Problem Statement – Background

(still working on this)
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Design
There is, at the present time, a good deal of debate about the meaning of the word design, but for the purpose of this dissertation, i will rely on the very general definition provided by the great polymath Herb Simon, who defines it as
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..a person or people trying to devise a course of action aimed at changing an existing situation into a preferred one [Simon, 1996: 111]
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Sociotechnical System
The term Socio-Technical Systems has been used since the 1950’s to refer to the object of study of various research agendas also considered to be part of organizational behavior [Trist&Bamforth, 1951], Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) [Hutchins, 1995] Computer Supported Collaborative Work (CSCW) [Sutcliffe, 2005] and Social Informatics [Davenport, 2008].  In a 2008 NSF workshop, the term “Science of Socio-Technical Systems” has also been used.  The term Social Shaping of Technology [Williams, 1996] has also been used within studies of sociology, which shares some similarities with socio-technical systems (STS).
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General Definition of a Sociotechnical System
The original novel contribution of the early exploration of STS – stemming from the early work of Trist and Bamforth in 1951 – was a reaction to previously deterministic, hierarchical and non-democratic theories of organizational design – in which “technology” included both the organizational structures as well as the tools used within those structures.  Different from previous approaches, STS focused on adaptive, decentralized methods for understanding and designing systems so that
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“..each member of the work group should have an optimal level of variety; learning opportunities; scope for making decisions; organizational support such as training and good supervision; a job recognized as important by the outside world; and the potential for making progress in the future.” (Mumford, 2006, quoting Fred Emery)
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As the scope of the STS research agenda expands beyond the design of sociotechnical organizational structures, the definition of the term may require additional consideration.  For the purpose of this dissertation, I will define a sociotechnical system as:
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A set of human and technical components together with the relations connecting them to form a whole unity. (adapted from [Krippendorff, 2001])
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While each of these words – “human”, “technical”, “relations”, “whole” and “unity” – in this definition has been the subject of debate in other non-STS areas  – and we will not be able to here solve those debates – I will here offer a slightly more robust series of propositions in order to better define sociotechnical systems for purposes of this paper.
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A socio-technical system:
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  1. Is Social.  The human portion of its behavior cannot be understood or described at the level of the individual human actor.
  2. Is Technical. The system must have at least one man-made (technical) component.
  3. Is sociotechnical. The system’s human (more than one) and technical (one or more) components are actors which each affect the other.
  4. Is Systemic.  It exhibits the basic characteristics of systems (partially derived from [Ropohl, 1999])
    a. Its meaning is greater than the sum of its elements
    b. Its function is at least in part determined by its structure
    c. It cannot be described on just one level of hierarchy
  5. Is Dynamic. The meaning of a system only begins to emerge once there is an interaction between at least two of its components.
This series of propositions has some important implications for our further consideration of sociotechnical systems.  The first is that the meaning of a sociotechnical system necessarily emerges out of the interactions of its elements.  In other words, it is impossible to have a priori knowledge of the meaning of a sociotechnical system.  Another implication is that the meaning of a system will continue to emerge over time.  As the elements continue to interact, meaning continues to emerge.   A final implication is that there is no socio-technical system in which only the human or only the technical components is completely responsible for its behavior.
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Evolution
The word evolution is used quite a bit to refer to change to a given organism or system over time, as is the case when we say that “this organization has evolved into a market powerhouse.”  While this is not an incorrect use of the word, it does not get at the more technical definition of evolution that will be the subject of this dissertation, which has to do with the change in a class of things over time as one generation of things passes some sort of information to successive generations of the thing.  This information is subject to change, though, as a result of the processes of
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  1. selection
  2. variation (which can happen both genetically and epigenetically)
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The Problem
Buried in all of this technical terminology is a big, but perhaps very subtle problem: if i am a designer who wants to design a system which will involve both people and technology, and that will benefit from its ability to evolve beyond my initial control, then i understand at the start that i can neither fully predict nor fully control the meaning that the system creates in the world.  However, i must still design the system in a way that allows it to move itself and its situation toward some preferred state:
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  1. Where do i start?
  2. How much of the system can i control?
  3. How much of the system should i control?
  4. How much variation do i want in the successive generations of the system?
  5. Is it possible to control the amount of variation in successive generations?
  6. What are the situations in which this type of design work best? How do i know?
  7. How do i communicate my design with other stakeholders in a way that allows us all to understand the system?

