We are a young team of researchers with backgrounds in information systems, conceptual modeling, economics, computer science, and related disciplines. In our research, we are addressing the theoretical and practical problems of using the Web for automating the coordination of economic activity.
Such is of utmost importance for highly developed economies. Why that? Simply because our wealth is largely based on the ability to coordinate production processes with a very high degree of division of labor. We owe to Adam Smith the insight that breaking up production into small tasks, and allowing people to focus on the execution of but a few of them, increases overall productivity. Ever since that discovery, however, we have been struggling with the effort for coordinating the resulting distribution of work – we have to search for suitable partners, select the best one, negotiate, set-up agreements, supervise and enforce. The more we gain from specialization and division of labor, the more resources are needed to align activities. In other words, there is a point in which the effort for coordinating complex workflows is eating up the gains from specialization.
Now, only if we are able to reduce the effort needed to coordinate labor, we can exploit further specialization gains.
In our group, we work on the theoretical and practical challenges of using the World Wide Web for facilitating the exchange of tangible and intangible goods between economic actors. Our core research interest is using Semantic Web technology for E-Procurement and Business Process Management.
Our work takes place at the intersection of three fields:
- Web Science: The Web is a socio-technical environment of unprecedented growth and dynamics. Introduced to the public in 1992 only, it has transformed the way humans exchange information in less than two decades. Web Science is the attempt to establish a research field that aims at understanding the technical problems of the Web, the social interaction, and the mutual interplay between those two spheres on the Web.
- Data and Knowledge Engineering: The design and maintenance of structures and models so that we can use computer systems to solve real-world problems, and so that communication between multiple computers and between computers and human users is possible. When computers were mostly isolated machines, modeling the data structures and the behavior of software was a lesser issue. Nowadays, however, data and processes must be represented in a way that facilitates global reuse of data and functionality over the Web. This makes finding a suitable representation much more difficult. An current field of research is ontology engineering and ontological analysis of information systems.
- Economics: Understanding the principles of the exchange of resources between independent agents, the efficient distribution of resources, and the coordination of economic activity in general. A major field of interest for us is Transaction Cost Economics.