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. 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.||”|
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) and management. Bowker and Star developed the concept further in the book Sorting Things Out: Classification and Its Consequences.
Other views of boundary objects 
Boundary objects are said to allow coordination without consensus as they can allow an actor's local understanding to be reframed in the context of a some wider collective activity. Similarly, Etienne Wenger describes boundary objects as entities that can link communities together as they allow different groups to collaborate on a common task.
Charlotte Lee has extended the concept of the boundary object to consider periods of unstandardized and destabilized organization where objects are transient and changing, which she coins as "boundary negotiating artifacts".
Criticisms of the concept 
Kimble, Grenier and Goglio-Primard criticise the notion of boundary objects that is usually found in the literature as being too mechanical and ignoring the effect of intergroup politics and local conditions. They argue that boundary objects need to be seen in context of the motivations of the people that choose the object as well as their communicative role.
- Star, Susan; Griesemer, James (1989). "Institutional Ecology, 'Translations' and Boundary Objects: Amateurs and Professionals in Berkeley's Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, 1907-39". Social Studies of Science 19 (3): 387–420. doi:10.1177/030631289019003001.
- Bowker, G. C.; & Star, S. L. (1999). Sorting Things Out: Classification and Its Consequences, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. ISBN 978-0-262-02461-7
- Bechky, B. A (2003). "Sharing meaning across occupational communities: The transformation of understanding on a production floor.". Organization Science 14 (3): 312–330. doi:10.1287/orsc.14.3.312.15162.
- Wenger, Etienne (1998). Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-66363-2.
- Lee, C.P. (2005). "Between Chaos and Routine: Boundary Negotiating Artifacts in Collaboration". ECSCW: 387–406. doi:10.1007/s10606-007-9044-5.
- Lee, C.P. (2007). "Boundary Negotiating Artifacts: Unbinding the Routine of Boundary Objects and Embracing Chaos in Collaborative Work". Computer Supported Cooperative Work 16 (3): 307–339. doi:10.1007/1-4020-4023-7_20.
- Kimble, C., Grenier, C., and Goglio-Primard. K. (2010). "Innovation and Knowledge Sharing Across Professional Boundaries: Political Interplay between Boundary Objects and Brokers". International Journal of Information Management 30 (5): 437–444. doi:10.1016/j.ijinfomgt.2010.02.002.