IIDE Proceedings 2014 – Toward Post Systems Thinking In the Conception of Whole-Part Relations


ThinkingBookSystems thinking represent a diverse intellectual body that aims to support conception of phenomena. Systems thinking may be regarded as a reaction against the micro-reductionism inherent within the modernist scientific approach; more specifically in the latter’s conception of whole-part relations. While the propositions offered by systems thinking overcome that reductionism, we show that due to its biotic root-metaphor it instead imposes macro-reductionism. We proceed then by drawing on two alternative approaches that facilitate our conceptions of relations between a whole and its parts, in terms of encaptic relations and assemblage relations. A key conclusion advanced is that any utilization of analytical thinking and systems thinking must be conducted carefully and self-critically, due to their inherent limitations. As a consequence, this suggests an initiative for intellectual development of a post systems thinking approach, with regard to the conception of whole-part relations.

1. Introduction
We start this essay with an exposition of the micro-reductionism of modernist scientific thinking, called here analytical thinking. We then expose both the remedy offered by systems thinking and the macro-reductionism it imposes. We continue with our suggestion for a post systems thinking approach, where the whole-part relation is re-conceptualized to eliminate both micro-reductionism and macro-reductionism.[iii] This is done with the support of two rather different bodies of social ontology: Dooyeweerdian encaptic relations and DeLanda’s notion of assemblage relations. Our overall aim is to direct a further development of the conception of the whole-part relations so that more justice can be done to our experiences of the complexities of social affairs. The content of the paper follows the structure of the argument outlined; however it is also includes an illustrative case of the dramatic and tragic event of the Soviet submarine K-19, which we present in the remaining part of this Introduction.

1.1. K-19
As the end of World War II had produced major tension between western countries and the Soviet sphere states, the cold war was established. Both sides raced to produce the most sophisticated and threatening weapons with the aim of demotivating the other from any aggressive actions targeted at the other side. Perhaps the most sophisticated weapon developed during the cold war was the nuclear submarine. Such a sub utilizes nuclear technology in two ways; one is that it is capable of launching ballistic missiles from the ship, which is equipped with nuclear bombs. The second means that the ship is powered by its nuclear power station and is thus independent of re-fueling operations for years, which makes it much harder to detect and strike against. USA was the first country to develop and introduce nuclear submarines in its weaponry arsenal, which in turn created an imbalance, where Soviet perceived a major threat. This motivated Soviet to develop and launch its own nuclear submarine, the so-called 658 class of which K-19 was the first submarine introduced (Huchthausen, 2002).
On June 4th, 1961, while K-19 was on its maiden voyage conducting exercises outside southern Greenland, it developed a major leak in the reactor coolant system, causing the temperature to rise uncontrollably and putting the whole ship in a very dangerous situation – with no chance of external assistance … Faced with the choice of either abandoning ship or attempting its repair, the Captain First Rank Nikolai Vladimirovich Zateyev put together a team of eight crew members with the objective to implement a new cooling system and thereby prevent a disaster; this effort succeeded. Yet, the eight crewmen died of radiation exposure within a month and fifteen more died within two years (ibid.).
The recent release by Russian authorities (ibid.) of classified information about K-19 and its accident, has led to the 2002 film dramatization, entitled “K-19: The Widowmaker”. In the early part of that film, we can see young men boarding K-19; some of them have to leave their fiancées and family members behind, and they promise to be back soon… One of these men is later chosen to participate in the special taskforce to repair the cooling system. We can follow this man’s anxiety, desperation, refusal to cooperate and his finally being forced to do ‘his duty for his mother country’ – the men died onboard. Read more

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IIDE Proceedings 2014 ~ Cognitive Time Distortion As A Source Of Risk In Economic Organizations: Conceptual Foundations


Photo: www.officemuseum.com

Photo: www.officemuseum.com

This paper introduces two kinds of risks present in any economic organization: the risk of cognitive time distortion and the risk of economic distortion. These two kinds of risks are related in a complex and non-linear manner, so that the cognitive distortion risk gives rise to the economic distortion risk. By monitoring the cognitive distortion risk, managers may also control the economic distortion risk. Basic conceptual foundations for the conception of these two kinds of risks, originating in unconditional human cognitive time distortion, are elaborated in this paper.

