Declarations of significance: Exploring the
pragmatic nature of information models
Cardiff Business School, Cardiff University,
Aberconway Building, Colum Drive, Cardiff
CF10 3EU, UK
Paul Beynon‐Davies, Cardiff Business School,
Cardiff University, Aberconway Building,
Colum Drive, Cardiff, CF10 3EU UK.
This paper considers the juncture experienced between information
modelling in theory and information modelling in practice. It iden-
tifies the basis of this juncture in an unsatisfactory ontological basis
for information modelling. Using both the early and more recent
work of Searle, it establishes the need for information models to
be framed in terms of communicative patterns significant within
some delimited institutional domain. Such communicative patterns
are visualised in terms of an innovative artefact known as a pattern
comic. The propositional content of communicative acts within such
patterns is then expressed as a set of binary relations, which can be
transformed into various visualisations of an information model.
Patterns of communicative action evident in the domain of medical
emergency response are used throughout to illustrate this prag-
matic approach to constructing information models.
binary relations, information modelling, pattern comics, social
ontology, speech act theory
Hay (1996) cogently sums up the central problematic faced by practitioners of information modelling, when he states,
learning the basics of a modelling technique is not the same as learning how to use and apply it …
[Information] modelling is particularly complex to learn, because it requires the modeller to gain insights
into an organization's nature that do not come easily.
Part of the attraction of information modelling is that it uses relatively few constructs. But breakdowns in design
(Bødker & Grønbœk, 1991) make this seductively simple approach extremely difficult to apply effectively when
engaging with instances of organisation.
My aim in this paper is to explore difficulties experienced in the practical conduct of information modelling and
propose a solution to such difficulties based on understanding the proper positioning of information models in relation
to the place of communicative competence in the constitution of institutional ontology. I make claim that much of the
problematic experienced with the conduct of information modelling in practice is due to a misconceived notion of the
Received: 14 October 2013 Revised: 30 March 2017 Accepted: 3 April 2017
612 © 2017 John Wiley & Sons Ltd Info Systems J. 2018;28:612–633.wileyonlinelibrary.com/journal/isj