Online Discussion of ISSS paper 2002-186, "Enabling Collective Knowledge Work through the Design of Mediating Spaces", David ING and Ian SIMMONDS

Below is an archive of the comments contributed by members of the International Society for the Systems Sciences (ISSS), prior to discussion within the Special Integration Group (SIG) on Systems Applications in Business and Industry (SABI). For more information on the discussion which occurred in person during the meeting, please contact someone who attended the session!

(7/7/02 2:16:56 pm)
ING & SIMMONDS 2002-186 Enabling Collective Knowledge Wo



We propose a framework for designers of business organizations and designers of information systems that portrays three forms of "space" that mediate social interactions: physical space, social space and informatic space. The framework aids organizational designers and information technology designers to understand some of the complexities of enabling knowledge work, by contrasting the properties of the spaces and their interactions:

· Social interaction enabled by physical spaces is the focus of architects of buildings and urban planners, managers locating individuals and team who work together, and conference organizers who plan events to encourage networking.

· Social interaction enabled by social spaces is the focus of organizational designers who develop supporting social structures such as centers of excellence or practitioner support networks.

· Social interaction enabled by informatic spaces is the focus of knowledge architects and process analysts, who administer and moderate groupware and workflow applications.

In addition,

· Informatic spaces hosted in physical spaces are the focus of Information Technology architects, who ensure appropriate geographical coverage, performance, availability and security through appropriate computer hardware and software (e.g. servers, access points and networks).

Since the ways in which knowledge work can be carried out vary from person to person across a community, and innovations are naturally introduced over time, an enabling infrastructure should be capable of adaptation to those changed needs. We draw on research in general systems theory, architectural theory, and social theory to inform our practices in advising on business design, and methods and tools for information modeling.

(7/11/02 10:18:57 am)
Re: ING & SIMMONDS 2002-186 Enabling Collective Knowledg

This article touches on a vast range of issues which are typically dealt with as separate topics, but which (I agree) must be brought together in a more systemic fashion if the challenges they create are to be addressed: knowledge management, business and IT cultures, communication, "learning spaces", etc. Due to the complexity of the issues, they typically get reduced to questions of efficiency and accuracy. How does a business "capture" and utilize the knowledge and creativity of its employees? How can technology facilitate communication across time zones around the globe that feels familiar, immediate, local, etc.?

Behind all this, of course, is another vast array of questions about language and ideas, and the ways they are created and shaped, which produce both potentials and limitations. The concept of "spaces" has been developing for some time as a way of thinking about the contexts and environments, and should be a topic of growing importance as we move ever-further towards "non-physically defined" environments. The keynote address by John Warfield may be enlightening in this regard, as well.

Gary Metcalf


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