“.. if economic organization is formidably complex, which it is, and if economic agents are subject to very real cognitive limits, which they are, then failures of alignment will occur routinely.” – O.E. Williamson, 1991: 79

1. Introduction
Whether we like it or not, our lives are highly dependent upon, and conditioned by, a large number of economic organizations, such as hospitals, schools, banks, pharmaceutical companies or governmental bodies. At the same time, today’s economic organizations are exposed to a never before experienced amount of challenges of various kinds. To handle these challenges successfully, a manager’s job includes the identification and management of various organizational risks. To this end we introduce here two kinds of risks present in any economic organization, yet not previously articulated. These are the Cognitive Time Distortion Risk and its consequence, the Economic Distortion Risk.
The first-mentioned risk constitutes a source of economic inefficiencies, output quality deficiencies, and human ill-being. The second-mentioned risk articulates the economic inefficiencies. Both risks may be identified and monitored, which constitutes an opportunity for their management. This paper provides the conceptual foundation for the conception of the two kinds of risk.
The approach of the concept distortion of risk is inspired by systems theory, though this paper is focused on elaborating the operationalization of distinct mathematical metrics. In this paper, the term “risk” is applied since it has a mathematical definition in economic and psychological science based on probability theory. In systems theory however, the term “risk” is not applied or defined, but we interpret the systems theoretical concept of “variety” as being a proper connotation of ‘variance’ or ‘standard deviation’. Therefore, we will conclude this paper with a more general discussion about risk, variety and system homeostasis.
We will start with a brief recapitulation of the notion of an economic organization and some of its central characteristics pertinent for this elaboration, including the temporality of an economic organization, and then introduce the central notion of cognitive time distortion, unconditionally inherent to all human activities. This cognitive time distortion is then introduced into the conventional profit equation and further transformed into a workload equation, which results in the expression of the risk of economic distortion introduced here. A brief illustration of the model introduced here is provided followed by a discussion where we put the risk distortion concept into a systems theoretic perspective. The paper ends with some key conclusions. Read more

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IIDE Proceedings 2014 – Information – The ‘I’ In 21st Century Organizational IT Systems: An Informed Systems Methodology


Photo: everybodyreadingbooks.tumblr.com

Photo: everybodyreadingbooks.tumblr.com

In development for over a decade in three North American academic libraries, the Informed Systems Methodology offers transferable organizational development for fostering workplace learning empowered by catalytic relationships among information, technology, and people. With an explicit emphasis on using information to learn, ‘soft’ systems design tools aid co-creation of communication systems and professional practices that enable information sharing and knowledge creation processes. When contextualized by local values, experiences, and purposes, the ISM fosters organizational transformation and creative innovation.

1. Introduction
The development of information technology during the last decade or so has produced vast consequences and opportunities for many professionals. As an example in the academic environment, teachers in educational settings have had to adopt various Learning Management Systems and related pedagogy, and also to offer web based courses and programs. This radical departure in higher education from campus based teaching and face-to-face interaction with students necessarily requires significant re-thinking about how students learn within a virtual environment, and how teachers interact to engage students in learning experiences.
A second related example, which has been in our research focus for more than 10 years, concerns libraries and librarians’ changing professional roles. This context has driven our slong-term research efforts towards developing a methodology for designing and implementing new workplace processes, organizational structures, co-design tools, and conversation patterns by engaging library practitioners (Mirijamdotter & Somerville, 2008; Somerville & Mirijamdotter, 2014).
Before the development of web based technology, libraries and librarians were viewed as gatekeepers to information. Traditionally, library professionals described information objects through cataloguing metadata for indexing inventory, and manipulated information-finding tools through reference, research, and instruction services (Somerville et al, 2006). This mediation role originated as ‘reader services’ in the days of inadequate indexes (or no indexes) to published scholarly content. Then, in the early stages of computer-generated indexing, librarians were necessarily ‘intermediaries’ between the inhospitable ‘native interfaces’ to electronic databases of publisher(s) aggregated content. However, all this changed as searching algorithms for ‘born digital’ content permitted ‘disintermediated’ Google-like searching, without need of a librarian coach (Somerville et al, 2012). More recently, new researcher productivity tools (Somerville & Conrad, 2014a; 2014b) accentuate the possibilities for independent research unaided by library science expertise. At the same time, librarians are experiencing decreasing gate counts and diminishing consultation transactions, despite increased student enrolment (Mirijamdotter & Somerville, 2009). Even as libraries and librarians became increasingly marginalized in the academic environment, advanced information and communication technologies (ICT) and plentiful digital information resources encouraged heightened expectations from academic library users. These developments necessitated re-thinking within academic libraries about professional purposes, conventional processes, and traditional relationships. Read more

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IIDE Proceedings 2014 – A Dooyeweerdian Understanding Of Affordance In Information Systems And Ecological Psychology


