Guohua Bai (Ph.D. Guest Professor)



My reading notes



Digest of Participatory Design Approach

Part 1;  Part 2; Part 3


Denni, A. H. and Valacich, J. S.(1993)

Computer Brainstorms: More Heads Are Better Than One.

Journal of Applied Psychology, Vol.78, No.4, PP531-537.

Research has consistently found nominal group brainstorning (in which members work separately without communicating )to be superior to brainstorming in which group members interact verbally. This article presents the results of an experiment that found the erverse to be true for computer-mediated electronic brainstorming. In this experiment, 12 member electronically interacting groups generated more ideas than did 12-member nominal groups, and there were no differences between 6-member electronic and 6-member nominal groups. The authors attribute theses result to the ability ofelectronic brainstorming to introduce few process losses (production blocking, evaluation apprehension, and free riding ) while enabling process gains (synergy and the avoidance of redundant ideas).

Group idea_generation research owes its origins to Osbern (1957,)who developed brainstorming. During the past 3 decades, more tham 50 tudies have made this comparison of nominal group brainstorming to verbal brainstorming. "For this comparision, the evidence speaks loud and clear: Individuals who working separately generate many more, and more creative ideas than do groups" (Mcgrath,1984,p.131). However, many experiments have found that electronic brainstorming groups, in which members use computers to interact and exchange ideas, generate more ideas than do verbally brainstorming groups. A subsequent study found that larger groups brainstorming electronically generated more ideas than did nominal groups. (From systems philosophy: "THE WHOLE IS MORE THAN THE SUM OF ITS PARTS", this may be not understandble. But don´t forget systems another perspective: "THE PART IS MORE THAN A FRACTION OF THE WHOLE"

___ Aristotle (The composition Law)

Lanzara, G.F. (1983)

The design process: frames, metaphor, and Games

Systems Design for, with, and by the Users. North-Holland publishing Company, IFIP (1983), Pp 339- 348

Several Assumptions characterize the method of functional design method (functional analysis):

1) Goals are given explicitly at the start, and cannot be modified during the proces. also, alternative means for achiving the ends and criteria for evaluating performance are given as distinct from the ends.

2) The design process is a process of electing means for achiving given ends. In the process, best solution is achived by a one-short strategy.

3) the designer is an abstract individual - idealtypic - having a completely rational behavior. He has perfect information on environment parameters and design variables; his basic skills consists in being able to assign utility and performance value to outcome, and his discipline is economic calculus.

A whole new family of design strategy based on learning and adaption (Simon and newell, 1972). Design is essentially "finding solution to problems", but the designers does not have absolute rationality and perfect information.

The problem solving protocols, applicable to rather well-structured problems, chess playing, theorem proving, logic calculus, puzzles, etc., that Simon have analysed in Human Problem Solving (1972) are just a particular case of larger family of design protocols.

In most real-life situation, design is a process of collective inquiry and search taking place through transactions and conversations among several actors in cooperation or copetition, or with mixed interests over the problem at hand. designers involced in a typical design situation most of the times have trouble to design not because they do not know much about what the real problem is, or else because they cannot agree with their partners on what the problem is, or even because they are misguided by the deceptive behavior of their partners. Design is difficult not because of the internal technical complexity of a given problem, but because people do not agree on what to do (contextual complexity). Design situation are generally confused, puzzled, troubling, characterized by uncertainty and by conflicting frames and views.

The generation of alternatives seems neither a totally random process nor a totally systemic one but a work of inquiry and communication taking place within a dialogical, interactive context. and the options available for decisions are not combinations of simple elements all independent from each other but alternative states of the whole system.

Smolawa, C., and Toepfer A. (1983)

The design process: frames, metaphor, and Games

Systems Design for, with, and by the Users. North-Holland publishing Company, IFIP (1983), Pp 85-92

This paper focus on the issues how to involve public in finding out the possible and socially beneficial services by telcommunication technology. Since participants are citizens who have too little knowledge of the variety ofpossible applications of telecommunication in non-professional area, and they can not see being effected by the possible development, special strategy is needed. Such kind of participation.

Andersen, K.,V. and Kraemer, K., L.(1994)

Information Technology and Transitions in the Public Service: -- A Comparison of Scandinavia and the United States.

Scandinavian journal of Information Systems, Vol.6,No.1, pp3-24

In the US, automation has been individualistic-each individual unit of government has introduced the technology for its own needs. For the most part, the systems that have been implemented have been small scale, have followed functional lines, have merely automated existing operations, have been evolved slowly over time. In contrast, in Scandinavia automation has been communal-systems have been designed, developed, and implemented by communal data processing agencies serving an entire level of government-national or local. the systems that have been introduced have been large scale, have crossed functional lines, have involved the reorganization of work, have integrated both data and work processes, and have been implemented more or less simultaneously for all units or agencies of government.

Computing in the public sector in Scandinavia and the U.S. historically differ in several important regards: similarities and differences can be seen with regard to:

(1) extent of use:

The use of computer in public sectors in scandinavia might be more important for the working conditions for the workforce because the public sector employs a larger part of the total workforce and spends a larger part of the Gross Domestic product than governments do in the U.S.

