SOCIO-TECHNICAL SYSTEM WHOLENESS: A THEORETICAL MODEL APPLIED TO HIGH VALUE ASSET SECURITY PROGRAMS

William Joseph Toth

Abstract


Researchers and practitioners continue to study the causes of high-consequence events such as terrorist attacks or catastrophic failures of complex socio-technical systems. These studies have relevance to postulated and real events and are important, but limited. Analyses focusing on linear causal pathways are common in vulnerability and probabilistic risk analyses. These linear pathways typically focus on individual human error or technical system malfunctions. The linear approach is limited in its value as broader systemic issues can remain hidden.

A new model is proposed using an integral approach that describes vulnerability from a systemic wholeness perspective. Wholeness is a concept that has many meanings, from various academic and practical perspectives. This paper offers a new definition of the wholeness concept that draws from earlier ideas but is distinct in its application.  The model can be used to focus attention on many integrated systemic domains simultaneously in a continuous and ongoing process. The model's foundation is a four-quadrant framework that describes subjective, objective, inter-objective, and inter-subjective domain spaces. Vulnerabilities or systemic deficiencies within these spaces are described using the metaphors of system holes and shadow aspects. Collection and depiction of these deficiencies allow for analysis, revealing common patterns of concern. Clarifying inter-organizational relationships is also important and highlights the need for clear systemic and sub-systemic boundary definitions. 

Improvement of industrial, community, or infrastructure security requires a perpetual process that is described by a dynamic dimension to the wholeness model, drawing from methods employed in participatory action research. This paper presents the main points of the wholeness model, shows how deficiencies are analyzed, and provides examples of characteristic patterns of concern.


Keywords


complexity; socio-technical systems; security; wholeness

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