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Examples

This problem exists all around us.  In business, the concept of the franchise, the ponzi scheme, the chaordic organization [Hock, 2000] are all examples of a design of sociotechnical systems that are meant to evolve, to some extent, beyond the full control of the original designer.  In software, open source software is an example of a sociotechnical system that is meant to evolve, to some extent, beyond the full control of the original designer.  More recently, sociotechnical systems like Twitter, Facebook, Salesforce, etc. have used API’s as a mechanism for enabling evolution beyond the full control of the original designer.  The designers of these systems, however, have a huge task before them.

If they get the initial design right, they enable evolution of their product in one or more successive generations of “offspring” in the form of applications, which, though different from their parent, still maintain some of the characteristics of their shared parent.  Twitter, for example, spawned a second generation of applications which, based on the initial design decisions of the Twitter organization, had a certain amount of variation in the population.

Potential Starting Point

One potential starting point for solving this problem is to develop a language with which to talk about systems with these characteristics.  In previous personal and professional projects, i have used various visual adaptations of other theories as a way to think through and to (try to) communicate with other stakeholders about such projects.  The most problematic part of these projects was the lack of a shared language or shared conception of the salient elements of the project.  Here are a few examples of my initial attempts:

Single Level of Sociotechnical System (leaning heavily on Krippendorff)
Two Levels of a Sociotechnical System (again leaning on Krippendorff)
Levels of a Sociotechnical system (incorporating Bourdieu's notion of a habitus)
Levels of a Sociotechnical System (Bordieu, Giddens, Bryant)
Levels of a Sociotechnical System (Briggs)

Dissertation Bibliography

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Design
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Fischer, G., & Giaccardi, E. (2006). Meta-design: A Framework for the Future of End-User Development. In End User Development (pp. 427-457). Retrieved June 8, 2009, from http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/1-4020-5386-X_19.
Giaccardi, E. (2005). Metadesign as an emergent design culture. Leonardo, 38(4), 342-349.
Krippendorff, K. (2007). The semantic turn: A new foundation for design. Artifact, 1(1), 56-59.
Maturana, H. (1997). Metadesign. article hosted by Instituto de Terapia Cognitiva INTECO–Santiago de Chile, available at: www. inteco. cl/articulos/006/texto_ing. htm.
Nelson, H. G., & Stolterman, E. (2003). Design Way: Intentional Change in an Unpredictable World-Foundations and Fundamentals of Design Competence. Educational Technology Publications Englewood Cliffs, NJ, USA.
Simon, H. A. (1996). The Sciences of the Artificial – 3rd Edition. The MIT Press.

