Different Levels of Information Systems Designers' Forms of Thought and Potential for Human-Centered Design

Different Levels of Information Systems Designers' Forms of Thought and Potential for Human-Centered Design

Hannakaisa Isomäki (University of Lapland, Finland)
Copyright: © 2009 |Pages: 17
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-088-2.ch005
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This article describes a study clarifying information systems (IS) designers’ conceptions of human users of IS by drawing on in-depth interviews with 20 designers. The designers’ lived experiences in their work build up a continuum of levels of thought from more limited conceptions to more comprehensive ones reflecting variations of the designers’ situated knowledge related to human-centred design. The resulting forms of thought indicate three different but associated levels in conceptualising users. The separatist form of thought provides designers predominantly with technical perspectives and a capability for objectifying things. The functional form of thought focuses on external task information and task productivity, nevertheless, with the help of positive emotions. The holistic form of thought provides designers with competence of humancentred information systems development (ISD). Furthermore, the author hopes that understanding the IS designers’ tendencies to conceptualise human users facilitates the mutual communication between users and designers.
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As information systems (IS) increasingly pervade all aspects of everyday life, of utmost importance is how applications of IS are adjusted to human action. In particular, in current information systems development (ISD) it is essential to take into account human characteristics and behaviour; that is, to humanise IS (Sterling, 1974). In the same vein, Checkland (1981) argues that ISD should be seen as a form of enquiry within which IS designers’ understandings regulate an operationalisation of their intellectual framework into a set of guidelines for investigation that require particular methods and techniques for building the system. Regarding the humanisation of IS, a notion concerning the nature of the human being is a crucial element of the intellectual framework. As a consequence, within this kind of enquiry, the way humans are taken into account in ISD is dependent on the operationalisation of the IS designers’ conceptualisations of users. With respect to human-centeredness, attention should be paid to the fundamental qualities of people without any explicit or implicit domination of the other elements of IS, such as data, formal models and technical appliances, or managerial belief systems that treat humans instrumentally. This is necessary in order to conceptualise humans in their own right, and thus avoid the reduction of humans to something that exists only in relation to particular instrumental needs and purposes (cf. Buber, 1993).

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