Photo: arstechnica.com

Photo: arstechnica.com

Affordance is attracting considerable interest but it poses significant philosophical challenges, around meaningfulness and the subject-object relationship, as well as less fundamental methodological challenges, such as complexity and translation of idea from one field to another. At this point, the fields in which the notion of affordance is discussed, from ecological psychology to information systems, do not speak to each other and especially in the IS field the treatment of affordance is ad-hoc. This paper discusses how Dooyeweerd’s philosophy can very readily address the philosophical challenges, and provide validation and guidance for the methodological challenges. Dooyeweerd would base affordance in his ‘oceanic’ idea of meaningfulness, and provide a workable definition of affordance as the relationship between two ways of being meaningful (two aspects). The usefulness of this is explored. The paper also discusses some practical applications of a Dooyeweerdian understanding of affordance.

1. Introduction
The idea of affordance has aroused interest in several fields of study of information and communication technology (ICT). Especially in the fields of human-computer interaction (HCI), which focuses on how individuals use ICT, and information systems (IS), which focuses on the benefits of using ICT, affordance was called upon to address issues that had long been found challenging.
In the field of HCI, it was noticed that some designs of the user interface (the screen etc. with which the user interacts in HCI) were easier to use than others – that is, they afforded greater or lesser ease of use. Though ergonomics, psychology, and the amount of skill the user has, affect ease of use, there also seemed to be something about the design and shape of the user interface objects themselves that affected ease (of difficulty) of use. The notion of affordance was harnessed by Norman (1988) and others (e.g. Hartson 2003) to explain this.
More recently, in the field of IS, affordance has been harnessed by several scholars to explain why ICT facilities make specific human activities easier or more difficult, and tend to bring certain benefits rather than others. For example, triggered attending to online conversations (Majckzrak et al. 2013) reduces need to keep watch on conversations, but it can also reduce the depth of engagement. Networked ICT can assist speedy change to documents (Conole & Dyke 2004) but can also bring confusion. Attempts to account for these solely in terms of power relations, attitude or capability of users proved insufficient, because the actual design of the facilities ‘affords’ these activities or benefits.
Originally proposed by J.J. Gibson (1979) in the field of ecological psychology, the idea of affordance shows considerable promise in these fields. It also presents new challenges. Some challenges arise from complexity, some arise from translating the idea from psychology, and some arise from fundamental philosophical issues like the subject-object relation and understanding what affordance is.
This paper discusses these challenges, and explores briefly whether the philosophy of Dooyeweerd can address them. The emphasis will be on affordance in the field of IS more than in HCI or psychology, because of its greater complexity. The idea of affordance and its roots in psychology are explained, with a discussion of how it has been translated across to HCI and IS. Four kinds of challenges are outlined. How these challenges may be addressed by Dooyeweerd’s philosophy is explored, and a few practical examples are given. Read more

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IIDE Proceedings 2014 – The Triple I Model: A Translation Of Dooyeweerdian Philosophical Concepts For Engineers


Photo: drx.typepad.com

Photo: drx.typepad.com

Inspired by Dooyeweerdian philosophy and in dialogue with different groups of engineers the Triple I model for design problems has been developed. It offers a vocabulary to deal and unravel the ‘complexity’ of modern technological systems, propose methods and techniques to understand the nature of an innovation. The ‘I’ of ‘intrinsic’ refers to the inherent normativity of the user practice, the ‘I’ of ‘inclusive’ to the presence of justified interests of different stakeholders, and the ‘I’ of ‘idealistic’ to the values or dreams that play a role.

1. Introduction
The time in which one single engineer could develop a whole product all alone is gone. Nowadays, engineers work in multidisciplinary teams and have to communicate with many stakeholders. They often lose the overview and do not understand anymore the ‘complexity’ of the functionalities of the integrated design. In practice, engineers work with simplified models resulting at best in inadequate solutions and at worst in big disasters. It is therefore of utmost importance that design tools are developed that do justice to the intricate relation between ‘man, technology, and society’.
In the last decade, the use of Dooyeweerdian philosophy for technology has been widely discussed (De Vries, 2006; Strijbos & Basden, 2006; Verkerk, Hoogland, Van der Stoep & De Vries, 2007; Basden, 2008; Van Burken & De Vries, 2012). These studies show a certain potency of this philosophical tradition for making a valuable contribution to the practice of engineers. It is generally agreed that in particular three elements are important for the field of engineering: a) the theory of modal aspects supports engineers to understand the multi-sidedness and intrinsic normativity of their designs, b) the idea of qualifying function is of utmost importance to do justice to the nature of a technological design, c) and cultural values or ground motives play an important role in designing technology. There is no doubt, however, that still a lot of work has to be done to realize this promise.

