Systems Science in the Information Society

Ann Lind

Abstract


The changes that we have experienced during the end of the 20th century are so extensive
that it is reasonable to assume that we have taken part in a historical transition. This
transition is characterized by the conversion of our materialistic culture into a new
technical paradigm dominated by information technology. The industrial revolution was
dependent on energy sources. Steam power, electricity, fossil fuel and nuclear power had
their great importance since the production and distribution of energy are key factors for
the success of the industrial society. In the information society the success factors are
instead the technique for processing and distribution of information. What is most
important in the new paradigm is thus not the central position of knowledge and
information but rather the possibility to use these for such instruments that create
knowledge, or process or distribute information. Even if network constellations between
different organizations have existed for centuries, the great importance of knowledge and
information has contributed to a new situation in the modern society. The digital world
and the new information technology makes it possible to create geographically separated
groups, virtual networks or virtual communities, where resources and activities are
combined to create a result that can not be reached without collaboration, between the
members of the network. Collaboration includes development and co-design and
collaboration in such networks makes it possible for many organizations, companies and
authorities to cope with fast technological changes. For them it is important that the
collaboration works well to enhance efficiency to the different tasks. It is also very
important that the members in the network can access and use information efficiently.
There are many different factors influencing development and information interchange in
virtual networks. Focusing on one aspect may therefore cause dissonance or inefficiency
in other areas of the network. A system theory holistic approach is therefore essential to
be able to study information related activities in a virtual network. Such a network is a
social system that may be viewed as a human activity system according to Checkland’s
definition. In this paper, aspects of human activity systems are used to illuminate some
characteristics of information behaviour that may be important for the activities in virtual
networks. The question is also raised what really is development in the network. Sharing
information is then not enough since that information already is available in the network.
True development is achieved when members collaborate to find previously unknown
new activities that could not have been created without co-design.

Keywords


Virtual network, solution sharing networks, collaboration, co-design, information behaviour, information sharing

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