Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Paper Review: How Social Distance of Process Designers Affects the Process of Process Modeling

How Social Distance of Process Designers Affects the Process of Process Modeling:
Insights From a Controlled Experiment

Jens Kolb, Michael Zimoch, Barbara Weber, Manfred Reichert
In: 29th Symposium On Applied Computing (SAC 2014), Enterprise Engineering Track, 24-28 March, 2014, Gyeongju, South Korea.


The increasing adoption of process-aware information systems (PAISs) by enterprises has resulted in large process model collections. Usually, process models are created either by in-house domain experts or external consultants. Thereby, high model quality is crucial, i.e., process mod- els should be syntactically correct and sound, and also reflect the real business processes properly. While numerous guidelines exist for creating correct and sound process mod- els, there is only little work dealing with cognitive aspects affecting process modeling. This paper addresses this gap and presents a controlled experiment using construal level theory. We investigate the influence the social distance of a process designer to the modeled domain has on the creation of process models. In particular, we are able to show significant differences between high and low social distance in respect to model quality and granularity. The results may help enterprises to compose adequate teams for creating or optimizing business process models.


Dsiclaimer!!! I do work with these people, and have a virtual world now with Jens and Michael, as a further extension to this work.  However, I am reviewing this paper as it has relevance to the situated cognition aspects that I am investigating, so I thought I would mull over it a little.

So their paper talks about a psychological distance concept, derived from Construal Level Theory (Todorov) which is a social psychology construct.  While it makes sense, I wonder whether this distance is related to how grounded, embodied or situated the memory of the tasks has become, I think social distance is linked to straight forward memory of sequences in some way.

Is the social distance related or synonymous with theories of situated cognition and memory with task sequences.  The context of their work is within the view-oriented visuals generated by their proView project implementation.  However, that is for typical process models, not 3D visuals of a work place.

Does social distance creates abstraction? Or does it simply provide different memories of acting out the process, or, different simulations of that process from our own internal perspectives?!?!?

They do note spatial issues, but have not addressed this in their work.

Interestingly, their thoughts give support to my ideas of using virtual worlds to engage people at the level of operationalisation in a process.  A first hypothesis could be: does the use of the virtual world undermine some of the social distance by the act of roleplaying the process in front of the analyst doing the modelling?!?

From their analysis: "In summary, hypotheses H1,1 and H1,3 can be accepted. In turn, hypothesis H1,4 is only partially supported and thus it cannot be accepted. Further, hypothesis H1,2 must be rejected. From this, we can conclude that low social distance has a positive impact on the granularity (H1,1) and semantic quality (H1,3) of resulting process models. We may also assume that low social distance has a positive impact on the perceived quality (H1,4); however, since it is partially supported, it cannot be generalized. Regarding syntactic quality (H1,2), no statistically significant difference is observed."

So the closer the social distance, the better are the semantic and granular aspects of the model.  I find interesting the observation that the only change is the modelling brief at the start having a stranger vs intimate friend in the lunch acquisition process.  It is intriguing that the social distance has an effect on the articulation of a process, and at a significant level on first analysis.  Does, maybe, this even come down to motivation?!?  Could it be that the participants were primed by the reference to friend to be more engaged in the task.  I note no controls on this aspect in the paper, but maybe I missed some subtlety in my brief reading.

Also, could the emotional attachment priming have affected the acquisition of memories, memories that can be read by the person in their modelling task.  So, is it social distance, or attachment levels that are measured here?  Maybe some controls around the identity of the person they are lunching with are needed.  Hey, if I imagined my lovely partner Ulrike, then I can imagine it affecting my motivation levels in some way. :-)

Also, the chances are that they have a memory of lunching with friends, and not with foreign strangers, thus the particpants are reading straight from memory.

My final thoughts are that there may be more experimentation needed to tease out the interactions of social distance vs actual memories vs motivation levels.

However, an intriguing paper, with lots of future analysis possibilities relevant to my work.


Construal Theory - Todorov, A., Goren, A., Trope, Y.: Probability as a Psychological Distance: Construal and Preferences. J Experimental Social Psychology 43 (2007) 473–482

Semiotic Theory and Conceptual Models - Lindland, O.I., Sindre, G., Solvberg, A.: Understanding Quality in Conceptual Modeling. IEEE Software 11 (1994) 42–49

Experimental Design - Wohlin, C., Runeson, P., Ho ̈st, M., Ohlsson, M.C., Regnell, B., Wesslen, A.: Experimentation in Software Engineering - An Introduction. Kluwer (2000)

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