A Model for Organizational Interaction: Based on Agents, Founded in Logic
01 / 2000 - 01 / 2004
The motivation for this research originated from the need to devise support systems for Knowledge Management (KM) that incorporate the management of knowledge assets with the facilitation and encouragement of interaction between people in an open environment. Support systems for KM cannot be completely designed in advance, and must accommodate changing needs and tasks and support users with different goals and requirements. Three main assumptions underlie this research. Firstly, in many cases, autonomous entities need a social setting in order to realize their own individual goals. However, and this is our second assumption, organizations and/or societies have themselves global goals and requirements, which are not necessarily shared with any of the participating entities, but must be achieved by the (coordinated) activity of those individuals. Thirdly, we assume that a process of negotiation and adjustment is needed between individual and social requirements and characteristics in order to conjugate individual autonomy with social requirements and goals. The OperA model presented here uses the agent paradigm as conceptual design tool. In our opinion, the concept of agents presents two powerful bases for organizational interaction because it enables both the reference to any autonomous entity participating in an interaction (including people), and provides theoretical models for entities and interaction. OperA provides a flexible way to represent interaction and role enactment, because it abstracts from the specific internal representations of the individual agents, and separates the modeling of organizational requirements and aims. Contracts are used to link the different models and create specific instances that reflect the needs and structure of the current environment and participants. OperA can contribute to the acceptance and understanding of agent societies in organizations, because it is based on an organizational, collectivist view of the environment and uses the agent paradigm to provide a natural way to view and characterize intelligent systems. The dissertation furthermore presents an engineering methodology for OperA models. This methodology was used to apply the OperA framework to different case studies covering different aspects of interaction in organized environments, ranging from KM systems to non-monetary markets for the exchange of health services. This wide range of applications demonstrates the possibilities of the concept. Furthermore, OperA enables the use of technology to support interaction and collaboration in KM environments, in ways that enrich the organization and take in account individual requirements and motivations. Finally, the dissertation presents a formal theory for the OperA framework: the language for contract representation, LCR, based on deontic temporal logic. LCR is a very expressive logic for describing interaction in multi-agent systems that makes it possible to describe and verify contracts that specify interaction between agents. LCR provides a formal framework and integrated semantics for OperA, at all three levels of society specification (organizational, social and interaction). The formalism provides a rather realistic representation of a domain, in the sense that it treats temporal and communicative aspects and furthermore is able to represent deadlines and its influence in the behavior of the model.