Collaborative communities are complex and rapidly evolving socio-technical systems. The design of these systems includes the communal specification of communication and information requirements, as well as the selection, configuration, and linking of the software tools that best satisfy these requirements. Supporting the effective and efficient community-driven design of such complex and dynamic systems is not trivial.
To represent and reason about the system design specifications we use conceptual graph theory. We do so because the knowledge representation language of choice must be rich enough to allow the efficient expression of complex definitions. Also, since design specifications derive from complex real world domains and community members themselves are actively involved in specification processes, a close mapping of knowledge definitions to natural language expressions and vice versa is useful. Finally, the representation language must be sufficiently formal and constrained for powerful knowledge operations to
be constructed. Conceptual graph theory has all of these properties.
We explore how conceptual graphs can be used to:
1. model the core elements of such socio-technical systems and their design processes.
2. specify communication and information requirements and match these with social software functionalities.
We illustrate these design processes with examples from a realistic scenario on building a knowledge-driven topic community on climate change.