Ontology of Documents (2005)


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Introduces the idea of a theory of document acts, analogous to the theory of social acts advocated in 1913 by Adolf Reinach, and to the theory of speech acts advanced by Austin and Searle.

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  • Searle 1996, p. 9.
  • Individualism and Economic Order , 1949, p. 87) see also “The Use of Knowledge in Society” (1945),
  • Ontology of Documents (2005)

    1. 1. http://ontologist.com 1 The Ontology of Documents (2005) Barry Smith
    2. 2. http://ontologist.com 2 Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, 11 Think of the tools in a tool-box: there is a hammer, pliers, a saw, a screw-driver, a ruler, a glue-pot, glue, nails and screw. —The functions of words are as diverse as the functions of these objects.
    3. 3. http://ontologist.com 3 Speech Act Theory Language as TOOLBOX We tell people how things are (assertives) We try to get them to do things (directives) We commit ourselves to doing things (commissives) We express our feelings and attitudes (expressives) We bring about changes in the world merely through our utterances (declarations)
    4. 4. http://ontologist.com 4 The Searle thesis claims and obligations and deontic powers are brought into existence by the performance of speech acts (acts of promising, marrying, accusing ... )
    5. 5. http://ontologist.com 5 appointings, marryings, promisings change the world if certain background conditions are satisfied: valid formulation legitimate authority acceptance by addressees
    6. 6. http://ontologist.com 6 A speech act is instantaneous we perform a speech act the world changes
    7. 7. http://ontologist.com 7 Differences between document acts and speech acts • Speech acts can normally be classified as one or other of the five types distinguished by Searle; document acts typically involve components deriving from several of these types • You don’t need to understand a document in order to perform a properly constituted document act
    8. 8. http://ontologist.com 8 The need for a trace a new entity comes into being – a claim, obligation, right, power, name, office which survives for an extended period of time What is the physical basis for this extended existence? The memories of those involved? Or documents? Writing creates permanent, re-usable meaning Documents create traceable liability
    9. 9. http://ontologist.com 9 Documents provide a reliable way for the social/institutional objects brought into existence by speech acts to endure through time Such objects can thereby also serve as the basis for new social objects of a higher-order giving rise to what Searle calls a ‘huge invisible ontology’
    10. 10. http://ontologist.com 10 Jack Goody, The Logic of Writing and the Organization of Society (1986) The very fact that laws exist in written form makes a profound difference, first to the nature of its sources, secondly to the ways of changing the rules, thirdly to the judicial process, and fourthly to court organization. Indeed it touches upon the nature of rules themselves.
    11. 11. http://ontologist.com 11 The price system A system of telecommunications which enables individual producers to watch merely the movement of a few pointers, as an engineer might watch the hands of a few dials (Hayek, “The Use of Knowledge in Society”)
    12. 12. http://ontologist.com 12 The Hayek thesis: the price system is a mechanism for communicating, in the form of abbreviated signals, the most essential information relevant to our economic behaviour
    13. 13. http://ontologist.com 13 Hernando De Soto Institute for Liberty and Democracy Lima, Peru
    14. 14. http://ontologist.com 14 Hernando de Soto The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else New York: Basic Books, 2000
    15. 15. http://ontologist.com 15 The de Soto Thesis the invisible infrastructure of asset management upon which the astonishing fecundity of Western capitalism rests is both created and held together by documents, by property records and titles, which capture what is economically meaningful about the corresponding assets
    16. 16. http://ontologist.com 16 The generalized de Soto thesis The document system is a mechanism for creating the institutional orders of modern societies and for making possible the types of abbreviated signals which provide the most essential information relevant to our social behavior (even price lists are documents)
    17. 17. http://ontologist.com 17 Primacy of documents • are the social institutions which can, as a matter of necessity, only exist because of documents? • what is the force of ‘necessity’ here – supposing we had perfect memory, for example
    18. 18. http://ontologist.com 18 The creative powers of documents stock and share certificates create capital identity documents create identities examination documents create the various levels of the Chinese civil service cadastral maps create real estate parcels marriage license creates bonds of matrimony bankruptcy certificate creates bankrupt statutes of incorporation create companies title deeds create property rights and property owners insurance certificate creates insurance coverage create = create AND sustain
    19. 19. http://ontologist.com 19 The creative power of documents documents create authorities (physicians’ license creates physician) authorities create documents (physician creates sick note) Documents issued by an authority (validly, fraudulently ...)
