Navigating the gap between purposeful action and a Serving Information System




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De Montfort University


Thesis or dissertation

Peer reviewed


This work has been directed at the problem of developing practical means of supporting those involved in a problem situation, in designing their own information systems.

The research is underpinned by an interpretive stance, and assumes that information systems are created to support purposeful action in continuously socially constructed organizational settings. It is argued that the initial phase of information system design necessitates undertaking sense making to create a shared appreciation of the situation amongst those involved. One of the main difficulties of designing technology-based information systems is that the methods suited to sense making in social situations are entirely different to the methods and techniques that have been employed to marshall knowledge into a suitable format to facilitate software design.

The work offers the notion of navigating an inquiry process from a focus on creating ideas for purposeful action, to creating a logical specification for a technology-based information system. To facilitate this shift in focus, some explicit intellectual devices, or navigational devices, are offered, to structure and support further debate. These navigational devices enable those involved in the situation of concern, the clients, to conceptualise how purposeful action might unfold in the real world, so that some ideas for a serving system can be considered.

Previous work addressing this problem area has been criticised for failing to provide a coherent movement from any ideas for purposeful action, to a logical specification for a supporting technology-based information system. By regarding the process of Client Led information system design as a collaborative sense making effort, the design process can be regarded as a learning system, or an appreciative system in Vickers' sense. By employing the same principles of inquiry throughout the design process and by using devices that maintain a similar view of any potential action, it is argued that a sense of coherence can be maintained and this is supported by experiences from practice.


Thesis from De Montfort University, Milton Keynes




Research Institute