How Can Groups Communicate When They Use Different Languages? Translating Between Partially Shared Type Hierarchies
ALFRED P SLOAN SCHOOL OF MANAGEMENT CAMBRIDGE MA
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Many computer systems are based on various types of messages, forms, or other objects. When users of such systems need to communicate with people who use different object types, some kind of translation is necessary. In this paper, we explore the space of general solutions to this translation problem and propose several specific solutions to it. After first illustrating the problem in the Object Lens system, we identify two partly conflicting objectives that any translation scheme should satisfy preservation of meaning and autonomous evolution of group languages. Then we partition the space of possible solutions to this problem in terms of the set theoretic relations between group languages and a common language. This leads to five primary solution classes and we illustrate and evaluate each one. Finally, we describe a composite scheme, called Partially Shared Views, that combines many of the best features of the other schemes. A key insight of the analysis is that partially shared type hierarchies allow foreign object types to be automatically translated into their nearest common ancestor types. The partial interoperability attained in this way makes possible flexible standards where people can benefit from whatever agreements they do have without having to agree on everything. Even though our examples deal primarily with extensions to the Object Lens system, the analysis also suggests how other kinds of systems, such as heterogeneous databases or EDI applications, might exploit specialization hierarchies of object types to simplify the translation problem.
- Information Science
- Computer Systems