“Give Agents their Artifacts”: The A&A Approach for Engineering Working Environments in MAS

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Edmund Durfee, Makoto Yokoo, Michael Huhns, Onn Shehory (eds.)
6th International Joint Conference “Autonomous Agents & Multi-Agent Systems” (AAMAS 2007), pages 601–603
IFAAMAS, Honolulu, Hawai'i, USA
May 2007

<div>In human society, almost any cooperative working context accounts for different kinds of object, tool, artifacts in general, that humans adopt, share and intelligently exploit so as to support their working activities, in particular social ones.
According to theories in human sciences &mdash; Activity Theory and Distributed Cognition are two main examples &mdash; and to related disciplines in computer science &mdash; such as Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW) and Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) &mdash; such entities have a key role in determining the success or failure of the activities, playing an essential function in simplifying complex tasks and &mdash; more generally &mdash; in designing solutions that scale with activity complexity.
Such a perspective can be found also in some works in the context of Distributed Artificial Intelligence.
Analogously to the human case, we claim that also (cognitive) multi-agent systems (MAS) could greatly benefit from the definition and systematic exploitation of a suitable notion of working environment, composed by different sorts of artifacts, dynamically constructed, shared and used by agents to support their working activities.</div>

<div>Along this line, in this paper first we introduce a conceptual framework called A&A (Agents and Artifacts) which aims at directly modelling and engineering working environments in the context of cognitive multi-agent systems; then, we provide a brief overview of the basic technologies that support such an approach, CARTAGO in particular—a Java-based framework for engineering working environments to be integrated with heterogeneous agent platforms.</div>

<div>Such a perspective is strenghtened by recent efforts in AOSE (Agent-Oriented Software Engineering) that remark the fundamental role of the environment for the engineering of MAS.
The A&A framework can be considered an instance of such approaches, with some specific peculiarity: information abstractions and generality &mdash; the aim is to find a basic set of conceptual abstractions and related theory which, analogously to the agent abstraction, could be general enough to be the basis to define concrete architectures and programming environments, but specific enough to capture the essential properties of systems; (ii) cognitive &mdash; analogous to designed environment in human society, the properties of such environment abstractions should be conceived to be suitably and effectively exploited by cognitive agents, as intelligent constructors / users / manipulators of the environment.</div>

<div>The work presented in this paper generalises and extends our previous work focussed on coordination artifacts, and more recent works about the notion of artefact.</div>

keywordsA&A, artifacts, cartago, multi-agent systems, agent-oriented computing