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The social-technical design circle


Computer systems developed for groups of people often have built-in social imperatives, either explicitly or implictly brought to bear during technology design and use. Even when users are active, ongoing paticipants in design, conflicts can arise between the social assumptions inscribed in technical mechanisms and those in existing or proposed social practices, resulting in changes to both. This paper describes the joint evolution of tools and social practices in Pueblo, a school-centered learning community supported by a MOO (an Internet accessible virtual world). Examples illustrate how one can design and use a social practice to simplify a technical implementation and how one can make a choice in technical implementation to work towards a desirable social goal. Social and technical proactices in a network community co-evolve as social values and policies become clearer and as growth in the community pushes it toward changes in the distribution of power and authority.


O'Day, V. L.; Bobrow, D. G. ; Shirley, M. The social-technical design circle. Ackerman, M. S. ed. CSCW 96; Proceedings of the ACM 1996 Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work; 1996 November 16-20; Boston, MA. New York: ACM; 1996; 160-169.