A party is an entity that sets its objectives, maintains its knowledge, and uses that knowledge to pursue its objectives in an autonomous (sovereign) manner. One might say that they have a mind of their own. Typical examples are individual people and organizations. Their minds (subjective knowledge) are what distinguishes one party from another, so every party is 1-1 related to its knowledge (mind).
Specifically, every party autonomously manages its
- knowledge (information). It means that every party gets to decide for itself what it believes to be true, what to trust (and what not), what objectives it wants to pursue, how much risks it wants to run, what are valid ways of reasoning (not necessarily logical), how to reach conclusions and make decisions. The knowledge of a party changes continuously as information is added, modified, or deleted - no reasons needed.
- semantics, i.e. the mapping between parts of its knowledge and the data he uses to represent such parts, as well as the mapping between data that it receives and the meaning he interprets such data to be associated with.
- data, i.e. the tangible representation of a subset of its intangible knowledge that it uses to communicate with others, to remember (store), or process.
It is important to note that:
- parties do not have the ability to act. This, however, does not preclude that specializations of parties exist that do have this capability (e.g. human beings). The relation between parties, actors and acting is explained in the Parties, Actors and Actions pattern.
- parties can own, or be, jurisdictions; this is further explained in the Jurisdictions pattern.
It is in one's mind - with one's knowledge - that objectives are being set, strategies are being devised, decisions are being made and so on. Specifically, interacting with others, e.g. to conduct business transactions, requires making numerous decisions, each of which is based on a subjective argument. The evaluation of such an argument requires the acquisition and processing of data, which implies additional decisions (that provide assurances that evaluation will arrive at the right conclusion), such as establishing:
- which data is required,
- what conditions such data should satisfy in order to be valid for performing in the evaluation,
- what sources may be trusted to provide data that is (sufficiently) true, etcetera. For all of this, it is beneficial to introduce a concept that captures this idea of knowledge or mind in terms of the entity that has it at its disposition, governs it, and has it used to realize its objectives.
CriterionEntity that is the 'sovereign' over a body of knowledge (information), which means that it decides about, and can be asked to account for: - the body of knowledge itself, and the (continuous) changes in it, e.g. concerning - the interpretation of data that it has received - judgements it makes about such data, e.g. about what to (not) trust, what is (not) true, what is (not) valuable, - (other) decisions that it makes based on its knowledge, e.g. regarding (in)valid ways of reasoning[^1], what objectives (not) to pursue, what risks it runs and opportunities it has, what rules to (not) comply with etc. - its semantics, i.e. - the mappings that it uses to convert data to knowledge and - the mappings it uses to convert its knowledge into data, - the criteria for determining which of these mappings to use in different contexts; - its data, i.e. the tangible representations of a subset[^2] of its knowledge that it uses, e.g. to communicate with others (e.g. in messages), to remember (store it somewhere), or to further process.
People obviously qualify. Enterprises, governments, and other organizations also qualify as they can be seen as having their own knowledge (e.g. in their registrations, databases etc.), ways to reason with that knowledge (business rules, exercised by their employees or IT systems), and making decision.
Human beings are specifically attributed the rights to be sovereign over their own knowledge, in the freedoms of information gathering, forming an opinion, and the freedom of speech, e.g. in the ECHR (ECHR articles 9-11)
Stones, pictures, ideas, etc. do not qualify. Also, electronic components do not qualify3.
The term 'Identity Owner' (from the Sovrin Glossary) is quite similar for this term, as becomes apparent from its Taxonomy of Entities. However, there it is defined as "the subclassifications of Sovrin Entity that may be held legally accountable", which does not fit in our model because:
- it is a subclass of Sovrin Entity, and Parties need not necessarily be Sovrin Entities;
- legal accountability can only be meaningful for legal entities within a jurisdiction that has established criteria for determining which of their legal entities can be accountable for what.
- The Sovrin definition does not associate an Identity Owner with knowledge.
- While the case can be made that (some) electronic components can reason, they do not do so in a self-sovereign fashion as intended by this definition. We do not want to discuss AI-equipment here.↩