    20. 20. http://ontologist.com 20 The source of extralegal law Documents issued by an authority within the framework of a valid legal institution vs. issued by an authority extralegally on its own behalf (cf. the US Declaration of Independence – extralegal law of the Mwenyekiti)
    21. 21. http://ontologist.com 21 Problem: If documents create (parts of) social reality how cope with the fact that social reality can involve contradictions? (Problem for Searle’s ontology of social reality – according to which X is Y if X counts as Y in a given social context C)
    22. 22. http://ontologist.com 22 Identity documents • create identity • and thereby create the possibility of identity theft
    23. 23. http://ontologist.com 23 Directions of fit between language and reality from word to world (words must fit world) assertives (statements, descriptions) from world to word (world must be made to fit word) directives (commands, requests, entreaties) commisives (promises): bind the speaker to perform a certain action in the future
    24. 24. http://ontologist.com 24 Organizational chart a map of the organization and of its flows of authority (a system of positional roles in the document represents [creates?] the system of positional roles which is the organization)
    25. 25. http://ontologist.com 25 Non-Documents novel textbook newspaper advertizing flier timetable recipe map prayer business card LINGUISTIC ARTIFACTS WHICH EXIST PRIMARILY AS TYPES (cf. Ingarden on the work of literature) Documents license birth certificate death certificate degree certificate deed contract will receipt passport LINGUISTIC ARTIFACTS WHICH EXIST PRIMARILY AS TOKENS
    26. 26. http://ontologist.com 26 Non-Documents Documents Made of paper Not made of paper novel textbook newspaper advertizing flier timetable recipe map business card Leonardo cartoon license degree certificate deed contract will receipt road sign advertizing hoarding car badging gravestone silver hallmark clay tablet e-document electronic health record movie clapper credit card
    27. 27. http://ontologist.com 27 declarative/descriptive documents plus something more title/deed/cadastral map (gives rights) price tag/pricelist (makes commitments) patent (gives rights) license/degree certificate (gives rights) statement of accounts (?) identity card/passport (gives rights) membership card (gives rights) birth certificate (?) death certificate (? connected to other documents/e.g. voting records) marriage license (gives rights and obligations) divorce decree (gives rights and obligations)
    28. 28. http://ontologist.com 28 Other kinds of documents partnership agreement/ statute of incorporation proxy form/representation agreement tax form minutes of a meeting ballot form residence permit census report stock certificate insurance claim form insurance policy visa/immigration document insurance card/health insurance card health certificate consent form (for medical procedure) medical record criminal record Führungszeugnis pension book rent book accident report/theft report/police report/charge bankruptcy certificate
    29. 29. http://ontologist.com 29 More examples architects plan urban plan engineering drawing city survey census form lab note medical progress note discharge summary insurance certificate marriage license, letter of credit
    30. 30. http://ontologist.com 30 Further distinctions documents which need to be displayed (e.g. a price list) documents which need to be filled in vs. documents which are self-contained documents filled in completely/partially correctly/incorrectly validly/invalidly
    31. 31. http://ontologist.com 31 What you can do to and with a document [DOCUMENT EVENTS] Sign it Stamp it Witness it Fill it in Revise it Nullify it Realize (interrupt, abort ...) actions mandated by it Deliver it (de facto, de jure) Declare it active/inactive Register it Archive it Destroy it
    32. 32. http://ontologist.com 32 DOCUMENT EVENTS All the mentioned event-types are independent of the document content and purpose a Easily trasferrable to new applications (e.g. credit approval). They are about human interaction via a document in the abstract. They are essentially several lists of names attached to document portions that are also linked into whole documents.
    33. 33. http://ontologist.com 33 Ontology of document registries • If you have a company registry with 600 names, but only 150 companies actually exist, the registry is useless
    34. 34. http://ontologist.com 34 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.
    35. 35. http://ontologist.com 35 fingerprint official stamp photograph bar code, cow brand car license plate numbered plot for street trader allow cross-referencing to documents knowledge by acquaintance knowledge by description knowledge by comparison
    36. 36. http://ontologist.com 36 Anchoring • How photographs, maps, fingerprints, unique IDs anchor documents to corresponding entities in reality ?