What accounts for the current relatively low use of computing in Scandinavia governments? Given that the public sector is such a greater proportion of the total economy on Scandinavia, one might have expected tha automation would be more widely as a means of achiving efficiency. However, the "communal" approach to organizing for use and the considerable influences of workers and unions have slowed the pace and extent of automation in Scandinavian governments. In addition, these governments have been concerned about possible social impacts and therefore have been slower to invest, adopt, promote, and use technology than might otherwise be the case.

(2) organization for use:

The Scandinavian countries have historically followed a communal or shared pattern of organization for use, through large data centers established to serve each major level of government. The establishment of the Kommunedata in the Scandinavian countries (in Sweden in 1965 by the swedish Union of Local Authorities) was done to provide central IT-ue and a technical organiation of sufficient strength to handle advnced applications, to coordinate the technical personel resource, and to develop new application systems for the municipalities. The growth problems in the cities and regions in sweden directed the development of computing toward specific, retricted fields of application rather than general. It also led to the design of applications designed to serve the country a a whole, rather than the independent development of a large number of scattered, uncoordinated experiments with varying types of application.

Beginning in the early 1980s, the patern of centralized computer organization in the government administration underwent a transition as part of a eneral transition in the national government. The transition was towards decentralization to local bodies (counties and municipalities). Indeed, computer technology was a major factor facilitting the decentralization of government administration because it permitted data in support of local administration to be collected and restored locally while also sharing and accessing data in the central government.

(3) nature of use:

In Scandinavia computing has already begun to be oriented towards direct service delivery to citizens, although the main parts of the computing is oriented, as in the U:S:, towards business functions and administrative support. Experiments with "front service" were introduced in the municipality. The front service has largely been developed to attend to the citizen's interests rather than bureaucratic interests.

(4) governement role in computing affairs:

In sweden, the government paid cloe attention to the social implications of the penetration and development of the use of computing. Studies of social issues related to computer use were developed with governmental support on learning mechanisms for computer-based system, the work environment (high ergonomic and health standards), and managerial organizations for work involving computer-based system. (Improving the interface between human beings and computer-based systems is provided by the swedish environment Fund (AMFO).

(5) worker involvement in automation:

In the U.S. , worker involvement in computing affairs has focused on participation in deign for new applications. the purpose of their involvement has been to communicate to computer specilists the nature of their operations, the information and processing requirement, and the data definitions in order to facilitate the design of new computerized systems. Worker involvement has expended to the number and nature of screen designs and reports produced by the systems, training of government staff for use, and even evaluation of the system once it became operational. It usurally has not been extended to decisions about whether to introduce new systems as these were usually made by high level managers or professional staff.

In Scandinavia, the employee is by legislation and cooperative arrangement given the right to receive information about new technology, and its attendant changes in working methods and processes. The labor movement has been highly influential in decisions taken by the government, the research conducted , and the formulation of strategies for influencing technology. The movement has, by and large, over the years supported, rather than resisted new technology. The swedih unions' attitude towards new technology is more positive than in many other countries. The main reason for this is that unemployment caused directly by technical change has been limited.

(6) work organization and computing.

Experiments were conducted during the seventies with information and referral systems for health, social services, and againing in an attempt to bring about greater coordination and cooperation among public agencies, but these effects generally failed because insufficient attention was paid to agency incentives for participation in the systems. The brief characterization of work organization and IT-use in the U.S then is the general absence of consideration of this important relationship.

In Scandinavia, expert-systems for determining health and social welfare subsides and software for providing improved, computer-supported information directly to the clients in the municipalities have affected government-citizen interaction and the structure of functions within the government. The systems have been a challenge for the municipalities which traditionally have been split into specialized department.

Effect of IT use on the public Service:

(1) Creation of new institutions:

IT has resulted in the creation of new government functions and institutions. Initially, it was set up as a centralized function in most government. In time, however, the continued spread of computer use along with the advent of computers led to the distribution of the computing function among departments. The advent of microcomputers reinforced and hastened this trend towards distribution of computing equipment and expertise to even smallest functions and activities. At the same time, these have been independent of the former IS uints and sometimes in opposition to their attempts to manage, facilitate, or control computing on a organization- wide basis. The disruption and trauma for IS units has been considerable in some instances, and relations between the IS units and user departments have seriously deteriorated with an overall loss of effectiveness to government. In Sweden computing resulted in establishing a range of governmental insyitutions, e.g., The swedish agency for administrative Development (SAFAD), The swedish Environment Fund (AMFO), and Kommunedata. The kommunedata organization established a highly centralized activity which provided computing to local governments via terminals to a central mainframe and with development services via central staff which developed applications intended for use by all local governments. However, computing also grew in municipalities and counties, because of their purported unique requirements.

Organization and distribution of activities

IT permits either centralized or decentralized organization, and central or local distribution of activities of government while also permitting greater central monitoring and control.

Throughout the eighties, there has been a trend towards decentralization and this decentralization trend will continue and perhaps even accelerate by the increasing availability of computer networks, databases, electronic mail systems and microcomputers at each level.

