Roles, An Interdisciplinary Perspective: Papers from the AAAI Fall Symposium
Guido Boella, James Odell, Leendert van der Torre, and Harko Verhagen, Cochairs
The notion of roles is ubiquitous not only in many areas of artificial intelligence, e.g., multiagent systems, computational linguistics, conceptual modeling, but also in many other areas of computer science, such as programming languages, software engineering, databases, etc., and also in other fields such as formal ontology, sociology, cognitive science, organizational science, and linguistics.
In sociology roles are often described as expected behavior of entities. In organizational science roles encompass more formal aspects such as rights and duties. Undisputed distinguishing features of roles seem to be their dependence on some other entities and their dynamic character. These properties contrast roles with the notion of natural types. Natural type seems to be essential to an entity: if an entity changes its natural type, it loses its identity; roles lack of the rigidity which natural types possess.
Discussions on roles are important not only to have a better understanding of theories using this notion, but also from the applicative point of view. For example, agent oriented software engineering, integration of ontologies, programming languages, databases, simulation can benefit from the introduction of a well-founded notion of role.
There is no common agreement yet about what roles are, which are their properties, and how they can be modeled in a uniform way in the different areas. One likely reason is that roles are discussed in very different contexts, so that interested researchers have little opportunity to meet with each other since there are few venues for research integration.