slide1 n.
Download
Skip this Video
Loading SlideShow in 5 Seconds..
Understanding sociotechnical action 3rd and 4th June 2004 School of Computing Napier University, Edinburgh School of Com PowerPoint Presentation
Download Presentation
Understanding sociotechnical action 3rd and 4th June 2004 School of Computing Napier University, Edinburgh School of Com

Loading in 2 Seconds...

play fullscreen
1 / 51

Understanding sociotechnical action 3rd and 4th June 2004 School of Computing Napier University, Edinburgh School of Com - PowerPoint PPT Presentation


  • 243 Views
  • Uploaded on

Understanding sociotechnical action 3rd and 4th June 2004 School of Computing Napier University, Edinburgh School of Computation, UMIST, UK. Social context and the information environment: A structurational approach to understanding the context of sociotechnical action

loader
I am the owner, or an agent authorized to act on behalf of the owner, of the copyrighted work described.
capcha
Download Presentation

PowerPoint Slideshow about 'Understanding sociotechnical action 3rd and 4th June 2004 School of Computing Napier University, Edinburgh School of Com' - Leo


An Image/Link below is provided (as is) to download presentation

Download Policy: Content on the Website is provided to you AS IS for your information and personal use and may not be sold / licensed / shared on other websites without getting consent from its author.While downloading, if for some reason you are not able to download a presentation, the publisher may have deleted the file from their server.


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - E N D - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Presentation Transcript
slide1

Understanding sociotechnical action

3rd and 4th June 2004

School of Computing Napier University, Edinburgh

School of Computation, UMIST, UK

Social context and the information environment:

A structurational approach to understanding the context of sociotechnical action

Howard Rosenbaum hrosenba@indiana.edu

http://www.slis.indiana.edu/hrosenba/www/Pres/edinburgh_04/index.html

slide2

Structuration, context and sociotechnical action

  • Structuration, context and sociotechnical action
  • Introduction: the problem of context
  • • Why theorize the context?
  • II. Unpacking the context
  • • Meanings of context
  • • Context and situation
  • III. Context as information environment
slide3

Introduction: The problem

“One key idea of social informatics research is that the social context of IT development and use plays a significant role in influencing the ways that people use information and technologies, and thus influences their consequences for work, organizations, and other social relationships.”

Rob Kling (1999)

slide4

Introduction: The problem

Conventional approaches need to be ... informed by a[n] approach that looks at the user and the uses of information, and the contexts within which those users make choices about what information is useful to them at particular times. These choices are based, not only on subject matter, but on other elements of the context within which a user lives and works.

Taylor (1991; 221)

slide5

Introduction: The problem

Although concerned with different social phenomena, these quotes emphasize the importance of the context when thinking about how people use information and design and use ICT

These are examples of sociotechnical action and cannot be adequately understood without a prior understanding of the concept of the context

What is involved in grasping theoretically the complexities of sociotechnical action involving ICT from a social informatics perspective?

What is involved in accounting for these complexities empirically?

slide6

Introduction: The problem

Goal: a structurational analysis of the context of sociotechnical action

A feasible and useful approach to ground theorizing about and support the empirical study of ICTs, the people who design, manage, and use them, and the settings in which they are designed and used

Context: the social and organizational settings within which we live and work with ICTs

Sociotechnical action: the information-intensive activities involved in the design, implementation, maintenance, and use of ICTs in social and organizational contexts

slide7

Introduction: The problem

Why theorize the context?

The context does a lot of work in research on the design, implementation, management, and use of ICTs

For example in “social informatics,”

The interdisciplinary study of the design, uses, and consequences of ICT that takes into account their interactions with institutional and cultural contexts

All sociotechnical action and interaction takes place within some type of context

slide8

Introduction: The problem

SI research assumes that the consequences of our interactions with ICTs cannot be understood without considering the contexts of ICT design, implementation, and use

Here the broadest meaning of the concept of the “context” in SI is social

Subsumed within it are institutional, cultural, organizational, and, as will be suggested, information contexts

Simply stated, one important insight that comes from SI research into the relationships between people and ICTs is that “the context matters.”

slide10

Introduction: The problem

The contextually dependent nature of ICTs suggests that similar ICTs can have different outcomes in different social settings (Kling, et al., 2000)

