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The Structure of III-Structured Solutions: Boundary Objects and Heterogeneous Distributed Problem Solving

Susan Leigh Star

Understanding community goals means analyzing the problem of due process in open systems. Due process means incorporating different viewpoints for decision-making in a fair and flexible manner. It is the analog of the frame problem in artificial intelligence. From analyses of organizational problem solving in scientific communities, the paper derives the concept of boundary objects and suggests that this concept would be an appropriate data structure for distributed intelligence. Boundary objects are those objects that are plastic enough to be adaptable across multiple viewpoints, yet maintain continuity of identity. Four types of boundary objects are identified: depositories, ideal types, terrains with coincident boundaries, and forms.

Brings to mind Christopher Alexander's concept of centers and edges for a timeless way of building. With a pattern language, boundary objects can be emergent dynamic commons. Applied to artificial intelligence, this opens the possibility of a distributed AI based on a social metaphor rather then a psychological one.