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Introduction to Socio-technical Systems. Brian Whitworth Institute of Information and Mathematical Sciences, Massey University, Albany, New Zealand. Definition. A socio-technical system (STS) is a social system that operates upon a technical base

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introduction to socio technical systems

Introduction to Socio-technical Systems

Brian Whitworth Institute of Information and Mathematical Sciences, Massey University, Albany, New Zealand

definition
Definition
  • A socio-technical system (STS) is a social system that operates upon a technical base
    • Email is social communication by technology means.
  • The term was introduced by the Tavistock Institute in the 1950’s as manufacturing needs of industry confronted the social needs of local communities, e.g. in English coalmines
  • See http://www.strategosinc.com/socio-technical.htm
systems theory
Systems Theory
  • Socio-technical theory traces back to general systems theory (Bertalanffy, 1968)
    • Systems composed of autonomous yet interdependent parts, that mutually interact to create an equally autonomous self-directing whole.
    • System is the parts plustheir interactions
    • It emerges from its components by feed-back and feed-forward dynamics
    • Holistic systems can self-organize, self-reference and self-maintain
example pilot plane
Example: Pilot-Plane
  • Mechanical (plane) system beside a human (pilot)
    • Different systems with different needs
  • Human Computer Interaction (HCI) => the pilot must understand the plane which must fit the pilot
  • In STS, plane plus pilot is a single system, with human and mechanical levels. 
    • The pilot's body is just as physical as the plane.
    • Pilot adds a human thought level that sits above the plane’s mechanical level, allowing "pilot + plane" system to strategize and analyze.
    • Modern planes have computer information processing systems apart from HCI human and mechanical frame
    • Many planes together allow a social group level
web of system performance

Functionality

Reliability

Extendibility

Connectivity

Privacy

Security

Flexibility

Usability

Web of System Performance
socio technical design
Socio-technical Design

Socio-technical Design

Technical Requirements

Social Requirements

Traditional Design

the future
The Future
  • The future of software will be more about social than technical design
  • If society believes in freedom, online personas should belong to the person concerned
  • If society gives the right to not communicate so should email
  • If society supports privacy, people should be able to remove their personal data from online lists
  • If society gives people rights to the fruits of their labors one should be able to sign and own one’s electronic work
  • If society believes in democracy, online communities should elect their leaders
  • Social principles should drive technical design.