    37. 37. http://ontologist.com 37 Epistemological use of documents • I use my passport to prove my identity • You use my passport to check my identity – Knowledge by acquaintance – Knowledge by description – Knowledge by comparison
    38. 38. http://ontologist.com 38 anchoring documents to reality how will the ontology of documents look when e- documents are incorporated?
    39. 39. http://ontologist.com 39 Attachment • One document attached to another (documents can talk to each other; they can be filed with each other) • The relations between documents then map corresponding relations between the realities documented
    40. 40. http://ontologist.com 40 Splitting • documents can be split (hat check, torn dollar bill) • documents can have a firework style history of initiating new actions ... (Kanban)
    41. 41. http://ontologist.com 41
    42. 42. http://ontologist.com 42 Documents and their addressees Each kind of document has an associated kind of public 1. the creators of the document-template (legislators, drafters ...) 2. the guardians of the document (solicitors, notaries ...) 3. the fillers-in of the document (this is the central target audience) 4. the recipients of the document (registrars, ...) 5. Who else?
    43. 43. http://ontologist.com 43 Bundling documents to create networks • One document attached to a copy of another document • The relations between documents then map corresponding relations between the realities documented
    44. 44. http://ontologist.com 44 Good documents vs. bad documents Problem with Goody and the literature on literacy They say: massive documentation created the conditions of modern civilization they neglect the degree to which totalitarian societies, too, were made possible by documentation
    45. 45. http://ontologist.com 45 Standardized forms Template followed by filling in First step towards standardized products is a plan, a description, a template, which can be filled in (brand identity))
    46. 46. http://ontologist.com 46 Document vs. standardized form/template documents filled in completely/partially correctly/incorrectly validly/invalidly
    47. 47. http://ontologist.com 47 Standardized documents • allow networking • across time (documents can accumulate through attachment) • across space (different groups can orientate themselves around the same document forms)
    48. 48. http://ontologist.com 48 Good documents vs. bad documents Good documents must be well-designed 1. they must map the corresponding reality in a perspicuous way – cf. maps as document 2. they must be easy to fill in by members of its central target audience (need for process of education?) 3. they must not create new problems (should bow off the stage once they have been properly filled in and never be seen again except in those rare cases where problems arise)
    49. 49. http://ontologist.com 49 Documents which depend on other documents Car insurance document depends on residence permit depends on employment contract depends on health certificate depends on physician’s license to practice depends on degree certificate depends on examination document depends on examination script ...
    50. 50. http://ontologist.com 50 Documents which depend on other documents Permission to return damaged goods depends on delivery confirmation document depends on shipment document depends on receipt depends on bill depends on order depends on price-list
    51. 51. http://ontologist.com 51 The ontology of names • a baptism ceremony creates a new sort of cultural object called a name • this is an abstract yet time-bound object, like a nation or a club • it is an object with parts (your first name and your last name are parts of your name, in something like the way in which the first movement and the last movement are parts of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony)
    52. 52. http://ontologist.com 52 The ontology of signatures documents needing signatures signed/not signed/incorrectly signed/ fraudulently signed/signed and stamped signed by proxy with a single/with a plurality of signatories
    53. 53. http://ontologist.com 53 Countersignatures
    54. 54. http://ontologist.com 54 The document system is more than just documents Here too background conditions must be satisfied Hence, too, a document – a baptismal certificate a marriage license ... – is more than just a piece of paper – may need to be registered, archived, stamped
    55. 55. http://ontologist.com 55 Each document has a jurisdiction issue of enforceability documents create actionable liability collections expense of resort to district courts ...
    56. 56. http://ontologist.com 56 How to define documents • First: create a list of types: car license plates novels birth certificates certificate of correctness of a translation ... Now specify which items on this list are types of documents in the sense relevant here:
    57. 57. http://ontologist.com 57 Definition x is a document =def x is a (potentially permanent) record of time- sensitive information*, and is of a type instances of which are reliably used as constituents of instances of corresponding types of complex social actions *true or false?