The adminstration of social welfare in Sweden traditionally was centralized and supported by a nationwide computerized system serving all social welfare agencies at the national, county, and municipality levels. Begining in the early 1980s, the organization of social welfare was changed dramatically from its centralized one with the distribution of social welfare functions to local adminstration along with the required computing equipment, staff and databases.

The experience in the United States and Scandinavia indicates that IT facilitates either centralized or decentralized organization and distribution of activities. historically, mainframe computers have been viewed as facilitating greater centralization. The advent of microcomputers is viewed a facilitating greater decentralization.

The forgoing changes in organization and distribution of activities will be reflected in changes in the process by which work is carried out within and between institutions. Although the possible changes are many, three are important: sophisticated coordination and optimization, automation of direct services to citizens, and electronic communication with citizens.

IT use has generated opportunities to reconfigure relationships, including those between levels of government, among subunits. IT changes the nature of work. Empirical research has been conducted in both scandinavia and U.S over the last twenty years. the findings are similar. IT produces changes in work including: (1) a speed-up of work, (2) a tighter coupling of work, (3) greater independence for professional and staff workers and greater interdependence for operations of workers, (4) greater control over people for managers and professionals and greater control over jobs for clerical and administrative workers, and (5) greater flexibility in work organization.


IT includes computers, office automation, tele-communications, and management science techniques. We focu on information technology for several reasons: First, it is pervasive in governments and will more so during the next decade and beyond. Second, it is illustrative of other pervasive technologies such as biotechnology and materials technology which are expected to have major effect in the distant future. Third, information technology is embodied in many othe discrete technologies such as those specific to a particular area like transportation, criminal justice, health care, or infrastructure. Fourth, there is more known about the diffusion, use, and effect of information technology than about discrete technologie which tend to have more limited scope of application.

the public sector employs a large part of total labor force, the public sector spends more than half of the GNP. The local governments play an important role in managing the welfare state. In Wseden the public sector spends 67 percent of GNP(1982).

Kraft, P. and Bansler, J.,P. (1994)

The Collective Resource Approach: The Scandinavian Experience.

Scandinavian Journal of Information Systems. Vol. 6(1), pp71-84

The CRA is an innovative Scandinavian approach to the design and implementation of new technologies in the work place. In this paper we argue that CRA has not been accepted by workers and unions nor affected in major way the day-to-day practice in Scandinavian work places. The reasons are both ideological and embedded in the Scandinavian systems of industrial relations.

A peculiarity of Scandinavian industrial relations-indeed, of Scandinavian societies in general - is that they are simultaneously highly organized and centralized yet samll-scaled and flexible.

Evans BArry W. (1994)

TA user designer-based systems methodology.

Jouranl of Systems Practice, Vol. 7, No. 6, pp 671-685

This paper applies Ackoff's idealized design and interactive planning and Checkland's root definition (CATWOE). Part of it can be ued in describing the context (problems) of user's organization in view of traditional consultant methods.

Often, when an organization experiences problem situations, it is common for managers to call upon outside experts to come to their aid (the same situation as in IT products approach, where a user organization need IT support, they either buy products or deliver design work to IT companies). Designers come into the organization do something. If the solution recommended doesn't work, then the failure can be blamed on errors in the implementation of the proposed solution.

"Ackoff (1981) states that "most conventional planning is carried out by professional planners for others."

The failure of consultant strategy:

1. consultant fail to learn exactly what the people in the organization want for its future and

2. the inability to implement sustainable solutions successfully.

"The notion of USER-DEIGNERS is based on the belief that systems design is most successful, (it is most viable and productive, and commitments to implementing the deign are most binding,) when it is directed by the users of the future system rather then by outside experts. (Banathy, 1991) " "A major consequence of participative planning is a reduction of the difficulties normally associated with implementation of plans. (Ackoff, 1981). "

"No one of us is expert enough to supply somebody else's answer. If we delude ourselves that we do, we can only make change problems worse. (Weisbord, 1987) "

"Result of a systems study can only receive their guarantee from the maximum participation of different stakeholders, holding various worldviews, in the design process. (Jackson, 1991) "

Ideal systems design: "The product of an idealized design is not an ideal system, because it is capable of being improved and improving itself. Therefore, it is not a perfect or utopian system. Rather it is the most effective ideal-seeking system of which its designers can conceive. (Ackoff, 1981)

"The juxtaposition of vision (what we want) and a clear picture of current reality (where we are relative to what we want) generates what we call "creative tension": a force to bring them together, caused by the natural tendency to seek resolution. The essence of personal mastery is learning how to generate and sutain creative tension in our lives. (Senge, 1990) "

Organization's environment should not defined by its physical (body) level which could mislead to consider other any organization as environment, but should defined from its goal seeking perspective (mind level).

The author suggests, instead of begining from analysis of problem situation as in SSM, to start from an ideal formulating (following Ackoff). There are 8 steps iteratively in the UDBS as 1) formulate ideal system; 2) creat root definition of existing system; 3) creat process model of existing system; 4) creat root definition of ideal system; 5) creatprocess model of ideal system; 6) compare existing with ideal models; 7) implement desired changes; and 8) followup and feedback.

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