Whereas actual objects are self-sufficient and can stand on their own, symbolic ones must be set into their social context if they are to be of any use.
Objects and Conventions
Business concerns are not limited to physical objects and are more than often stand by convention independently of any materiality, as illustrated by agreements, events, or roles. Since reducing multiple actual aspects to a subset of relevant ones pose no problem, physical objects can always be directly mapped into some symbolic representation. Yet, when information systems are introduced, the flip side is that it may be difficult to distinguish between business objects and their symbolic counterparts.
Symbolic representations and business counterparts
Whereas the primary objective of information systems is to manage symbolic representations of business objects (aka surrogates), other symbolic objects are to be considered.
First, one may put aside derived objects, since they reflect other symbolic objects and have no actual counterparts.
Then, we can also ignore the symbolic representations of activities, since their life-cycle is limited to processes execution, even if their states may have to be recorded persistently.
What remain are the symbolic representation of business objects whose identity and consistency have to be manage independently of processes execution, in particular:
- Agreements, contracts, conventions, etc.
- Roles (active or passive) defined within organizations.
- Categories used to classify objects or phenomenons.
Being originally designed as symbolic artifacts, those objects can be directly mapped into their representation as system surrogates.
It must be noted that whereas customary objects may be materialized, the outcome is not necessarily a business object by itself. That is only the case for binary business objects (e.g art pieces) which enjoy a two-faced currency as both actual and symbolic.