Performatives, Performatives Everywhere but Not a Drop of Ink

  • Ronald M. Lee
Part of the International Handbooks on Information Systems book series (INFOSYS)


The feasibility of open, flexible electronic commerce relies heavily on the effective management of documentary procedures, i.e., the sequence by which (structured) business documents are exchanged among contracting parties. The communication of such documents is not merely the passing of information, but reflects, indeed enacts, the formation and discharge of commitments. Such communications are called performative (versus informative) in that the act of communicating itself is a social action that alters the (contractual, legal, ownership) relationship among the parties.

This paper proposes four tasks for supporting performative aspects of electronic commerce. The first is that performative documents be communicated using cryptographic protocols (including digital signatures) and the involvement of trusted third parties. A special problem is negotiable documents, which may involve the use of chip cards, specialized registries, or both. The second task is the definition of a common, publicly available language for the specification of documentary procedures, which is formal, computable and executable. We propose a formalism, called Documentary Petri Nets, for this purpose. The third task is the definition of standard business scenarios using this representation. This definition might be done on a proprietary basis, or perhaps by industry-wide user groups and/or international bodies such as the ISO (International Standards Organization) and the ICC (International Chamber of Commerce). A CASE (Computer Aided Software Engineering) tool presented in this paper, InterProcs, is designed to support undertaking this latter task by providing both a modeling platform and a testing environment for proposed documentary procedures. The fourth task is development of an architecture and a protocol for sharing these procedures among contracting parties. Three modes are suggested: globally standardized procedures; proprietary procedures; and multi-lateral coordination.


Smart Card Electronic Commerce Language Game Deontic Logic Contracting Parti 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ronald M. Lee
    • 1
  1. 1.Florida International University (FIU)MiamiUSA

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