This paper aims to stimulate further discussions about how to make Dooyeweerdian philosophy available for engineers. It reports about the experiences of the author on his dialogues with engineers that resulted in the Triple I model. For a philosophical contribution to the mindset of engineers three challenges have to be met. First, the model has to be presented in an appealing way for engineers.[iii] Theoretical richness and engineering clarity have to be integrated in self-explaining drawings and heuristics. Second, the model has to guide engineers in dealing with and unraveling the complexity of technological designs, identifying normative moments in designing new products, and understanding how values guide their creative design processes. Third, the model has to focus on the organizational context in which technological innovations are used.
This article has the following set-up. Section 2 tells the story of two groups of engineers that developed philosophy-based tools to design ‘complex’ systems. These stories describe the state of the art in the field, the problems to cope with complexity, and the catch ball process to translate philosophical Dooyeweerdian concepts in engineering tools. Section 3 integrates the results of these two groups and other groups in the so-called Triple I model. Section 4 presents some additional tools. The paper ends with some conclusions. Read more

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IIDE Proceedings 2014 – Dealing With Complexity: Some Critical Reflections Upon Verkerk’s ‘Triple I Model’


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Photo: www.pinterest.com

The article provides critical reflections upon Dr. M. Verkerk’s ‘Triple I Model’ which aims to guide engineers in their work designing complex systems. The model suggests including stakeholders in the design process, in order to search for inherent values of the designed situation, and to design in an ideal-seeking mode. I do applaud the effort made as such as I do the mentioned three features of the model. However, I have also identified a set of challenges and needs for further development of the model and suggest some avenues for seeking support from the domain of systems thinking.

1. Introduction
The International Institute for Developmental Ethics (IIDE) hosts an Annual Working Conference, where a number of younger and more senior scholars meet to debate issues at the intersection of science, technology ethics and religion as sources for normativity, all related to societal challenges and changes. In past years, H. Dooyeweerd’s philosophical work has played a central role in inspiring and giving rise to many contributions and debates, yet by no means all. A recurring theme for dialogues and research cooperation has been the conceptions of systems thinking, in particular the use of systems methodologies in management.
At the 2014 Annual Working Conference (AWC) of IIDE, a special workshop entitled Dooyeweerdian Thinking meets Systems Thinking was organized, with the purpose of triggering new debate and opening up new avenues for future research. In view of this purpose Dr. Maarten Verkerk was invited to contribute. Dr Verkerk’s profile well matches the theme, as he is affiliated with the Dooyeweerdian school of thought in the Netherlands and is well acquainted with the domain of technology and management. At the workshop he presented the “Triple I Model” (hereafter referred to as 3IM), which aims to offer generic guidance for the design of complex systems. As a follow-up of the discussions at the workshop, I was asked by the chairperson of IIDE to write down my critical reflections upon Verkerk’s 3IM, which will be presented here.
The next section summarizes my understanding of the 3IM and my reflections will follow in section three. In brief, I sympathize with Dr. Verkerk’s efforts, while at the same time noticing some challenges; I suggest some steps towards solving these. The paper ends with some key conclusions to that end. Before moving to my assessment, however, I shall provide an account of my intellectual profile in order to make the reader aware of the kind of spectacles that shaped my assessment of Verkerk’s 3IM.

1.1 My Profile – the reference point of assessment
In several senses my profile is well suited to act as a base for an assessment of 3IM, as I perceive it. Given that the latter aims to guide designers of complex systems, where technology and the social aspects coexist, my broad intellectual and practical profile may offer a relevant reference point, yet not the only one; there is of course a need for several assessments that utilize different reference points.
I have been educated in a number of disciplines, ranging from mathematics, statistics and computer science, through economics, business administration and industrial organization, as well as psychology and sociology, and ending with philosophy, all in a varying range and depth. I have studied postmodern philosophy in France, analytical philosophy in Sweden and have been a keen reader, yet by no means exhaustively, of Dooyeweerd’s thought. I have also been a devoted student of systems science and its derivate systems thinking. I earned a doctorate in industrial organization and I have spent nearly fifteen years in managerial positions, ranging from those of operations analyst and management consultant to line manager and strategic development manager positions at a major international corporation. In all these contexts I have attempted to use my learnings, particularly systems thinking understood as guide to intervention into human, social, public, business and other affairs. As with Verkerk’s 3MI, I have also made some minor attempts to operationalize parts of Dooyeweerd’s thinking in terms of systems-oriented methodology for managerial practice, yet not very successfully. Read more

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