    58. 58. http://ontologist.com 58 END
    59. 59. http://ontologist.com 59 Definition x is a document=def (1) x is a permanent record representing or expressing one or more deontically or institutionally relevant acts and (2) is of a type instances of which are reliably used (and produced to be used?) to achieve deontic ends in complex social actions
    60. 60. http://ontologist.com 60 What Do We Mean by Authentic? What's the Real McCoy? By H.M. Gladney and J.L. Bennett
    61. 61. http://ontologist.com 61 What Do We Mean by Authentic? What's the Real McCoy? By H.M. Gladney and J.L. Bennett
    62. 62. http://ontologist.com 62 What Do We Mean by Authentic? What's the Real McCoy? By H.M. Gladney and J.L. Bennett
    63. 63. http://ontologist.com 63 Pre-history and history • History = since documents • Imagine applying the methods of social science to the entire corpus of credit card transactions • Imagine doing something similar to the entire corpus of human history
    64. 64. http://ontologist.com 64 Different types of legality legality through and through legality which incorporates (good) extralegality on the side legality solely for the purposes of allowing (good) extralegality legality which masks (bad) illegality (again in various ways) (corruption) DIFFERENT TYPES OF ANSWER TO THE QUESTION: WHAT DOCUMENTS ARE MISSING?
    65. 65. http://ontologist.com 65 Groupware (from Robert Johnson) Factory system to authorise new product developments, which went to about 20 peaple sequentially (R&D, production costing etc.). – a system that allowed creation, viewing and updating a digital document by multiple parties. Aspects of authorship which we had to build in Owner of document Current owner Viewers Updaters Approvers Signers (who signed off parts eg. a costing) Parts of a document Updatable parts vs. parts now unchangeable (for audit reasons – you should not be able to retrospectively unapprove something you previously approved) Closure Lotus Notes does this?
    66. 66. http://ontologist.com 66 • • > • >Activities are extended episodes of action. Routines are a special case • >of activities in general. A routine is an activity where in each • >situation there is no choice between possible actions (there is a • >single affordance relevent to the activity). So we can formulate an • >information system that support routine activity as that set of • >resources that eliminate the need for choices at each stage of the • >activity. That is, it converts and choiceful activity into a routine • >activity. One possibility is to structure the environment - to engineer • >constraints and affordances that reduce choice. The other is to provide • >information resources that provide the extra information cues that • >resolve the choice. • >
    67. 67. http://ontologist.com 67 • >For instance if we are faced with two doorways that afford exit, a sign • >with an arrow would resolve the choice (given the actor has suitable • >enculturatyion). Alternatively, a rule such as "always take the left • >door" would resolce the choice. Again a list of the choices to be • >encoutered and the correct choice could be prepared before the journey. • >Finally, blocking one doorway physically would resolve the choice. All • >of these things would be information resources. As in Shannon • >information theory their information content is their ability to reduce • >choice (in this case choice for actions). • >
    68. 68. http://ontologist.com 68 • >So in relation to your question, you can view stereotyped documents • >this way. They express resolutions to choices (perhaps for the • >institutional receiver). The simplest case is when in an activity there • >is one choice with two options. Then only one bit of information is • >required, and this can be provided by a single sign such as a kanban • >card or a stop light or an arrow or a door handle. We can build from • >this case to sequences of simple signs for multi-situation activities, • >or to more complex sign structure requiring deeper cultural embedding • >(perhaps language). • >
    69. 69. http://ontologist.com 69 • >The signs are themselves affordances but they work in a more subtle way • >than the blocked doorway. It is our cultural practices that atune us to • >the sign whereas it is out innate perceptual abilities that atune us to • >the opening as an affordance for exit. • > • >There is another difference which I cannot quite articulate. In a • >natural affordance the pattern that can be perceived that gives away • >the oportunity for action provided by some physical structure is • >actually part of the "surface" of that structure. For instance, for the • >climbing affordance of steps, the physical part is the vertical and • >horozontal surfaces that recur in different settings. We percive them • >through an invariant pattern of parallel lines in the visual field that • >invariably accompanies the physical structure. • > • >For signs we seem to have abstracted way the signifier of the presence • >of an affording structure from the structure itself. So a sign saying • >pull does not "enable" you to pull to gain exit in that same way that a • >handle both signifies the pullability and also allows it to be effected • >at the same time. • > • >I think the idea that signs (and more complex styalised physical • >communications) are just affordances is an exciting one. What do you • >think? • >