Tuesday, March 09, 2004

A Manifesto For Information System Design

Upon rereading a particular paper, I realized that the pull quotes seemed like a manifesto for system development.

“Because they are invented and developed by system builders and their associates, the components of technological systems are socially constructed artefacts.” Pg. 52

“Because components of a technological system interact, their characteristics derive from the system.” Pg. 52

“Because organizational components, conventionally labelled social, are system-builder creations, or artefacts, in a technological system, the convention of designating social factors as the environment, or context, of a technological system should be avoided.” Pg. 52

“Over time, technological systems manage increasingly to incorporate environment into the system, thereby eliminating sources of uncertainty, such as a once free market.” Pg. 53

“Technological systems solve problems or fulfill goals using whatever means are available and appropriate; the problems have to do mostly with reordering the physical world in ways considered useful or desirable, at least by those designing or employing a technological system.” Pg. 53

“Technological systems are bounded by the limits of control exercised by artifactual and human operators.” Pg. 54

“Inventors, industrial scientists, engineers, managers, financiers, and workers are components of but not artefacts in the system.” Pg. 54

“A crucial function of people in technological systems, besides their obvious role in inventing, designing, and developing systems, is to complete the feedback loop between system performance and system goal and in so doing to correct errors in system performance.” Pg. 54

“In a large technological system there are countless opportunities for isolating subsystems and calling them systems for purposes of comprehension and analysis. In so doing, however, one rends the fabric of reality and may offer only a partial, or even distorted, analysis of system behaviour.” Pg. 55

“During invention and development inventor-entrepreneurs solve critical problems; during innovation, competition, and growth manager-entrepreneurs make crucial decisions; and during consolidation and rationalization financier-entrepreneurs and consulting engineers, especially those with political influence, often solve the critical problems associated with growth and momentum.” Pg. 57

“Because radical inventions do not contribute to the growth of existing technological systems, which are presided over by, systematically linked to, and financially supported by larger entities, organizations rarely nurture a radical invention.” Pg. 57-58

“Radical inventions often deskill workers, engineers, and managers, wipe out financial investments, and generally stimulate anxiety in large organizations. Large organizations sometimes reject the inventive proposals of the radical as technically crude and economically risky, but in so doing they are simply acknowledging the character of the new and radical.” Pg. 59


Hughes, T. P. (1987). The Evolution of Large Technological Systems. In W. E. Bijker, T. P. Hughes & T. J. Pinch (Eds.), The Social construction of technological systems : new directions in the sociology and history of technology (pp. 51-85). Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.


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