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How terms were selected for our course

Science traditionally generated new terms (designations for emerging new concepts) in two ways:

  • An ordinary ("everyday") word was taken and endowed with a special ("scientific") meaning. "Work" in physics is by no means the same as "work" in the everyday sense of this word. Moreover, "work" in the text of our course is also not an everyday word. Thus, it is important not to confuse "work" with "method/practice/activity/labor," as they are not synonyms. Furthermore, there won't be quotation marks in this case — you may not even notice that it is a term! Work and labor cannot be confused in our course — it will look something like this, without quotation marks and indications of specifying types. Both work and labor also mean behavior. However, they belong to different classes within the same class of "behavior." "Work" and "labor" are terms with strict/formal typification here, and they are of different types! Using an "ordinary word" as a "term with a special meaning in some method" is the most common way, but it easily leads to confusion with words from everyday speech because these are the "false friends of a translator" when translating from scientific language to everyday language and vice versa.
  • In order to make the speech more precise, a word was made a term for which there were no known meanings in everyday speech. To do this, an unusual word that is not familiar to the native ear was taken from a foreign language (most often with Greek or Latin roots) and endowed with a special meaning. Today, in the Russian language, the borrowed word may be an English word, not Latin or Greek — it does not have an everyday meaning in Russian. But here, too, there are problems. If you use the Greek word "epistemology," you will have to explain it, and you will have to explain for a long time, addressing "word usage in the context of a language game in some matter." On the other hand, "the study of how to conduct research" — it seems immediately understandable, but it is not guaranteed that "epistemology" will be understood under these words, it could just as well be "gnoseology," where you will encounter not only scientific research for understanding the world but also artistic and theological "research." Epistemology usually does not involve artistic and religious understanding of the world, while gnoseology usually does. That's why very rare words are used to avoid confusion between similar but still different meanings of words.

In our course, the terms are selected (including in translating foreign texts — standards, methodologies, textbooks) to maximize their clarity and use in activities. When choosing terms, factors such as who will understand this word, from which professional community they come, and in which dialect they prefer to speak were taken into account. This is a different principle compared to "taking terms from authors close to the standard and ignoring all other options."

For example, we can easily use slang words in the course. For instance, "techie," not "programmer" — because we care not only about the beauty of speech and common terms but also about the most precise reference to the meanings of terms in the real world. "Programmer" is a more specific term than "techie." Database administrator, data modeler, data engineer, system administrator, IT architect, electronics engineer — they are all techies. One could replace the word "techie" with "computer specialist" — some might find it even clearer, but it might upset others. In accordance with all this, we could write programmer/techie/computer specialist — to make sure no one is offended and to make it clearer which meaning of all these terms we are referring to.

Sometimes, a specific term may already have multiple meanings in a narrow professional group. For example, the translation of "governance" for the term governance. In these cases, our courses will use our own version that leads to fewer misunderstood meanings. For example, governance (in the "Systems Management" course) will be translated as "subordination" or "supervision" (or even "control" and "monitoring"), and dictionaries and standards will not be referenced here. The same situation occurs with "frustration." It doesn't mean "psychological frustration" but rather geometric disarray/disorganization. Therefore, there will be no "frustrations" in the translation, as they would only confuse.

If a "process standard" (e.g. systems engineering ISO 15288:2023) uses the word "process" to mean a concept that, in other contexts, is referred to as a method/method/practice (not typical for the development processes in this "process" from ISO 15288, which only lists "methods/practices/lifecycle processes"), in our course, it will be termed as a "working method," not a "process." If you join a community of people who embrace the "process approach" and speak the dialect preferred by that community, feel free to use the word "process" or "working process," or "organizational process" (but it is preferable to avoid "business process" because the work of a cleaner at floor washing is definitely not a "business process," and "business" is not encouraged in state organizations either) instead of the word "method" — but be aware that by doing so, you lose information about distinguishing processes (with step-by-step deployment over time) and work methods (without such deployment), and your speech may cause confusion from time to time; therefore, do not hesitate to clarify the meaning of the term you are using. If we differentiate work from method/practice (and we will differentiate them!), then is labor - work or method? We choose that labor is a function/practice/culture/way/method of work (as indicated by the term "division of labor"), not work. That's why we will try not to consider work and labor as synonyms in the course. However, you can easily find a community where they are not distinguished, and you will need to consider this when communicating in that community.

Usually, even within the same speech community, many different meanings are attached to the same term, so clarifying the meaning of even a very common term is never redundant. For instance, Andries van Renssen distinguished several frequently used meanings of the term "function":

  • Subtype of activity (behavior), process, or event;
  • An object in a specific role or made for a specific role;
  • The role of the object itself (usually the role of a constructive/material object, thing) participating in an activity (behavior). The played role (functional object) and the constructive/material object playing the role — these are different things! The role — Hamlet, playing this role the object — Vysotsky;
  • Indication of correlation/dependence, usually as a physical connection between certain aspects: "if height increases, pressure decreases";
  • Mathematical relationship between numerical objects, defining their mapping onto each other.

This means that often, instead of the word "function," you can use the word "action," or "role," or even "dependency" — and the conversation becomes more precise.

The commonly used term "meta" is applied in six different meanings, expressing six different types of relationships:

  • Exemplification (relationship of type and instance);
  • Grouping (relationship of type and subtype), also categorization (philosophical, not category theory, as the term "category" is favored by various speech communities and denotes different things in each of them);
  • Description (relationship of description and described object);
  • Application/stereotype (relationship of template and its embodiment);
  • Variation (relationship of main model and customized model);
  • Implementation (relationship of abstract syntax and its corresponding expression. This is in computer science because the cited work is related to computer science. However, we also have another meaning of the term "implementation" — the relationship of performing the role of a functional object by a constructive object).

Therefore, each time you encounter the word "meta," you should understand which of these six meanings was intended.

Never fixate on the specific terms chosen by others! Words and terms are extremely important, as we have nothing else for communication except them. However, words as chains of letters in written text or sequences of phonemes in speech are never unambiguous; they are merely "labels" for concepts. Each time, try to understand what is actually being talked about, what meaning the word had in each specific case, and strive to reach the concept/idea/meaning of the term. Words and terms are not that important; they are only necessary to reach the meaning or understand which subject area we are even discussing!

Using terms from standards does not guarantee the listener's unambiguous understanding, but using ambiguous words does not necessarily lead to difficulties either. In this course, there will be no attempts to give precise definitions or choose the correct terms for course concepts. We will strive to convey the understanding of the most important concepts and suggest different words that can be used to denote them. When asked "what is two times two?" there will be acceptance of answers such as IV, 4, "four," and "four." However, do not get carried away — answers like "flowerpot," 5, or "per aspera ad astra" will not be accepted.