Towards Understanding the Effects of Visual Artifacts in Problem Structuring Processes: A Boundary Games Approach
Keywords:problem structuring methods, critical systems thinking, boundary games, Behavioural OR, micro dynamics
The construction of agreements about the nature of the problem confronted by a group can be seen as the aim of problem structuring methods. Visualizing issues to facilitate the discussions plays a protagonist role in the process. However, we lack methods to study this kind of interaction and therefore we know little about how these visual artefacts catalyse the structuration of the problem. This paper builds towards these two interrelated issues by analysing the interactions using Boundary Games, a theoretical synthesis based on philosophy, language pragmatics, and boundary critique. The Boundary Games framework shows how actors’ communications affect the boundary of what is considered relevant in a situation. Boundary Games have been applied to study oral segments of interaction; in this case, its application is extended to visual supported interactions, specifically whiteboard supported facilitation. The preliminary analysis shows that visual artefacts allow people to keep track of distant and varied ideas and that the visual is helping to connect and reinforce those ideas. This work can be seen as a stepping stone for understanding models, a more complex visual artefact of common use in structuring problems.