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Participatory Design
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Kensing, & Blomberg. (1998). Participatory design: issues and concerns, Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW), 7(3), 167-185. doi: 10.1023/A:1008689307411.
Muller, M. J., & Kuhn, S. (1993). Participatory design, Commun. ACM, 36(6), 24-28. doi: 10.1145/153571.255960.
Muller, M.J. Participatory Design: The Third Space in HCI. In J.A. Jacko and A. Sears, eds., The Human-Computer Interaction Handbook: Fundamentals, Evolving Technologies, and Emerging Applications. CRC, 2002.
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Systems
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Anderson, P.W. (1972), “More is Different: Broken Symmetry and the Nature of the Hierarchical Structure of Science”, Science 177(4047): 393-396
Cariani, P. (1992). Some epistemological implications of devices which construct their own sensors and effectors. Toward a practice of autonomous systems-Proceedings of the First European Conference on Artificial Life, 484-493.
Churchman, C. (1968). West. The systems approach. New York: Dell Publishing.
Cilliers, P., Complexity and Postmodernism, Routledge, London (1998)
Dervin, B. (n.d.). CHAOS, ORDER, AND SENSE-MAKING:
A PROPOSED THEORY FOR INFORMATION DESIGN.
Klir, George. Facets of Systems Science. Plenum Press, New York. Second Edition: Kluwer/Plenum, New York, 2001.
Lave, J. (1988). Cognition in Practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Marchal, J. H. (1975). On the Concept of a System. Philosophy of Science, 42(4), 448-468.
Marton, F. (1994). On the structure of awareness. In J. A. Bowden & E. Walsh (Eds.), Phenomenographic research: Variations in method (pp. 176-205). Melbourne, Australia: Office of the Director EQARD, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology.
Mattick, J. S., & Mehler, M. F. (2008). RNA editing, DNA recoding and the evolution of human cognition. Trends in Neurosciences, 31(5), 227-233. doi: 10.1016/j.tins.2008.02.003.
Maturana (1970): Biology of Cognition. (n.d.). . Retrieved August 28, 2008, from http://www.enolagaia.com/M70-80BoC.html#I.
Maturana, H. R., & Varela, F. J. (1987). The tree of knowledge: The biological roots of human understanding. New Science Library: Distributed in the United State by Random House, Boston.
Medina, E. (2006). Designing Freedom, Regulating a Nation: Socialist Cybernetics in Allende’s Chile. Journal of Latin American Studies, 38(03), 571-606.
Pattee, H. H. (1995). Evolving self-reference: Matter, symbols, and semantic closure. Communication and Cognition – Artificial Intelligence, 12, 9–27. doi: 10.1.1.17.6467.
Pattee, H. H. (2007). The necessity of biosemiotics. Matter–symbol complementarity. Introduction to biosemiotics. The new biological synthesis, 115–132.
Rocha, L. M. (1998). Selected self-organization and the Semiotics of Evolutionary Systems. Evolutionary Systems: Biological and Epistemological Perspectives on Selection and Self-Organization, 341-358.
Walker, J. (n.d.). The Viable Systems Model Guide 3e. Retrieved February 4, 2008, from http://www.esrad.org.uk/resources/vsmg_3/screen.php?page=introduction.
Winograd, T. (1987). Understanding Computers and Cognition: A New Foundation for Design. Addison-Wesley.
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Culture/History/Media
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Barber, B. R. (2004). Strong democracy: participatory politics for a new age, 356. University of CaliforniaPress.
Bødker, S. (2006). When second wave hci meets third wave challenges In , Proceedings of the 4th Nordic conference on Human-computer interaction: changing roles (pp. 1-8). Oslo, Norway: ACM. doi: 10.1145/1182475.1182476.
Bryan, F. M. (2003). Real Democracy: The New England Town Meeting and How It Works (p. 320). University of ChicagoPress.
Ceaser, J. (1985). Alexis de Tocqueville on Political Science, Political Culture, and the Role of the Intellectual. The American Political Science Review, 79(3), 656-672.
Digg / how digg works. Retrieved March 1, 2008, from http://digg.com/how.
Digg / townhalls & meet-ups. Retrieved March 1, 2008, from http://digg.com/townhall.
Digg users revolt over aacs key – boing boing. Retrieved February 29, 2008, from http://www.boingboing.net/2007/05/02/digg-users-revolt-ov.html.
Gannett, R. T. (2003). Bowling ninepins in tocqueville’s township, The American Political Science Review, 97(1), 1-16.
Hague, B. N., & Loader, B. (1999). Digital democracy: discourse and decision making in the information age, 277. Routledge.
Hayek, F. (n.d.). Hayek, The Use of Knowledge in Society: Library of Economics and Liberty. Retrieved July 20, 2008, from http://www.econlib.org/Library/Essays/hykKnw1.html.
Kanstrup, A. M. (2003). D for Democracy – On Political Ideals in Participatory Design. Scandinavian Journal of Information Systems, 15, 81-85.
Klein H. K. (n.d.). Tocqueville in Cyberspace: Using the Internet for Citizen Associations. Text, . Retrieved February 29, 2008, from http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/routledg/utis/1999/00000015/00000004/art00002.
Krueger, J. , Cody, S. and Peckham, M. (2006, Aug) Bridging and Bonding in Cyberspace? The Impact of Online Communities on Social Capital and Political Participation  <PDF> Retrieved 2006-10-05 from http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p152576_index.html
Lando, T. (1999). Public participation in local government: points of view, National Civic Review, 88(2), 109-122.
Lessig, L. (2008). Remix: Making art and commerce thrive in the hybrid economy. Penguin Press.
