Prof. Göran Goldkuhl
PhD, Professor in Information Systems Development
Department of Management and Engineering
Linköping University & Department of Informatics
Jönköping International Business School
Pragmatic qualities of information systems – actability criteria for design and evaluation
Information systems (IS) cannot be seen just as repositories of facts of the world. An IS is a communicative instrument in organisations. Actors can perform communicative actions by support of an IS. An IS is thus a mediator of communication and action between organisational actors. An IS is also an agent with capabilities to perform predefined communicative actions. This gives IS a dual role of an instrument for users and an agent interacting with users. These roles raise demands on pragmatic qualities of information systems.Information systems actability theory (ISAT) is a practical theory on information systems emphasising their pragmatic dimensions. ISAT gets its current theoretical backing from theories and knowledge traditions like pragmatic philosophy, speech act theory, classical semiotics, social action theories, affordance theory, semiotic HCI engineering, conversation analysis, discourse theory and activity theory. As a practical theory, ISAT comprises a conceptualisation of IS and normative criteria which can be used for design and evaluation. There are different criteria depending on what pragmatic scope is applied. There are criteria associated with the user interacting with the system (interaction quality). There are criteria for a broader scope, the user-via-system-to-user communication (communication quality). There are criteria for an even broader pragmatic scope; the use of IS as part of a business process (process quality). The speech (and the paper) will describe such different criteria related to the different pragmatic scopes of an IS. Eighteen different actability criteria have been identified and they will be presented and clearly related to the ISAT conceptualisation of an IS.
About the Speaker
Prof Göran Goldkuhl, PhD, is professor in information systems at Linköping University and (part-time) professor at Jönköping International Business School, Sweden. He is the director of the Swedish research network VITS (www.vits.org), consisting of 40 researchers at eight Swedish universities. He has published several books and more than 100 research papers at conferences, in journals and as book chapters (see www.ida.liu.se/~gorgo/engpub.html). He is currently developing a family of theories and methods, which all are founded on socio-instrumental pragmatism; theories as Workpractice Theory, Business Action Theory, Information Systems Actability Theory; and methods for business process modelling, problem analysis, e-service design, interaction design and IS evaluation. He has a great interest in pragmatic and qualitative (interpretive) research methods and he has contributed to the development of Multi-Grounded Theory, (a modified version of Grounded Theory) and Practical Inquiry (a special kind of action research). He has been active in international research communities such as Language Action Perspective (LAP), Action in Language, Organisations and Information Systems (ALOIS), Enterprise Interoperability and Organisational Semiotics. He is mainly responsible for Ph D education in information systems at Linköping University and has been the supervisor for more than 15 PhD dissertations and more 35 Licentiate theses. At the moment he is responsible for and actively working with several e-government research projects. He is editor-in-chief for the open journal Systems, Signs & Actions (www.sysiac.org). More information about Göran Goldkuhl can be found at www.ida.liu.se/~gorgo/ggeng.html.
Prof. Ronald Stamper
The Chemistry of Society:
Organisational Semiotics as an Empirical Social Science
As all biological phenomena, even ecology and evolution, are elaborations of their underlying chemistry, so all social phenomena are products of the human use of signs. Semiotics examines the structures of different signs and their properties but says little about their interactions: like a chemistry of analysis and molecular structure that says little about chemical reactions. This paper claims that signs interact in people’s minds largely by activating the norms they share with others. Organisational semiotics (OS) needs to study norms as well as signs in order to explore organised human behaviour.
To qualify as an empirical science, OS must provide operational procedures for identifying individual signs and norms and for defining their properties that allow them to be placed unequivocally into various significant categories. Correctly functioning signs have semantic, pragmatic and social aspects that make these tests difficult to pass. Norms offer solutions to these intrinsically human problems despite their hidden functioning within the minds of their subjects: as chemists supplement their observations of the test-tube’s visible inputs and outputs with molecular theories about what happens within, so can we formulate norm theories to supplement the bare observations of human responses to situations to understand how norms function.
Norms share a simple, common structure:
IF subject UNDERSTANDS THAT condition OBTAINS
THEN subject ADOPTS attitude TOWARDS something
Rules exhibit the same structure expressed verbally. However, rules are not norms but signs standing for norms. Computers obey rules mechanically but people may choose to apply norms or not, for good reasons or none, but within the context of many other norms that encourage compliance. For that reason we should consider adding another clause to say that the subject judges the norm to be relevant. Signs relate to norms because they supply the subject with information about the condition and enable the subject to communicate the resulting attitude: thus norms largely determine the relevance of signs.
Their simple structure defines unequivocal categories for norms depending on the properties of their parameters: subject, condition, attitude, something. These categories serve as building blocks for norm theories. The paper outlines some of the many precise ‘architectural’ properties of norm categories and will indicate how we may employ them to build theories about various social phenomena.
Social psychologists have long recognised four categories of norms dependent on the kinds of attitudes they produce:
NORMS cognitive behavioural evaluative perceptual
ATTITUDES epistemic deontic axiological ontological
Other categories depend upon the subject matter of the condition, the something (or the subject and several of these will be introduced and their interrelationships examined. Among them are perceptual norms that supply the subject matter upon which all the other norms depend. The paper will indicate how OS, using concepts of signs and norms, can illuminate various social phenomena with sufficient clarity to enable us to formulate refutable theories. The paper will propose a research agenda based on these ideas
But developing an empirical science also depends on the scientific community and how its members interact. Accurate, precise, clear communication of theories, observations and empirical methods do not suffice unless the community reads them, interprets correctly, tests them and criticises them constructively. Are we organised well enough to function that way?
