Theory of Deferred Action: Exploring the Boundaries of and Between Socio-Technical Systems Design

By Nandish V. Patel.

Published by The Design Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Designing social systems is problematical in itself but combining that with the design of technical systems is more complex. A significant concern is that the design of the technical system should not delimit (constrain/impede) the sociality of the social system. Also, the technical system design should cater for and enhance the social system’s conventions, rules and responsibilities. Theoretical and conceptual knowledge needed to design such effective socio-technical systems is poor. The Theory of Deferred Action is proposed in this paper for designing effective socio-technical systems that are sensitive to sociality. The theory synthesises the emergent property of social systems, which is difficult to specify for design purposes because it is unpredictable, with the rational basis necessary to design socio-technical systems. The result is the deferred action theoretic. The action and social basis of this theory is used to derive design principles and illustrated with social networking systems as exemplars.

Keywords: Artificial Complex Adaptive Systems, Complexity Theory, Deferred Design, Deferred Design Decisions, Deferred Systems, Emergence, Information Requirements, Information Systems, Modelling, Organisations, Specification, Systemic Emergence, Theory of Deferred Action

Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal, Volume 3, Issue 4, pp.285-296. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.209MB).

Dr. Nandish V. Patel

Lecturer, Brunel Business School, Brunel University, London, Middlesex, UK

Dr. Nandish Patel has constructed the Theory of Deferred Action as an ‘action and design theory’ to inform the design and development of organisations and IT systems. This is a theory to inform the practice of integrated organisation and IT systems design in emergent environments. As well as informing practice, the theory also explains these phenomena. It draws on complexity theory to explain emergence and self-organisation. The theory is used by other researchers, recognized by the US-based Association of Information Systems as a theory used in information systems research, applied by information management practitioners, and cited in UK government internal report. Present research is focused on developing informational models of reality based on the theory.

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