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Subject: RE: [soa-rm-ra] The multiple overlapping senses of joint action.


Two points here: one for a clarification and the other still questioning the necessity of the elaboration.

First, if I cut down a tree, is there a joint action?  There is certainly a real world effect.  

I use this as my "action" scenario in order to avoid messages.  Message exchange seems to always require joint action -- the speaker and the listener -- for anything to get done.  The message exchange is by construction a joint action, and all the other levels of intent you mention often get masked.

The concept of an action meant for different purposes is critical for trust because the question comes down to whether the individual intent of the parties will likely lead to acceptable RWEs, even if the intents are somewhat different.

This leads me to the second point: what of all this is required to tell the story for the RA?  Interaction is made up of joint actions, but when is it not sufficient to talk about interaction?  We seem to do quite well in section 4, although it will take a bit of effort to reconstruct what Jeff and I decided when we first had the action to tackle this.  As for trust, the initial write-up I did seemed to capture more than some folks felt necessary, and it made no mention of joint action.

One of our principles is parsimony.  I understand, although I still have a few questions on, your elaboration of joint action.  The question is whether this is the most parsimonious way to tell the story.  Of more concern, will anyone not part of our discussion understand it?


From: Francis McCabe [fmccabe@gmail.com]
Sent: Tuesday, July 21, 2009 12:33 AM
To: soa-rm-ra@lists.oasis-open.org RA
Subject: [soa-rm-ra] The multiple overlapping senses of joint action.

A joint action is a coordinated set of actions involving the efforts
of two or more actors to achieve an effect

In any social context joint actions abound: people talking to each
other, people buying and selling, people arranging their lives. In
addition, joint action is at the heart of interactions within the
context of a SOA ecosystem.

There is another sense in which joint actions abound: even within a
single incident of interaction there are typically several overlapping
joint actions.

For example, when one person says to another: "it is stuffy in here"
there is an immediate sense in which there is a joint action -- a
joint communicative action. The intended effect being that the
listener believes that the speaker intends him to understand that the
speaker believes that the atmosphere is uncomfortable. (The listener
may also believe that the atmosphere *is* uncomfortable as a result of
the communication.)

However, in the right context, there may be another joint action: the
apparent declaration may in fact be a command.  The intent being that
the speaker wishes the listener to understand that the door should be

There may be a further layer to this scenario: the speaker might be
aware that there is someone who is waiting to be let in. The command
to open the door is actually a command to admit the visitor to the room.

Fundamentally all three of these senses of joint action are
superimposed on top of each other. However, there is a strong sense in
which the different joint actions may be quite interchangeable. For
example, instead of declaring that the "room is stuffy", the speaker
might have simply said "open the door". Or the speaker might have said
"please let John in". In each case the effect would have been the same
-- modulo the sensitivities of the speaker and listener -- the door
being open and the visitor admitted to the room.

The relationship between the communicative joint action: the utterance
of the declaration and the command joint action is a `uses'
relationship. The speaking joint action is used to convey the command
joint action; which in turn is used to convey the visitor admittance

In many situations the best predicate that describes the relationship
between these different joint actions is the 'counts as' predicate.
The utterance action counts as the command to open the door. The
command to open the door counts as the request to admit the visitor.

It can be extremely useful to identify and separate the different
overlapping senses of joint action. It allows us to separately
describe and process the communicative actions from the command joint
actions. This, in turn, reflects the fact that each layer has its own
logic and ontology.

For example, at the utterance level, the issues are to do with the
successful understanding of the content of the communication -- did
the listener hear and understand the words, did the speaker intend to
say them, and so on.

At the level of the command to open the door, the issues center on
whether there is a predisposition on the part of the listener to obey
commands given to him by the speaker.

In the context of a SOA ecosystem we can separately capture the logic
and mechanics of what is involved in electronic communication -- the
sending of messages, the security of the communication and so on; from
the logic and mechanics of command -- does the listener believe that
the speaker has the appropriate authority to issue the command.

As with human communication, electronic interactions are similarly
interchangeable: the commitment to purchase a book requires some form
of communication between buyer and seller; but the purchase action
itself is unchanged by the use of email or an HTTP post of an XML

In summary, the concept of joint action allows us to honor the fact
that both parties in an interaction are required for there to be an
actual effect; it allows us to separate out the different levels of
the interaction into appropriate semantic layers; and it allows us to
recombine those layers in potentially different ways whilst still
achieving the intended real world effects of action in a SOA ecosystem.

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