About the Speaker
Ronald Stamper studied at Oxford University, worked in Hospital Administration and the Steel Industry where he created the first European courses in Information Systems outside the computer industry. Then, in 1969, joining the team at the London School of Economics appointed to create teaching and research programmes in IS, he began looking for rigorous tools for treating organisations as information systems. The goal was to combine the kind of rigour needed for using IT with the respect for human and social behaviour essential for making sense of organisations. From the start, his team emphasised the importance of empirical methods and the need to create scientific results that can meet Popper’s Refutationist criteria. Most of the key theoretical ideas had been developed before he moved in 1988 to the Chair of Information Management at the University of Twente in the Netherlands. There and at other centres, the theory was subjected to harsh testing in the analysis and design of a wide range of different organisational problems and computer applications. His team inaugurated this series of OS meetings in 1996. He retired in 1999 but remains very active.
Prof. Guoqing Chen
Discovering Associative Knowledge for Decision Support
Associative knowledge is of great interest in knowledge discovery from lager datasets and deemed important for intelligent decision making in business and engineering applications. In this context, the presentation aims at introducing recent efforts in finding useful patterns of associative nature, as well as highlighting future domains of theoretical and applied explorations. Primary attention will be paid to association rules, associative classification, and temporal relationships using data mining, fuzzy logic and related techniques.
About the Speaker
Guoqing Chen received his Ph.D. from the Catholic University of Leuven
(Belgium), and currently is China’s National Chang-Jiang Scholars
Professor of Information Systems. He is executive associate dean of
Tsinghua University’s School of Economics and Management, and
vice-chairman of Ministry of Education of China’s Educational
Steering Committee for Management Science and Engineering. Professor
Chen also serves as president of China Association for Information
Systems (CNAIS), and associate editor/area editor/EB member for
international journals such as INS, IPM, FSS, I&M, IJUFKS, JSIS,
FODM, etc. His research interests include KDD and decision-making,
fuzzy logic and data modeling, e-business and IT management.
Prof. Yu Chen
Lessons from Modern System Science for MIS
Obviously, Management Information System is a Complex System. Therefore, as the general methodology to understand, describe, management and control all kind of complex System, the Modern System Science is one of the theoretical basis for MIS as this discipline established. After 30 years rapid development, today’s Information System has became much complex then before. Its function becomes richer, its structure became multi-hierarchical, the size of network has covered whole society, and more and more social and cultural factors have to be considered during the information system analysis and design. As researchers, we should pay more attention on the complexity of information system. In this meaning, newest progress of the Modern System Science can provide useful help for us.
Since the 30’s of last century, the System Science has grown very fast. At the beginning, the background of the Complex System is a huge machine, the control, feedback, information were the main concerned. So-called System Engineering became very popular, and produced many useful methods and tools for engineers. However, when people tried to use this methodology in social and economic fields, many problems have emergent. Obviously, social and economic system will be much complex then any machine. We need new methodology to deal with complex system involved people. (The MIS is one of these systems. In 70’s, people discuss self –organization, emergency of new feature and structure, they tried to find method from thermo-dynamics. In the middle of 90’s, so-called CAS (Complex Adaptive System) Theory provided new approach: the Adaptation Builds Complexity. This new idea has spread very fast. Today many disciplines use the Multi Agent Modeling to understand and deal with various complex systems. In MIS, we also used these ideas into analysis and design process. As one of base stones of our discipline, the Modern System Science has already occupied important in our curriculum.
What are the most important lessens we should learned from Modern System Science? I think following several ideas should be considered.
1. Wholeness. One plus one greater then two. When several parts consists a whole, there are always some new feature and new quality emergent.
2. Process. Every system is dynamic, today’s situation caused by yesterday’s situation. History is the key to understand today.
3. Active Agent. Pay more attention on the “live” system, which consists of many Active Agents. These Agents can change them-self according to the environment, and these adaptation is the basic force causes system evolve ahead, and become more and more complex.
4. Artificial System. Artificial System has own principle which is different from Natural System. According to Herbert Simon, we need a new science on Artificial. MIS is just a huge Artificial System.
MIS is a very practical fields, the real industry develops very fast, our theory and methodology always behinds practice. We should find new theory and methodology based on Chinese practice. In these aspects, to learn useful lessons from Modern System Science is a fruitful approach.
About the Speaker
Yu Chen is Senior Professor in Information Management at Renmin University of China and Director of the Economic Science Lab at Renmin University of China. He also serves as chairman of Chinese Information Economics Society, and vice chairman of China Association for Information Systems (CNAIS). Over the last 30 years, He have written widely on the MIS (Management Information System), DSS (Decision Support System), Information Economics and System Science. He have followed the development introduced several new directions into China, as DSS, EC (Electronic Commerce), EG (Electronic Government) and so on. His most recent work has been conducted in EC area. In his Lab, several projects are in progress, including Theory on Information Economics, Theory on Information Resources, Game Theory and Chinese Traditional Culture, Service Economy and Modern Service Industry and so on.