The constitutive and the instrumental in social design

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

Simon's The Sciences of the Artificial is rightly influential as a founding text in design research in the information systems field (IS). Simon's contributions in the same volume to what he calls social planning and human design - practices associated with the development of societal scale artifacts that foster a "humane society" - are much less visible in IS design research. I develop and expand on some of Simon's insights here using social design projects such as IT-based civic networks as my context, drawing on a civic network development project called the Urban-net that I have tracked since its inception in 1996. I define some distinctive features of such projects and advance an institutionalist conception of actors (designers) and action. Despite noting that "nothing is more fundamental in setting our research agenda and informing our research methods than our view of the nature of the human beings whose behavior we are studying" (Simon 1985; emphasis added), and despite his recognition that social planning projects often are quite different from other types of technical projects in the demands they make on actors, Simon's (1996) discussion is not moved by a sufficiently nuanced view of the designer. Apropos, and drawing on a sociological institutionalist view of social actors and action, I outline a model of two inter-related design activities: constitutive design - targeting design of the normative or institutional foundation and governance mechanisms - and instrumental design, where designers specify the system to be built within the agreed-upon normative constraints. I conclude with a brief account of the Urban-net case.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 4th International Conference on Design Science Research in Information Systems and Technology, DESRIST '09
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 9 2009
Event4th International Conference on Design Science Research in Information Systems and Technology, DESRIST '09 - Philadelphia, CA, United States
Duration: May 7 2009May 8 2009

Publication series

NameProceedings of the 4th International Conference on Design Science Research in Information Systems and Technology, DESRIST '09

Other

Other4th International Conference on Design Science Research in Information Systems and Technology, DESRIST '09
CountryUnited States
CityPhiladelphia, CA
Period5/7/095/8/09

Keywords

  • Collective action
  • Constitutive and instrumental design
  • Social design
  • Social dilemmas

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computational Theory and Mathematics
  • Hardware and Architecture
  • Information Systems

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