Lichterman, P. R. (2005, Aug)  “The unhappy marriage of Tocqueville and social capital: Scenes from local volunteering” Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association, Marriott Hotel, Loews Philadelphia Hotel, Philadelphia, PA Online <PDF> Retrieved   2008-02-24 from http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p19987_index.html
Lichterman. (2006). Social capital or group style? rescuing tocqueville’s insights on civic engagement, Theory and Society, 35(5), 529-563. doi: 10.1007/s11186-006-9017-6.
McLuhan, M. (2001). Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (p. 400). Routledge.
New England’s gift to the nation–the township.: An oration,/ by Arnold Green, with a poem by Henry C. Whitaker, delivered July 5, 1875.
Green, Arnold., Whitaker, Henry C.
Providence: Angell, Burlingame & co., 1875.
Pew internet: women and men online. Retrieved February 29, 2008, from http://www.pewinternet.org/PPF/r/171/report_display.asp.
Putnam, Robert D. (2000) Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival ofAmericanCommunity. NewYork:Simon& Schuster.
Skocpol, T., & Fiorina, M. P. (1999). Civic engagement in american democracy, 548. Brookings InstitutionPress.
Tocqueville, Alexis. [1835] 1988. Democracy in America. Ed. J. P. Mayer. New York: Harper Perennial.
Zimmerman, J. F. (n.d.). The New England Town Meeting: Democracy in Action. Retrieved September 26, 2007, from http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&docId=101030193#.
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Human Computer Interaction
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Aoki, P and Woodruff, A (2005). Making space for stories: ambiguity in the design of personal
Bardzell, S., & Bardzell, J. (2007). Docile avatars: Aesthetics, experience, and sexual interaction in Second Life. Proceedings of British HCI 2007. Lancaster, UK.
Bardzell, S., & Odom, W. (2008). The Experience of Embodied Space in Virtual Worlds: An Ethnography of a Second Life Community. Space and Culture 11 (3), 239-259.
Barnard, L., Yi, J. S., Jacko, J. A., & Sears, A. (2007). Capturing the effects of context on human performance in mobile computing systems. Personal Ubiquitous Comput., 11(2), 81-96.
Blackwell, A. F., Fitzmaurice, G., Holmquist, L. E., Ishii, H., & Ullmer, B. (2007). Tangible user interfaces in context and theory. In CHI ’07 extended abstracts on Human factors in computing systems (pp. 2817-2820). San Jose, CA, USA: ACM. doi: 10.1145/1240866.1241085.
Boustedt, J. (2008). A methodology for exploring students’ experiences and interaction with large-scale software through role-play and phenomenography. In Proceeding of the fourth international workshop on Computing education research (pp. 27-38). Sydney, Australia: ACM. doi: 10.1145/1404520.1404524.
Communication systems. Proc. CHI’05. pp. 181-190.
Dourish P. Where the Action Is. The Foundations of Embodied Interaction. MIT Press (2001).
Gaver, W, Beaver, J, and Benford, S. (2003). Ambiguity as a resource for design.  Proc. CHI’03.
Gaver, W., Sengers, P., Kerridge, T., Kaye, J., & Bowers, J. (2007). Enhancing ubiquitous computing with user interpretation: field testing the home health horoscope. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on Human factors in computing systems (pp. 537-546). San Jose, California, USA: ACM. doi: 10.1145/1240624.1240711.
Paul Dourish, What we talk about when we talk about context, Personal and Ubiquitous Computing, v.8 n.1, p.19-30, February 2004  [doi>10.1007/s00779-003-0253-8]
Sengers, P, Liesendahl, R, Magar, W, Seibert, C, Mueller, B, Joachims, T, Geng, W, Martensson, P, Hook, K (2002).  The Enigmatics of affect.  DIS ’02.
Sengers, P., Boehner, K., Mateas, M., & Gay, G. (2008). The disenchantment of affect. Personal Ubiquitous Comput., 12(5), 347-358.
Suchman, L.A. (1987). Plans and Situated Actions: The Problem of Human-Machine Communication. Cambridge: Cambridge Press.
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Organizational Theory
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Argyris, C. Knowledge for Action: A Guide to Overcoming Barriers to Organisational Change. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Inc., 1993.
Hock, D. W., & International, V. (2000). Birth of the Chaordic Age. Berrett-Koehler Publishers.
Miner, J. B. (1982). Theories of organizational structure and process. New York: The Dryden Press.
Snowden. D.J. and Boone, M., “A Leader’s Framework for Decision Making. (cover story),” Harvard Business Review, vol. 85, pp. 68-76, November,2007.
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Weick, K. E. (2000). Making Sense of the Organization (p. 496). Blackwell Publishing.
Weick, K. E., & Sutcliffe, K. M. (2001). Managing the unexpected: Assuring high performance in an age of complexity. Jossey-Bass San Francisco.
Weick, K. E. (2000). Making Sense of the Organization (p. 496). Blackwell Publishing.
Weick, K. E., & Sutcliffe, K. M. (2001). Managing the unexpected: Assuring high performance in an age of complexity. Jossey-Bass San Francisco.
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Value Creation
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Allee, V. The Future of Knowledge: Increasing Prosperity through Value Networks, Butterworth-Heinemann 2003
Benkler, Y. The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom. Yale Press, 2006.
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Von Hippel, E. (2002). Horizontal innovation networks: By and for users.MIT Sloan School of Management Working Paper No. 4366-02, June, 2002.
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Sociology
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Bourdieu, P. (1977). Outline of a Theory of Practice. Cambridge University Press.
Ostrom, E. (2005). Understanding Institutional Diversity. Princeton University Press.
Shusterman, R. (1999). Bourdieu: A Critical Reader. Wiley-Blackwell.

