Critical Thinking and Human Centered Methods in Information Systems

Critical Thinking and Human Centered Methods in Information Systems

Lorraine Warren
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-878289-64-3.ch012
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Over the last four decades, information technology (IT) has permeated almost every aspect of our lives. From its origins in the data processing (DP) departments of large organisations, where bureaucratic operations were automated on mainframe computers, IT has penetrated ever further into all kinds of organisational activity, largely due to the accessibility of the personal computer (PC) in the 1980s and the 1990s. Beyond that, IT is also involved in many aspects of our everyday lives, such as education, leisure and entertainment, now that the boundaries between traditional telecommunications technologies and computer-based systems effectively no longer exist. This permeation has meant that the range of people now closely involved with IT on a regular basis has expanded far beyond the white-coated experts in the early DP departments, with terms such as ‘the information society’ in common parlance. It is therefore hardly surprising that the discipline of information systems (IS) emerged and is now evolving to meet the challenge of analysis and design in this complex and dynamic social environment. Nor is it surprising that IS is moving on from its early emphasis on highly structured formal methods of analysis and design, designed to cope with the machine-like preoccupations of the data processing world, to a far softer, human-centred focus. There is clearly an agenda for improvement for IS; although the notions of success and failure may be problematic in themselves, we hear of IS ‘failures’ which make the evening news at depressingly regular intervals — Y2K, the UK air traffic control project at West Drayton, the recent Passport Agency fiasco, for example. More generally, a wide-ranging (14,000 organisations) survey in the UK carried out by the Economic and Social Research Council and the Department of Trade and Industry (OASIG, 1996) concerning the outcomes of IT investments makes worrying reading, reporting that:

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