The Social Requirements of Technical Systems

The Social Requirements of Technical Systems

Brian Whitworth (Massey University - Auckland, New Zealand)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-100-3.ch424


A socio-technical system (STS) is a social system built upon a technical base. An STS adds social requirements to human-computer interaction (HCI) requirements, which already add to technical (hardware and software) requirements. Socio-technical systems use technology to connect people socially, for example through e-mail, electronic markets, social network systems, knowledge exchange systems, blogs, chat rooms, and so forth. Yet while the technology is often new, the social principles of people interacting with people may not be. The requirements of successful social communities, whether mediated by computers or the physical world, may be similar. If so, socio-technical systems must close the gap between social needs and technical performance, between what communities want and what the technology does. If online society is essentially a social system, of people interacting with people, social principles rather than the mediating technology should drive its design. Societies create value through social synergy, which is lost for example when people steal from others, whether time (spam), money (scams), credibility (lying), reputation (libel) or anything else of value. The success of today’s global information society depends upon designing the architecture of online interaction to support social goals. This chapter briefly reviews some of the emerging requirements of STS design.

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