Actual objects or phenomena like sounds and views can be represented as such, wholly coalesced into documental ones without symbolic translation.
Hence, the actual object and its digital representation are fused into a single one who can stand indifferently as system or context object. This reification means that representations can be used as the real things: whereas handshakes are symbolic behaviors set once and for all in memories, documented contracts are symbolic objects whose implementation is prone to alterations. Businesses can do with the former alone, but if contract reification is to be of any use there must be some kind of system to process them.
Digital objects can be symbolic or binary.
- Symbolic ones (e.g a contract) appear when the digital instance can be directly processed while keeping its conventional (i.e business) currency. As a consequence, they can be created, updated, or deleted simultaneously as actual and symbolic.
- Binary ones (e.g a fac simile) appear when digital instances can be authenticated as identified and immutable ones. In that case the actual format may be irrelevant, as demonstrated by digital works of art.
Contrary to binary features, whose modification depends upon featured objects, digital objects stand by themselves. And contrary to conventional or customary objects, they do have a physical identity.
It has to be noted that digital objects can be duplicated but, depending on identification mechanism, the copies are not necessarily business objects.
Significance of Reification for System Modelling
Online media distribution provides a convincing illustration of what is at stake:
- To begin with, media products like books or movies can be distributed as physical objects whose content is associated to a customary one. When sold, copies do not have to be managed, i.e represented by symbolic objects. While some recording is needed for media products rented on physical supports, symbolic representations stand for the support, not the contents.
- Things are different with online media distribution, for sold as well as rented products. In that case the product in customer’s hands and its system representation form one and single object. As a corollary business transactions will then be akin to teleportation by which customers get and return (when rented) their product. Specific entry points will be necessary, together with a specific communication architecture.