The context is used to explain how ICTs can have different consequences for different stakeholders

Why the same software can be implemented in similar organizations and result in different and sometimes contradictory outcomes

How ICTs enable and constrain the people who use them and the organizations in which they are implemented

How the design of ICTs continues “in use”

slide11

Introduction: The problem

For example, Clement and Halonen (1998; 1098) studied a computerized dispatch facility

They describe end users doing considerable “informal design work” to a new dispatch system once it was implemented

Local experts added functionality and changed code to meet the needs and ideas of those using it

These needs and ideas reflected the ways in which dispatchers were using the system

They found that end users’“computer use is ‘embedded’ within specific work tasks which are, in turn, embedded within a specific organizational context”

slide12

Introduction: The problem

However, despite the heavy load that the concept carries in social informatics, it is relatively undertheorized

The context is present in a variety of approaches that account for the social impacts of computing and ICT use

What these approaches seem to converge upon is that the social context is complex, messy, ill structured and therefore difficult to use, despite the work that it has to

The context is part of the background of taken-for- granted assumptions, important but not in need of further investigation

slide13

Structuration, context and sociotechnical action

  • Structuration, context and sociotechnical action
  • Introduction: the problem of context
  • • Why theorize the context?
  • II. Unpacking the context
  • • Meanings of context
  • • Context and situation
  • III. Context as information environment
slide14

II. Unpacking the context

Meanings of the context

Context is described in different ways

A frame of reference for information behavior (Vakkari et al., 1997)

A container within which the phenomena of interest can be found (Dervin, 1997)

Some factors that constitute this container are then thought to make a difference

A carrier of (framework for) meaning and an inextricable surround without which understanding human action becomes difficult

slide15

II. Unpacking the context

Chatman’s (2000) “small world” theory (life in the round) is based on a constructivist conception of the context

It is a worldview with shared norms and expectations that guide behavior and well defined boundaries

This context typically constrains behavior

Pettigrew’s (1999) “information ground” (1999) is a movable configuration that is durable and affects information exchange

A sociotechnical arrangement of infrastructure and social relations that can be recreated in other locations

slide16

II. Unpacking the context

Context and situation

A situation is a particular and temporally transient set of local circumstances within which specific action (sociotechnical or otherwise) takes place

They take place specific locations and can be perceived differently by different participants

A situation unfolds within a context and can be seen as an “individual construct”

It can also be seen as the product of the constructivist work of two or more participants

A situation is embedded in a context

slide17

II. Unpacking the context

What then is the social context?

An older meaning of context is the parts of a discourse that surround a word or passage and throw light on its meaning

In general, a context is a set of interrelated conditions in which something exists or occurs

An environment that encompasses the circumstances, objects, or conditions within which one is surrounded

A social context is a constellation of sociological, institutional, political, economic, cultural and organizational conditions, and circumstances that surround people and in which they are enveloped

slide18

II. Unpacking the context

The social context is the aggregate of social and cultural conditions that influence the life of an individual or community

We are interested in the social context of ICT design, implementation and use

This context is a subset of the larger constellation or aggregate

It is the part of the larger social context that impacts the actions and interactions of people as they create, implement, and employ ICTs in their work and play

In turn, it is affected by these actions and interactions

slide19

II. Moving forward: Technical trends

How can the context of sociotechnical action be accounted for analytically?

The way proposed here is based on structuration theory and the value added approach to information systems

This move introduces the concept of the information environment and argues that it provides a useful way to begin to study the context of sociotechnical action

In this way, we begin to address a need in social informatics research, which emphasizes the importance of the social context for understanding the social consequences of computing without attending carefully to its complexity

slide20

Structuration, context and sociotechnical action

  • Structuration, context and sociotechnical action
  • Introduction: the problem of context
  • • Why theorize the context?
  • II. Unpacking the context
  • • Meanings of context
  • • Context and situation
  • III. Context as information environment
slide21

III. Context as information environment

Is there is a parsimonious approach that can be used to understand the concept of the context of sociotechnical action?

Can this be done in a way conducive to the conduct of research into questions of sociotechnical action?

