We live much of our lives immersed in the world of made up structures that we call Social Reality. In other words, much of our lives are governed by socially constructed (and, hence, to a certain extent fictional) entities such as money, citizenships, service offerings and agreements, real state ownerships, employments, enrollments, marriages, presidential mandates, awards, international treaties, legal liabilities, criminal records, stock options and derivative transactions, etc. In the past, these entities were traditionally grounded in physical counterparts such that, for instance, in a certain context a colored piece of paper or an engraved piece of metal could count as money. However, with the massive advance of information technology in the past decades, much of social reality is now purely grounded in a world of symbolic manipulation of digital representations. Moreover, much of this digital existence is scattered in a number of independent information silos that were created in different organizational cultures, through independent engineering processes, in different moments in space and time. In this new reality, for example, banks move from being institutions that print and store money into IT companies that deal almost exclusively with information representation and processing. In such a scenario, a number of fundamental questions arise. For instance, how is it the case that certain digital representations count as marriages, citizenships, stocks, employments or money? In other words, how do we collective build this new social reality by constructing and manipulating digital symbols? Furthermore, how can we create a unified view of social reality by putting together pieces of information that now reside in independent information silos, each of which carve out reality in potentially different ways? To use a simple example: is a particular entity (e.g., a person) represented in an information system (e.g., a social security system) the very same entity as the one represented in another system (e.g., the national health system)? If not one of identity, what is the relation between these two entities and what kind of inferences the knowledge of such a relation can afford? In this talk, I intend to argue that modern information systems engineering cannot succeed without the support of the 2400 years-old discipline of Ontology in philosophy, a discipline devoted to the systematic investigation of what exists in a given systems of representations.
Giancarlo Guizzardi has a PhD (with the highest distinction) from the University of Twente, The Netherlands. He is currently a Professor of Computer Science at the Free University of Bolzano-Bozen, Italy and a Senior Member of the Ontology and Conceptual Modeling Research Group (NEMO), in Brazil. Two well-known results associated to his research program are: the ontologically well-founded version of UML termed OntoUML, which has been adopted by many research, industrial and government institutions worldwide; and the foundational ontology UFO (Unified Foundational Ontology), which has influenced international standardization activities in areas such as Software Engineering and Enterprise Architecture (e.g., the Archimate Standard). He has been active for two decades in the areas of Ontologies, Conceptual Modeling and Enterprise Semantics. Over the years, he has conducted many technology transfer projects in large organizations in sectors such as Telecommunications, Software Engineering, Digital Advertisement, Product Recommendation, Digital Journalism, Complex Media Management, Energy, among others. Moreover, he has authored more than 200 peer-reviewed publications in the aforementioned areas, which have received more than 10 paper awards. He has also played key roles in international conferences such as general chair (e.g., FOIS), program chair (e.g., ER, FOIS, IEEE EDOC) and keynote speaker (e.g., ER, BPM, ICK3, BIR, EEWC), as well as in international journals such as associate editor (Applied Ontology) and member of editorial boards (e.g., Requirements Engineering Journal, Semantic Web Journal). Finally, he has been a member of the executive council and is currently a member of the Advisory Board of the International Association for Ontology and its Applications (IAOA).