MEASUR – Semiotic Tools for IS Development
Ronald Stamper and colleagues
2004, the day before the 7th OS Workshop.
The MEASUR methods evolved from research on the semiotics of organisations. The goal was to develop precise formal tools for specifying organisations in terms of the norms that govern human behaviour. As a result of applying these tools to countless concrete cases, systematic methods of analysis were gradually established. The theory underlying the tools and methods makes use of several new concepts that we hope will serve the community engaged in teaching and research in the new field of Organisational Semiotics. In particular, MEASUR focuses upon human information requirements by analysing knowledge, responsibilities and meanings to produce rigorous specifications from which IT applications can be generated directly by default.
MEASUR advances the theory of IS by replacing the usual "information flow" model by an "information field" paradigm. A community that shares sets of norms (social, organisational or legal) constitutes an information field; their norms define their organised behaviour and determine their information needs. Whereas the flow model leads to a technical analysis, the field model compels one to analyse the human aspects of a system.
Theoretically MEASUR undermines the prevailing philosophical assumptions, providing OS with a more appropriate metaphysics. It replaces the ontology of objectivism with one of actualism that recognises reality as a social construct. This leads to the new logical concept of ontological dependency that forms the basis for MEASUR’s system specification language. Truth becomes a secondary notion replaced by responsibility in the fundamental role. This reveals signs as the instruments for constructing reality through communication acts that create and employ knowledge. Norms (= knowledge) serve as the building blocks in an architecture of organisational forms. These ideas suggest new approaches to old problems – power, intentions, attitudes, time, categories, language, for example – waiting to be explored.
MEASUR in PRACTICE yields marked improvements in system quality and adaptability. Massive reductions in costs of system development, support and maintenance were achieved with huge reductions in documentation that also become easy to understand and use. MEASUR is not an airy-fairy theory!
This INTERACTIVE WORKSHOP outlines the MEASUR methods. Practical applications will be discussed especially in relation to the concept of a Semantic Normal Form (based on ontological dependency concept), which is the key to the main practical benefits. THOSE ATTENDING the workshop will have access to draft publications on MEASUR techniques and will be invited to try them out.
Ronald Stamper, established the MEASUR research programme at the London School of Economics in 1971, completing the main theoretical work before moving to the University of Twente in 1988. He will present at this workshop with his colleagues from the University of Reading and Staffordshire University, who are working with him on the SEDITA Project funded by the British Research Council, EPSRC. This mini workshop, preceding the 7th OS workshop, is open to its delegates and others who are interested; attendance is free in return for your valuable comments and feedback