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Three Spaces for Entities and Models of Applications

In some discussions about abstraction, I drew a picture to illustrate my abstract view for computing (at here), it appeared only two domains: the app domain and IT domain. Then, Andreas Leue pointed out that (at here), for a completed picture: “there’s a third abstraction/world view, located in the people’s minds who are doing the business and who are using the software…” and I said “It IS my complete picture for models and modeling: all the entities and its models are appeared in three spaces, I call them as Physical Space, Conceptual (or conscious, mind, I’m not sure which one is the better) Space, and Computing Space.”

The perspective in the discussions of abstraction and my three space view are a bit different but closely related. See the figure below, it come from my subject “General Thing Modeling” where I tried to build a framework of models and modeling for applications, and I use it as basic world view for computer applications*.

Three Spaces for Entities and Models of Applications

Each entity in one of the three spaces is with certain physical phenomenon — appears as a physical object individually or some physical trace can be measured (accessed) — but the specific operation/process will be only done by the special way of the space. For example, a statement writing on a paper or a computer file in text, the “meanings” will be read/understood by human so it is belonged to conceptual space; a record of a customer in a database will be accessed by the computer (program) so it is belonged to computing space, especially, it will represented the customer in physical space (which known as a concept in conceptual space) that is, a model of the customer. See the picture. In general, an entity in the physical space may be known as a concrete concept in the conceptual space, and may has a data entity’1 in the computing space; an abstract concept in the conceptual space has no entity in the physical space but has the entity’ 2 in the computing space. Yet, there are many cases on it, and the cases are quite complicated then my primary imagination, while attempt to depict and clarify all of relationships on this view. In deed, I think this is the actual background of the analysis for models and modeling to applications.

This view of three spaces seems simple and natural but in my experience, it is often unwittingly confused, especially with the correspondence among different models (and its objects), in the practice of modeling and the uses of models.
* It is different to Karl Popper’s three worlds but, the physical space is basically equal to Popper’s World 1, the conceptual space is closed to the World 2, and the computing space do not correspond to any of Popper’s three worlds.


About TY

interested in models & modeling, software, information systems, applications & engineering for enterprises


9 thoughts on “Three Spaces for Entities and Models of Applications

  1. Rémy Fannader also emphasises the conceptual/concrete mapping on caminao.wordpress.com

    Posted by vhanniet | October 28, 2011, 14:37
    • I’ve had a look at Caminao’s blog. It’s interesting, and the representations is a topic I have been concerning about. In my personal experience, it’s often to be confused or ambiguous in such the entity-entity, entity-model, model-model correspondences on/among the three spaces, in many practices or discussions, for such as conceptual modeling, software system modeling. So I think it needs to be clarified that the basis classification and the correspondences, as the three spaces illustrated in this post initially.

      Posted by TY | October 29, 2011, 22:14
  2. Hi TY,
    quite interesting thoughts. It gets even more complicated if one considers multiple actors (the term you suggested, which is indeed better than agents). There can be many conceptual spaces, with different interpreters, which would classify them as “computing/automata” or “human”. Of course such similarities have to be handled carefully, since the human and machine domains are quite different in most other regards.

    Posted by Andreas Leue | October 28, 2011, 16:43
    • Yes, Andreas. And in my thoughts, multiple actors (as well as the multi-agent that liked with AI guys :-) ) and “many conceptual spaces” are in an advanced situation. But it seems often to be ambiguous in the most basic case, yet. So, I have been thinking about a more basic case, such a certain of framework (not language), for the entities (and relationships, may be operations) and their models, and the model-object correspondence, on the three spaces. Of course, IMHO, UML is somewhat closed, but not well answer yet.

      Posted by TY | October 29, 2011, 22:15
  3. Hi TY

    Does “concrete concept” correspond to a “constant” and “abstract concept” to a “variable” in formal languages?

    Have fun

    Posted by modelpractice | November 9, 2011, 17:02
    • I didn’t think about as that…
      My picture was simple: a concrete concept in the conceptual space must have an (individual) entity in the physical space and an abstract one hasn’t (but it still can be made a corresponding entity in the computing space).

      Posted by TY | November 9, 2011, 17:45
      • just trying to be rigorous – you know this is my motto ;)

        ‘concrete’ can also mean e.g. an instantiable class and ‘abstract’ e.g. a non-instantiable class. Then we could additionally have Objects (= constants) in the Conceptual Space and a concept in the conceptual could refer to multiple entities in the computational – if I interpret the spaces correctly?


        Posted by modelpractice | November 10, 2011, 05:12
        • Rigorous, also formalization, is necessary, though I’m always afraid for them — or, I ought to say, stand in awe of them :-)

          Back to your comment, I think your interpretation is basically consistent with my idea.

          Concrete/abstract is a pair of relative concepts, a more comprehensive discussion may need based on certain hierarchy system, as mentioned in “Abstraction (III) Make Long Story Short“. We can use the the “concrete” for some entities in the Computational Space[*] as well as use the term “abstract”.

          It touched a little problem in my mind, that is, a concept in the Conceptual Space denoted an entity in Computational Space may also regard as a concrete concept — but I see that’s not very important — My concern is that it’s belonged to which space and how to related to some thing in other space else, when we talking so-called entities/objects, especially for models and the object/subject/original/… of a model, that is my ultimate objective. (In fact I don’t like “abstraction” ;=) and I see, the relationship for entities/models on the three spaces is quite diverse.

          [*] I think the term “computational” used with you is more explicit than the “computing” for the three spaces, so I intend to change the word.

          Posted by TY | November 10, 2011, 19:43


  1. Pingback: Some Basic Topics and Judgment of Ownership to the Three Spaces « THINK IN MODELS - November 13, 2011

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