Journal article

On the emergence of semantic agreement among rational agents

Today’s complex online applications often require the interaction of multiple (web) services that belong to potentially different business entities. Interoperability is a core element of such an environment, yet not a straightforward one due to the lack of common data semantics. The problem is often approached by means of standardization procedures in a top-down manner with limited adoption in practice. (De facto) standards for semantic interoperability most commonly emerge in a bottom-up approach, i.e., involving the interaction and information exchange among self-interested industrial agents. In this paper, we argue that the emergence of semantic interoperability can be seen as an economic process among rational agents and, although interoperability can be mutually beneficial for the involved parties, it may also be costly and might fail to emerge. As a sample scenario, we consider the emergence of semantic interoperability among rational web service agents in service-oriented architectures (SOAs), and we analyze their individual economic incentives with respect to utility, risk and cost. We model this process as a positive-sum game and study its equilibrium and evolutionary dynamics. According to our analysis, which is also experimentally verified, certain conditions on the communication cost, the cost of technological adaptation, the expected mutual benefit from interoperability, as well as the expected loss from isolation, drive the process.

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