The concept of the information environment is offered as a means to isolate elements in the social context that make a difference in as people work with ICTs and digital information

This assumes that there is a set of generic elements that cut across different types of social contexts that can be used as a starting point for research

slide22

III. Context as information environment

What is the information environment (IE)?

The concept has roots in Taylor’s information use environment (IUE)

It was proposed in the late 1980s to incorporate a user- centered approach into the discourse on the design and use information systems

The IUE provided a contrast to system-centered approaches

It challenged the assumption that users’ actions are largely determined by features of the information systems with which they interact

Also that these actions can be conceptualized as predictable responses to system outputs

slide23

III. Context as information environment

The IUE emphasized the importance of the user and the context within which information systems are designed and used

It is the social space, background, or “surround” within which people act and interact, make decisions, and create or gather, evaluate, and use information

It is a manifestation of the ordinary contexts of practical action within which people engage “information behaviors”

slide24

III. Context as information environment

With the IUE, Taylor attempts to capture the elements of the social context that make a difference in the ways that people use information systems and make judgments about system outputs

In functional terms, the IUE affects the flow of information into, within, and out of defined entities (like organizations, social groups, classrooms, and homes)

In institutional and cultural terms, the IUE is the context or setting within which people live and work and within which they “make choices about what information is useful to them at particular times” (Taylor, 1991; 218)

slide25

III. Context as information environment

The IUE is a useful way to account for the context of sociotechnical action because it decomposes the context into

Sets of people

Their typical problems

The typical resolutions to these problems

The characteristics of the social and organizational setting that make a difference

slide26

III. Context as information environment

Problems with IUEs:

People are represented as part of the IUE

They are represented by social and demographic characteristics common to different categories of typical users

These are based on “pre-determined” social positions in the economic, political, and cultural structures of industrial society

The IUE is given a degree of causal agency

It “causes” people to take certain actions

slide27

III. Context as information environment

Using a structurational approach, these problems can be dealt with in a way that provides a clearer view of the context of sociotechnical action

We will call it the information environment

We assume that “social theory does not ‘begin’ with either the individual or society, both of which are notions that need to be reconstructed through other concepts” Giddens (1991; 203)

It is a complex and broad ranging explanation of the simultaneous and mutual constitution of the individual and the social world as a consequence of the individuals’ actions and interactions with and within the social world

slide28

III. Context as information environment

Three important concepts for this discussion are structuration, social practices, and structure

Structuration: a process through which individuals and their societies are mutually constituted as they interact routinely in a variety of social contexts

It is ongoing and recursive and refers to the “conditions governing the continuity or transmutation of structures, and therefore the reproduction of social systems” (Giddens, 1984; 25)

It unfolds in social interaction

slide29

III. Context as information environment

Social practices: concrete, situated, and often mundane activities in which we are engaged as we enter, work and play in, and exit a variety of social settings during the course of a day

An organization can be seen an example of a setting within which specific sets of social practices are carried out by organizational members as they interact

Social life is generated through social practices in ordinary contexts and is a skilled and ongoing production of knowledgeable actors

slide30

III. Context as information environment

Social practices have a “routinized, repetitive character”

This is an important characteristic in the structuration of the social world, because such social practices “are considered to be at the root of the constitution of both subject and object” (Giddens, 1984; xvii)

They are patterns of situated social action and interaction through which structure is reproduced

They have unacknowledged conditions and unintended consequences which make future actions and interactions possible

slide31

III. Context as information environment

Structure: rules and resources which are drawn upon and used in the production and reproduction of social systems

It “gives form and shape to social life, but is not itself that form and shape.”

