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Abstract

This paper argues that data modeling for information systems cannot be divorced from human perception, and is therefore marked by the subtle and often unconscious vagaries of cognition. In the absence of a formal semantics for modeling languages, this can result in models that are subjective, ambiguous, and difficult to interpret. Philosophical ontologies that provide a taxonomy of elements in the world have been proposed as a foundation to ground the symbols in various notational systems. Contrary to this view we show that models represent a designer’s psychological perception of the world rather than some idealized, philosophical description of that world. A precise ontology of cognitive perceptions is therefore more relevant for the design of diagrammatic notations for use in documenting and unambiguously communicating the analysis of a domain.

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