From Information Systems in Social Settings To Information Systems as Social Settings

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    Research into the social impact of automation sees automation systems as separate entities to the social systems that they affect. This paper examines this research position. Social systems are defined as systems of organisation and work involving human cooperation and inter-relations (adapted from OED 1990). It explores the possibility that some automation systems are themselves social systems. This proposition reframes the question of social impact by placing the impacting system as part of the impacted social system. Manufacturing information systems (IS) are presented as an example of automation applied to information processing. Manufacturing IS’s attempt to provide streamlined, automated information processing in their host organisations. Information systems development (ISD) methodologies are centred upon delivering a technical solution in this space. The focus upon technology in ISD de-emphasises the social impact of these systems and places the technical system outside the impacted social system. This paper briefly summarises results from an empirical study, which reveals that the delivery of a new information system means the delivery of a new social system. This social system is the primary outcome of ISD. This issue is not explicitly recognised by most current research trajectories. This paper contends that the implications of this are extremely significant for research and development of complex automata for information systems.


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