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Dispute of Part-Whole Representation in Conceptual Modeling
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Taekyung Kim (Graduate School of Business, Seoul National University)
Jinsoo Park (Graduate School of Business, Seoul National University)
Sangkyu Rho (Graduate School of Business, Seoul National University)
Vol. 18, No. 4, Page: 97 ~ 116
Conceptual Modeling, Part-Whole Relations, Bunge-Wand-Weber Ontology
Conceptual modeling is an important step for successful system development. It helps system designers and business practitioners share the same view on domain knowledge. If the work is successful, a result of conceptual modeling can be beneficial in increasing productivity and reducing failures. However, the value of conceptual modeling is unlikely to be evaluated uniformly because we are lack of agreement on how to elicit concepts and how to represent those with conceptual modeling constructs. Especially, designing relationships between components, also known as part-whole relationships, have been regarded as complicated work. The recent study, "Representing Part-Whole Relations in Conceptual Modeling : An Empirical Evaluation" (Shanks et al., 2008), published in MIS Quarterly, can be regarded as one of positive efforts. Not only the study is one of few attempts of trying to clarify how to select modeling alternatives in part-whole design, but also it shows results based on an empirical experiment. Shanks et al. argue that there are two modeling alternatives to represent part-whole relationships : an implicit representation and an explicit one. By conducting an experiment, they insist that the explicit representation increases the value of a conceptual model. Moreover, Shanks et al. justify their findings by citing the BWW ontology. Recently, the study from Shanks et al. faces criticism. Allen and March (2012) argue that Shanks et al.'s experiment is lack of validity and reliability since the experimental setting suffers from error-prone and self-defensive design. They point out that the experiment is intentionally fabricated to support the idea, as such that using concrete UML concepts results in positive results in understanding models. Additionally, Allen and March add that the experiment failed to consider boundary conditions; thus reducing credibility. Shanks and Weber (2012) contradict flatly the argument suggested by Allen and March (2012). To defend, they posit the BWW ontology is righteously applied in supporting the research. Moreover, the experiment, they insist, can be fairly acceptable. Therefore, Shanks and Weber argue that Allen and March distort the true value of Shanks et al. by pointing out minor limitations. In this study, we try to investigate the dispute around Shanks et al. in order to answer to the following question : "What is the proper value of the study conducted by Shanks et al.?" More profoundly, we question whether or not using the BWW ontology can be the only viable option of exploring better conceptual modeling methods and procedures. To understand key issues around the dispute, first we reviewed previous studies relating to the BWW ontology. We critically reviewed both of Shanks and Weber and Allen and March. With those findings, we further discuss theories on part-whole (or part-of) relationships that are rarely treated in the dispute. As a result, we found three additional evidences that are not sufficiently covered by the dispute. The main focus of the dispute is on the errors of experimental methods: Shanks et al. did not use Bunge's Ontology properly; the refutation of a paradigm shift is lack of concrete, logical rationale; the conceptualization on part-whole relations should be reformed. Conclusively, Allen and March indicate properly issues that weaken the value of Shanks et al. In general, their criticism is reasonable; however, they do not provide sufficient answers how to anchor future studies on part-whole relationships. We argue that the use of the BWW ontology should be rigorously evaluated by its original philosophical rationales surrounding part-whole existence. Moreover, conceptual modeling on the part-whole phenomena should be investigated with more plentiful lens of alternative theories. The criticism on Shanks et al. should not be regarded as a contradiction on evaluating modeling methods of alternative part-whole representations. To the contrary, it should be viewed as a call for research on usable and useful approaches to increase value of conceptual modeling.
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부분-전체 관계에 관한 개념적 모델링의 논의에 관하여
김태경 (서울대학교 경영대학)
박진수 (서울대학교 경영대학)
노상규 (서울대학교 경영대학)
개념적 모델링(conceptual modeling)은 정보시스템 개발에 있어서 중요한 역할을 수행한다. 그럼에도 불구하고 이를 성공적으로 수행하기 위해 어떠한 방법을 채택해야 하고 그 결과를 어떻게 평가해야 할 것인지에 대한 이론적 성과는 충분하지 않다. 부분과 전체에 대한 개념적 모델링을 평가하기 위해 온톨로지 이론을 도입한 최근의 연구, "Representing Part-Whole Relations in Conceptual Modeling : An Empirical Evaluation"(Shanks et al., 2008)은 개념적 모델링 평가에 실험법을 도입했다는 긍정적인 측면에도 불구하고 비판에 직면했다. 또한 이에 대한 반대 의견이 제시되면서 개념적 모델링을 연구하거나 실무에 활용하려는 사람들에게 혼란을 초래하고 있다. 본 연구는 Bunge-Wand-Weber 온톨로지의 이론적 배경과 성과를 검토하고 논쟁에서 제외된 부분과 전체에 관한 이론적 논의를 추가하여 과연 Shanks et al.의 연구에 대한 비판이 타당한 것인지 살펴본다. 이들 연구에 대한 비판이 주로 실험적 방법의 오류를 지적한 것과 비교하여 본 연구는 Shanks et al.의 연구가 번지(Bunge) 온톨로지를 잘못 활용하고 있으며, 패러다임의 문제라는 지적은 그 근거가 확실하지 않으며, 부분과 전체에 관한 연구개념의 타당성을 확보하지 않았음을 밝혔다. 본 논문을 통해 우리는 Shanks et al.의 연구는 실증적 타당성에 대한 문제뿐만 아니라 기존의 온톨로지 개념들을 적절히 활용하지 않았고 결과적으로 부분-전체에 관한 개념적 모델링 이론에 기여하기보다는 서로 다른 모델링 패턴 간의 단순한 비교에 그쳤다는 점을 주장한다.
Cite this article
JIIS Style
Kim, T., J. Park, and S. . Rho, "Dispute of Part-Whole Representation in Conceptual Modeling", Journal of Intelligence and Information Systems, Vol. 18, No. 4 (2012), 97~116.

IEEE Style
Taekyung Kim, Jinsoo Park, and Sangkyu Rho, "Dispute of Part-Whole Representation in Conceptual Modeling", Journal of Intelligence and Information Systems, vol. 18, no. 4, pp. 97~116, 2012.

ACM Style
Kim, T., Park, J., and Rho, S. ., 2012. Dispute of Part-Whole Representation in Conceptual Modeling. Journal of Intelligence and Information Systems. 18, 4, 97--116.
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author = {Kim, Taekyung and Park, Jinsoo and Rho, Sangkyu },
title = {Dispute of Part-Whole Representation in Conceptual Modeling},
journal = {Journal of Intelligence and Information Systems},
issue_date = {December 2012},
volume = {18},
number = {4},
month = Dec,
year = {2012},
issn = {2288-4866},
pages = {97--116},
url = {},
doi = {},
publisher = {Korea Intelligent Information System Society},
address = {Seoul, Republic of Korea},
keywords = { Conceptual Modeling, Part-Whole Relations and Bunge-Wand-Weber Ontology },
%0 Journal Article
%1 514
%A Taekyung Kim
%A Jinsoo Park
%A Sangkyu Rho
%T Dispute of Part-Whole Representation in Conceptual Modeling
%J Journal of Intelligence and Information Systems
%@ 2288-4866
%V 18
%N 4
%P 97-116
%D 2012
%I Korea Intelligent Information System Society