed lock 65
    65. 65. Continuant Occurrent Specifically GenericallyIndependent Dependent Dependent Continuant Continuant Continuant Quality Role
    66. 66. What is a credit card number?– not a mathematical object– not a contingent object with physicalproperties, taking part in causal relations– but a historical object, with a veryspecial provenance, relations analogousto those of ownership, existing only withina nexus of working financial institutions ofspecific kinds 67
    67. 67. Information vs. Information Artifact ‘information’ – mass noun (Shannon and Weaver) ‘information artifact’ – count noun (Information Artifact Ontology) 68
    68. 68. Information Artifacts in Science protocol database theory ontology gene list publication result ... 69
    69. 69. Information Entity (labeling) serial number batch number grant number person number name address email address URL ... 70
    70. 70. Generically Dependent Continuants Generically Dependent Continuantif one bearer ceases to exist, then theentity can survive, because there areother bearers (copyability)the pdf file on my laptop Information Sequencethe DNA (sequence) in this Entitychromosome 71
    71. 71. Information Artifact Ontology http://code.google.com/p/ information-artifact-ontology/ 72

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