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System and Actor Perspectives on Sociotechnical Systems

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2 Author(s)
Hans de Bruijn ; Fac. of Technol., Policy & Manage., Delft Univ. of Technol., Delft, Netherlands ; Paulien M. Herder

This paper addresses the complexity of analyzing and designing sociotechnical systems: systems that involve both complex physical-technical systems and networks of interdependent actors. It is shown that, although a hard system perspective and an actor perspective differ greatly in terms of terminology, methods, and applicability, they also show surprisingly many similarities. By building upon the similarities and differences of the two dominant perspectives, this paper then goes on to show that the modeling and intervention possibilities in both perspectives differ to a great extent. The emerging systems-of-systems discipline generally calls for an ldquointegrationrdquo of both perspectives in order to model and design these complex sociotechnical systems, but in this paper, it is argued and shown that full integration is not the preferred way to go. Instead, the emerging discipline should strive to facilitate the use of both perspectives alongside each other in a sensible way and, thereby, not discard the strengths of either perspective.

Published in:

IEEE Transactions on Systems, Man, and Cybernetics - Part A: Systems and Humans  (Volume:39 ,  Issue: 5 )