Title: A Framework For The Design of Evolutionary Sociotechnical Systems

When producing anything, it is difficult to know how to approach the relationship between the work and its title.  Does the title determine the work?  Does the work determine the title?  In this case, i will likely be moving from title to work and back again frequently, changing both as i go.  For now though, i am using the following working title for my dissertation:

A Framework For The Design of Evolutionary Sociotechnical Systems

My reasoning for this title will become far more clear in the next where i explain the problem i am trying to solve, but the current end goal of the dissertation will be a useful framework (conceptual structure and thinking tool) that a designer or design team (person or people trying to devise a course of action aimed at changing an existing situation into a preferred one [Simon, 1996: 111]) would use when the movement from the existing situation to the preferred one requires the design of a sociotechnical (involving interactions of social actors and technologies) system (the social actors and technologies all affect each other) which, in order to be effective, must evolve (change by passing traits from one generation of the system to instances of the system in subsequent generations) over time beyond of the full control of the original designers.

Prologue To The Dissertation Proposal

In order to move along the path toward completing my PhD dissertation, the next step will be a full proposal, submitted to my committee in the Spring semester of 2010, and presented in a public colloquium here at Indiana University.  As a way of leading up to this (and perhaps more importantly to try and steal a little bit of the thunder of my colleague Kevin Makice who is doing the same [just kidding, Kevin]), i have decided to work through this process in a blog format, so that anyone with too much free time on their hands – or, i suppose, with an interest in my area of research – will be able to follow along, and perhaps even gain a few ideas along the way.  I have already benefited from other intrepid souls like Mark Federman, Dan Lockton and others who have worked through their dissertation in a public format like this.