Gunilla Bradley’s ‘Good Society’ and Structuration Theory: An Exploratory Excursus

Gunilla Bradley’s ‘Good Society’ and Structuration Theory: An Exploratory Excursus

Larry Stillman (Monash University, Australia) and Tom Denison (Monash University, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-057-0.ch005
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Abstract

This chapter considers Gunilla Bradley’s model of technology-in-society as an empirically-focused exercise that reveals psycho-social factors which effect can affect institutional well-being, and that the study of ICTs in society demands a much broader range of understandings of social interaction that has been traditionally associated with Information Systems. Her model also shows that that the study of ICTs in society demands a much broader range of understandings of social interaction that has been traditionally associated with Information Systems. Her model can be enriched by comparison to theories and models, which have emerged from the structuration theory associated with Anthony Giddens, which provides considerable insight about how institutional behaviours are created and transmitted across time and space through the medium of ICTs. This linkage moves the Bradley model from a somewhat functionalist position to one that is more accommodating of human agency, innovation, change, and conflict in different types of social and institutional settings.
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New Engineers Or New Information Professionals?

Bradley’s book was prepared with what she said was ‘new kind of engineer in mind’ in a society where ICTs were pervasive in augmenting all forms of communication processing (Bradley 2006: 3).

However, given the increasing diversity of people engaged in knowledge and information work that involves questions of design, testing, implementation and theorization about ICT artifacts and relationships, it is not just a question of a ‘new type of engineer’. This is an observation that can be drawn from the critical approach developed by Hirschheim and others in their attempt to deconstruct the many complex domains and tasks which cover Information Systems design: no one person, or particular discipline. can be expected to cover the huge range of skills required for the creation of increasingly complex social-technical networks and products in a globalized world (Hirschheim, Klein et al. 1996).

As Bradley observes, broad education and exposure to fundamental social theories and concepts are necessary for the creation a broader cohort of ICT professionals and practitioners, who can think beyond traditional ‘engineering’ problems. A broader educational model also indicates the need for a dialogue between non-technical practitioners such as community development workers and those responsible for the design of technical systems, and critically, the engagement of communities themselves in the design process. This is where the perspectives drawn from Community Informatics and the related field of Development Informatics can help to establish richer understandings of what is needed to make more professionals conscious of the complexities of working with social-technologies for social betterment.

For those unfamiliar with the literature and practice of Community Informatics, it is an increasingly well-documented approach to empowering communities with information and communication technologies which brings to bear insights from Information Systems, and Social Informatics (Lamb and Kling 2003). Gurstein, who is widely cited in Community Informatics, recently suggested that Community Informatics involves

… a commitment to universality of technology-enabled opportunity including to the disadvantaged; a recognition that the “lived physical community” is at the very center of individual and family well-being – economic, political, and cultural; a belief that this can be enhanced through the judicious use of ICT; a sophisticated user-focused understanding of Information Technology; and applied social leadership, entrepreneurship and creativity (Gurstein 2007: 12)

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