Scandinavian Journal of Information Systems


A conceptual analysis of modelling is undertaken. The major challenges posed by the growth of open and integrated systems prompts a careful rethinking of the basis of modelling. Particular attention is paid to object- oriented modelling. Our approach is characterized by an analytic framework borrowed from the philosophy of language called theories of reference (ToRs). This body of theories aims at accounting for how expressions of language may actually refer to the real world, very much the same task as in modelling. As opposed to most of the related work in the literature, we see this body of theories as a rich class. We argue that a number of the alternative approaches to modelling should be acknowledged to have important and relevant similarities with a rich body of ToRs. Our principal aim, besides the more immediate one to correct what we argue are philosophically inaccurate interpretations, is to encourage a more fruitful discussion regarding modelling. Working out a basis for modelling should not be performed after identifying short-comings in the most simplistic version of ToRs. This strategy is even less appealing when we know that these short-comings have been identified—and to a large extent even solved—a long time ago within the philosophy of language. We ought to learn to appreciate each of the ToRs and use them whenever appropriate; each of them has its merits. The relationship between theoretical discussions of modelling and the practice of systems development is also commented