The duality of structure

It “enters simultaneously into the constitution of the agent and social practices, and ‘exists’ in the generating moments of this constitution”

This is “the essential recursiveness of social life, as constituted in social practices: structure is both the medium and outcome of the reproduction of practices”

slide32

III. Context as information environment

Of use in the reformulation of the concept of the information environment are rules and resources

Rules “procedures of action” and “techniques or generalizable procedures applied in the enactment and reproduction of social practices;” (Giddens, 1984; 21)

Rules allow the patterning or binding of social practices across time and space because they can be applied to a range of situations, guiding and influencing people as they engage in social interaction

By drawing upon and using particular sets of rules, people interact in ways that can, over time, be identified as belonging to types or patterns

slide33

III. Context as information environment

The generalizability or transposability or rules “is the reason they must be understood as virtual” because they can be invoked and used in different situations (Sewell, 1992; 8)

The most important rules are those invoked in the “reproduction of institutionalized social practices [that are] most deeply sedimented in time-space”

They are constantly being invoked in interaction and therefore “enter into the structuring of much of the texture of everyday life” (Giddens, 1984; 22)

Examples of this type of rule include those involved in forming, sustaining, terminating, and reforming routine social encounters

slide34

III. Context as information environment

Resources are “structured properties of social systems, drawn upon and reproduced by knowledgeable agents in the course of interaction” (Giddens, 1984; 15)

They are facilities or bases of power to which the agent has access during social interaction

They are modes through which power is exercised the social world

The extent to which people have access to and familiarity with a range of resources will affect their abilities to achieve their desired outcomes in routine social interactions

slide35

III. Context as information environment

Resources may be allocative, authoritative, or administrative

Allocative resources involve control over material features of the environment, means of material production and reproduction, and the materials produced

Authoritative resources include control over the organization of social time and space, the arrangement of social relations and activities, and the organization of “life chances,” or the opportunities people have for development and self expression (Cohen, 1989; 159).

Administrative resources are a hybrid and involver control over both objects and people (Orlikowski, 1992)

slide36

III. Context as information environment

Structure, as rules and resources, forms and shapes the social world, but is not itself that form and shape

Invoked in social interaction, it makes possible the binding of time-space in social systems and the reproduction of “discernibly similar social practices” across time and space (Giddens, 1984; 17)

It allows the manifestation and exercise of power in social life

It only accomplish these effects through the practical actions, or social practices, of individuals

In this sense, structuration provides the theoretical grounding for the context of sociotechnical action

slide37

III. Context as information environment

As a context, the IE affects the flow of information and provides criteria for determining the value of information

It has rules and resources that make possible the persistence of information-based social practices over time and across space

It is a subset of the larger social context within which ICTs are designed, implemented and used and digital information is created, accessed, manipulated, stored, disseminated, and used

It shapes routine social practices of people who act and interact within it

slide38

III. Context as information environment

From the value added approach, three elements, problems, problem resolutions, and relevant characteristics of the setting, are carried over into the structurationally informed IE

Two structural elements, rules and resources, are added

As people interact and engage in information behaviors, they intentionally and unintentionally draw upon and make use of the rules and resources of the IE

In doing so, they simultaneously reproduce these elements as conditions that subsequently allow them to engage in information-based social practices

slide39

III. Context as information environment

The intentional and unintentional consequences of their recurring social practices, in this case information behaviors, reproduce their IE

The typical problems that people face and resolve in their IE are a source of dynamism and change

The IE is a product of situated information behaviors that has, when instantiated in routine social interaction, both constraining and enabling effects on users

It then becomes an essential part of the recursiveness of the duality of structure, the reproduction of information behaviors, the constitution of the user, and the structuration of organizations and social life

slide40

III. Context as information environment

Sets of rules in an IE order information-based social practices as they are drawn upon during social interaction

These sets collectively form a social system defined in information terms and include assumptions about information, nature of work, the structure of typical problems and resolutions, and typical constraints and opportunities of the context

They are qualities of settings of actions agents routinely draw upon in the course of orienting what they do and what they say to one another

slide41

III. Context as information environment

These rules include the practices, skills, and knowledge that are involved in designing, implementing, maintaining, and using ICTs

The rules of the IE are not a set of stable, fixed structural elements

As Strauss and Corbin (1991; 206) point out, “rules themselves are negotiable ... they are human arrangements ... and part of a negotiated order”

Some rules in the IE are relatively static while others rules can change very quickly, depending on circumstance.

slide42

III. Context as information environment

Information is a resource, but does not easily fit within either allocative or authoritative categories

It can be drawn upon in interaction and used in the exercise of power over both objects and people

For this reason, information is an “administrative resource having both allocative and authoritative aspects, and as capable of significantly influencing the manner and form of control employed in organizations” (Orlikowski, 1991; 13)

