An Ontology-Based Process for Domain-Specific Visual Language Design

Name: Maria das Graças da Silva Teixeira
Type: PhD thesis
Publication date: 17/08/2017

Namesort descending Role
Giancarlo Guizzardi Advisor *
Ricardo de Almeida Falbo Co-advisor *

Examining board:

Namesort descending Role
Giancarlo Guizzardi Advisor *
João Paulo Andrade Almeida Internal Examiner *
Maria Luiza Machado Campos Internal Examiner *
Ricardo de Almeida Falbo Co advisor *

Summary: In Conceptual Modeling, there has been a growing in
terest in Domain-Specifc Visual
Modeling Languages (DSVML) and the support they pro
vide for problem domain
understanding and communication between stakeholder
s. Thus, it is important to
provide guidelines for designing DSVMLs. For many y
ears, the research focus has
been on abstract syntax, whilst concrete syntax has
received lower attention. This is
unfortunate, because the visual syntax has a signif
icant impact on the efficiency of
the communication and problem solving capabilities
of conceptual models.
One of the most widespread work for analysis and de
sign of visual aspects of
modeling languages is the Physics of Notations (PoN
). PoN defines a set of
principles used for analyzing and designing cogniti
vely effective visual notations.
However, PoN has shortcomings, as: (i) it lacks a m
ethod to apply its principles; (ii)
the design of symbols does not systematically creat
e symbols that reflect entities in
the real-world.
In this work, we present the
Physics of Notations Systematized (PoN-S)
for solving
shortcoming (i). PoN-S establishes an ordered set o
f design activities and suggests
when to apply the PoN principles. Also, it proposes
groups of PoN principles.
Another way for improving the DSVML quality involve
s the application of ontological
theories, but can ontologies be successfully applie
d in the design of concrete syntax
as it has been applied for abstract syntax? Guizzar
di (2013) proposes some Unified
Foundational Ontology (UFO)-based guidelines that h
elps in the design of visual
notations. However, also these guidelines have some
shortcomings: (iii) The
guidelines are isolated guidelines and not part of
a design process; (iv) The set of
considered constructs and, thus, the set of ontolog
ical distinctions considered is
restricted; (v) The ontological guidelines are rest
ricted to be applied in the
establishment of the DSVML symbols activity.
To solve shortcomings (ii) till (v) we combined the
UFO-based guidelines with PoN-S,
giving rise to the
Physics of Notations Ontologized and Systematized (
PoNTO-S is a systematic design process of DSVML con
crete syntax that connects
the concrete syntax and the real-world (i.e., ontol
ogical) semantics.
This research is a Design Science project with diff
erent iterations, each one
producing their own artifacts. The design problem f
aced is the design of DSVML
concrete syntaxes. The artifacts, PoN-S and PoNTO-S
, were improvements upon two
existing solutions of the problem: PoN theory and U
FO-based guidelines. These
artifacts can be classified as design theories, as
they are design processes. Also, we
invested in empirical studies. We performed explora
tory studies to support the
indications collected in the literature review and
guide some decisions. After
developing releases of PoN-S and PoNTO-S we applied
one experiment and two
case studies that generated evidences for us to con
cluded that PoN-S and PoNTO-S
are helpful in the language development, and that b
oth approaches can evolve, given
rise to more useful approaches

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