The Language-Action Perspective on Communication Modelling

  The Challenge

The challenges involved in creating and implementing effective information systems have intensified in recent years. organisations and communities are increasingly turning to information systems to facilitate the interactions central to their purpose. These interactions include but are not limited to business transactions, negotiation, knowledge creation and dissemination, inter-organisational cooperation, argumentation, problem-solving, collaboration, learning, customer relations, and civic participation. How these interactions are understood and modelled is fundamental to the quality of the support that designed systems can offer organisations and communities.

The Language-Action Perspective

LAP - the Language-Action Perspective on Communication Modelling - is a theoretical orientation toward solving these design challenges that has been taken up by an international, multi-disciplinary community of researchers and practitioners. LAP emphasizes the importance of interaction and communication in designing useable, useful, and legitimate information systems. LAP recognizes that language is not only used for exchanging information, as in reports or statements, but that language is used to perform actions, as in promises, orders, requests, and declarations. Such actions are the foundation of communities and organisations and must be understood to create effective systems. This insight has profound implications for the theory and practice of designing systems to support organisational and community processes.

Two theories of communication, which recognize language as a form of action, have traditionally formed the theoretical foundations of LAP: Searle's Theory of Speech Acts and Habermas' Theory of Communicative Action. Following Winograd and Flores' pioneering work on language-action in system design and implementation, a second wave of frameworks, models and systems emerged in the 90s. In the new century, the LAP community continues to provide an intellectual forum for those concerned with advancing the theory and practice of communication modelling to better understand the design and use of information systems. Although acknowledging the important origin in speech act theory and communicative theory, the LAP conferences are not restricted to these theories. Other relevant theoretical sources may also be used when addressing the pragmatic and interactional nature of language use.

So far, 9 successful gatherings of scholars and practitioners interested in the Language-Action Perspective (LAP) have been held in the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Canada and USA. 2003 the traditional workshop format was changed to an international working conference to reflect the level of maturity the LAP field has achieved. Recent proceedings are available at:

LAP '04 - http://www.scils.rutgers.edu/lap04/lap04.htm
LAP '03 - http://www.uvt.nl/lap2003
LAP '02 - http://www-i5.informatik.rwth-aachen.de/conf/lap2001/LAP2002Proc.pdf
LAP '01 - http://www-i5.informatik.rwth-aachen.de/conf/lap2001/programme.htm
LAP '00 - http://www-i5.informatik.rwth-aachen.de/conf/lap2000/contents.pdf
LAP '99 - http://www.ihh.hj.se/eng/vits/lap99/Proc_papers.htm
LAP '98 - http://www.ihh.hj.se/eng/vits/lap98/Proc_papers.htm