Like all resources, information is a medium through which power is instantiated in social interaction

slide43

III. Context as information environment

Information as a resource embodies a duality similar to that attributed to structure

It has a virtual existence until it is invoked or drawn upon while individuals engage in information behaviors

Once invoked, it may be collected, shared, and stored, which means that it becomes an artifact of the interaction

This view is close to that of Taylor (1986), who described information as having only the potential for meaning and value; neither quality is “inherent” in the information

The storage of information is an important characteristic of the IE because “information control ... depends on information storage of a kind distinct from that available in individual recollection” (Giddens, 1984; 200)

slide44

III. Context as information environment

ICTs are also administrative resources

They include “media of information representation, modes of information retrieval and recall, and, as with all power resources, modes of its dissemination” (Giddens, 1984)

They are intimately implicated in the structure of actor’s daily work

They provide the means to accomplish tasks, through imposing a rhythm and schedule on the flow of computer based work

They provide technical vocabularies to mediate meanings ascribed to events, objects, and relationships, and through coordinating activities over time and space (Orlikowski (1991; 13)

slide45

III. Context as information environment

ICTs are resources “through which power is exercised, as a routine element of the instantiation of conduct in [the] social reproduction” of organizations (Giddens, 1984; 16)

ICTs have material existence but can still be considered a resource because “technology is created and changed by human action, yet it is also used by humans to accomplish some action

This [is a] recursive notion of technology - ...the duality of technology... technology is interpretively flexible, hence ... the interaction of technology and organizations is a function of the different actors and socio-historical contexts implicated in its development and use" (Orlikowski, 1992; 405):

slide46

III. Context as information environment

ICTs are physically constructed by actors working in given social contexts

They are socially constructed by actors through the different meanings they attach to them and the various features they emphasize and use

ICTs are “social technologies, including generic tasks, techniques, and knowledge utilized when humans engage in any” organizational activity (Orlikowski, 1992)

Once developed and deployed, ICTs tend to become reified and institutionalized, losing its connection with those who constructed them or gave them meaning

slide47

III. Context as information environment

What is a socio-technical interaction network (STIN)?

The concept, developed by Kling, McKim, and King (2003), describes a network that includes people, organizations, equipment, data, diverse resources (money, skill, status), documents and messages, legal arrangements and enforcement mechanisms, and resource flows

The elements of a STIN are heterogeneous

STIN allows us to understand what Kling (1988) had previously called the “web of computing,” or the social and organizational contexts surrounding information and communication technologies (ICTs) and the people who design, implement, use, and maintain them

slide48

III. Context as information environment

Intended as a heuristic device, this concept allows for a fine-grained analysis of the complex relationships among the various components of the socio-technical networks within which ICTs are designed and used

It allows researchers to grasp the subtleties of the mutual shaping of ICTs and their social contexts and to understand the consequences of ICT use

This is useful because a “STIN analysis highlights how social relationships are inscribed into ICTs and how social practices and social forms interact with ICTs” (Eschenlfelder, 2002)

slide49

III. Context as information environment

There is a small and growing body of research that makes use of STINs

IT support of research teams (Kling 1992)

The nature of digital documents (Braa and Sandhahl, 1998)

The development of online community (Barab, et al.; 2001)

Scientific collaboratories (Kling, 2000)

The development of internet infrastructure (Montiero; 1998)

Enrollment strategies in digital libraries (Joung and Rosenbaum, under review)

slide50

III. Context as information environment

This version of the IE offers a reasonable way to begin investigating the context of sociotechnical action

It attempts to clarify the messy and complex concept using structuration and the value-added approach to information systems

Focusing on rules, resources, problems, resolutions, and relevant features of the setting (cultural, political economic) offers a foothold on understanding the context

The STIN model is an interesting approach because it begins to enumerate the elements that matter

slide51

Understanding sociotechnical action

3rd and 4th June 2004

School of Computing Napier University, Edinburgh

School of Computation, UMIST, UK

Social context and the information environment:

A structurational approach to understanding the context of sociotechnical action

Howard Rosenbaum hrosenba@indiana.edu

http://www.slis.indiana.edu/hrosenba/www/Pres/edinburgh_04/index.html