What is Boundary Object?

Legal Definition
In sociology, a boundary object is information, such as specimens, field notes, and maps, used in different ways by different communities. Boundary objects are plastic, interpreted differently across communities but with enough immutable content to maintain integrity. The concept was introduced by Susan Leigh Star and James R. Griesemer in a 1989 publication (p. 393):

Boundary objects are objects which are both plastic enough to adapt to local needs and constraints of the several parties employing them, yet robust enough to maintain a common identity across sites. They are weakly structured in common use, and become strongly structured in individual-site use. They may be abstract or concrete. They have different meanings in different social worlds but their structure is common enough to more than one world to make them recognizable, a means of translation. The creation and management of boundary objects is key in developing and maintaining coherence across intersecting social worlds.


In their article, Star and Griesemer describe the importance of boundary objects and methods standardization in the development of the Berkeley Museum of Vertebrate Zoology. Some of the boundary objects that they list include specimens, field notes, and maps of particular territories. These objects interact with members of various social groups (including amateur collectors and museum professionals) but are used to very different ends by each (p. 408):.

This paper has since been widely cited and the concept of a boundary object has been adopted in both computer science (particularly computer supported cooperative work), information science and management. Geoffrey Bowker and Star developed the concept further in the book Sorting Things Out: Classification and Its Consequences.
-- Wikipedia
Legal Definition
A boundary object is a concept in sociology to describe information used in different ways by different communities. They are plastic, interpreted differently across communities but with enough immutable content to maintain integrity.