In 1988, sociologist Susan Leigh Star coined the term “boundary object” to describe artifacts or ideas that are shared but understood differently by multiple communities. Though each group attaches a different meaning to the boundary object, it serves as a common point of reference and a means of translation. A dead bird may be the catalyst for communication between amateur bird watchers and professional epidemiologists. A vision of sustainable development may inspire politicians, environmentalists, builders, and business leaders to engage in negotiation and collaboration. The magic of the boundary object lies in its ability to build shared understanding across social categories.
Ambient Findability by Peter Morville in Chapter 6: The Sociosemantic Web