Words and Objects in Information Systems Development: Six Paradigms of Information as Representation

Feliciano Sese, Jonathan Wareham, Eduard Bonet


The notion of ‘information’ is one of the most basic in the Information Systems field. However, a clear consensus of what the term signifies remains evasive to both theorists and practitioners. Even in the applied discipline of Information Systems Development, the notion of information as representation is ambiguous. To motivate the discussion, we demonstrate a variety of contradictory stances held by several researchers in this domain. To make sense out of this perplexing variety, we develop a philosophical framework to highlight the divergence in philosophical assumptions. Our goal in this exercise is to delineate the ontological and epistemological bias of six exemplars of systems development techniques: software engineering, ontological engineering, ontological design, conceptual modeling, database normalization, and formal methods. A deeper understanding of the implicit philosophical premises can enlighten the choice of an appropriate method to address specific, concrete developmental challenges, as well as provide an understanding of the philosophical genesis of widely applied developmental tools.