Track Chairs

Peter Bednar, Senior Lecturer, University of Portsmouth, UK. Email:

Angela Locoro, Senior Researcher, University of Milano-Bicocca, Milan, Italy. Email: 

Natalie Pang, Senior Research Fellow, National University of Singapore, Singapore. Email:


Track Description

A Dialectic among Individuals, Technologies and Social Contexts: Contemporary Socio-Technical Perspectives

Interest in sociotechnical systems theory and practice has been firmly established within the ECIS community in recent years.

Contemporary Socio-Technical perspectives can be seen as a cornerstone in discussions about Information Systems in a Sharing Society. Phenomena such as human use and engagement with big data, everyday interactions with Internet of Things, Social Networking as intertwined aspect of mainstream cultural behavior, are those that allow and “interfere” with major changes towards the work, life and organization of people.

Shaping IS to the purpose of sharing requires a twofold system of values. Technical: represented by a focus on artifacts. Human: represented by a focus on work and life design. Socio-technical approaches can be seen as a continuously involving of innovators and recipients in dealing with complex and evolving artifacts (Mumford, 2006), and a breaking down of barriers to acknowledge the entangled nature of the technical and the social components in human activity systems (Trist, 1981). Designing as part of the digital sharing economy, digital enterprises, digital services and products, implies a multidisciplinary effort (Barrett et al. 2015, Lyytinen et al. 2016), that is embedded into the sociotechnical system perspective/model (Kling et al. 1999, Luna-Reyes et al. 2005), which cannot be decoupled from the soft, social, cultural and even psychological perspectives in artifacts and systems design (Silver & Markus, 2013).

Technologies change nothing in isolation from the endeavours of people, generating creative ideas and harnessing technological developments in design of purposeful systems (Vickers, 1965; Alvesson and Spicer, 2012). A sociotechnical approach in research ensures that such a perspective is maintained (Mumford and Weir, 1979; Baxter and Sommerville, 2011). Mohr and van Amelsvoort (2016, p.2) have defined a modern, sociotechnical approach to comprise: “The participative, multidisciplinary study and improvement of how jobs, single organizations, networks, and ecosystems function internally and in relation to their environmental context, with a special focus on the mutual interactions of the entity’s … value-creation processes”.

How can IS afford people meaningful action within a mesh of intentional activities they engage in within their working lives (Cabiza and Simone, 2012)? Developers need scope and methods to help them support people to participate in design of their own systems (Eason, 2008). By surfacing their unique experience of work context, people can embark on a process of co-creation that will support design of useful systems – those which afford the best support for meaningful work (Ciborra, 2004).

Few people define their work roles as ‘users of IT’, but rather as architects, accountants, social workers, buyers, tour guides, teachers, etc. (Nissen, 2002). People contribute to good design through opportunities to participate in shaping ‘systems’ for meaningful use in their own professional context (Bednar and Welch, 2007; 2009).

Contributions are invited that illuminate this relationship. These could be drawn from any aspect of IS use or inquiry, e.g. methodological re-interpretation and re-contextualization of digital artifacts (Cabitza & Locoro, 2014); design research (Duffy, 2005); health and medicine (Carayon, 2012); effective and ethical use of AI (Stahl, et al, 2014); software engineering (Sommerville, 2011); sustainable systems (Dwyer, 2011). Invited contributions: full research papers and research in progress papers.



Alvesson M & Spicer A (2012). A Stupidity-Based Theory of Organizations. JMS, 49(7), 1194–1220.

Barrett, M., Davidson, E., Prabhu, J., & Vargo, S. L. (2015). Service innovation in the digital age: key contributions and future directions. MIS quarterly, 39(1), 135-154.

Baxter G. and Sommerville I (2011). Socio-technical systems. Interacting with Computers, 23(1), 4–17.

Bednar (2000). A Contextual Integration of Individual and Organizational Learning Perspectives as Part of IS Analysis. Informing Science, 3, 134-156. Available at:

Bednar (2016). Complex methods of inquiry: structuring uncertainty. Lund University Press. Available at:

Bednar P and Welch C (2007). ‘A double helix metaphor for use and usefulness in Informing Systems’, Informing Science Journal: Journal of an Emerging Transdiscipline, Vol. 10 Monograph, Use and Redesign in IS: Double Helix Relationships? H-E Nissen, P. Bednar and C. Welch, (editors), pp 272-295.

Bednar P and Welch C (2009). ‘Contextual Inquiry and Requirements Shaping’. In Barry, C., Conboy, K., Lang, M., Wojtkowski, G., and Wojtkowski, W. (eds). The Inter-Networked World: ISD Theory, Practice, and Education: Volume 1, pp. 225-236. Springer-Verlag: New York

Bonchek M (2013). Little Data Makes Big Data More Powerful. HBR Blog, 11:00 AM May 3, 2013,

Cabitza, F., & Locoro, A. (2014). "Made with knowledge: Disentangling the IT Knowledge Artifact by a qualitative literature review. In procs of the Knowledge Management and Information Sharing Conference, KMIS 2014, pp. 64-75, doi:

Cabitza F and Simone C (2012). Affording mechanisms: an integrated view of coordination and knowledge management. Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW), 21(2-3), 227-260.

Duffy F (2005). Research, practice and architectural knowledge, RIBA Research Symposium 2005: Design as Research, Paper 1.

Dwyer C (2011). "Socio-technical Systems Theory and Environmental Sustainability, Proceedings of SIG Green Workshop. Sprouts: Working Papers on Information Systems, 11(3) n.p. accessed at

Eason K (2008). Sociotechnical systems theory in the 21st Century: another half-filled glass? in Sense in Social Science, D. Graves (ed), Broughton, 2008 pp 123-134.

Giddens A (1976). New Rules of Sociological Method, London: Hutchinson.

Kling, R., & Lamb, R. (1999). IT and organizational change in digital economies: a socio-technical approach. ACM SIGCAS Computers and Society, 29(3), 17-25.

Leonardi, P. (2011). When flexible routines meet flexible technologies: Affordance, constraint, and the imbrication of human and material agencies. MIS Quarterly , 35(1), 147–167.

Luna-Reyes, L. F., Zhang, J., Gil-García, J. R., & Cresswell, A. M. (2005). Information systems development as emergent socio-technical change: a practice approach. European Journal of Information Systems, 14(1), 93-105.

Lyytinen, K., Yoo, Y., & Boland Jr, R. J. (2016). Digital product innovation within four classes of innovation networks. Information Systems Journal, 26(1), 47-75.

Mohr B J and van Amelsvoort P (2016). Co-Creating Humane and Innovative Organizations: Evolutions in the Practice of Socio-technical System Design. Portland ME: Global STS-D Network Press.

Mumford M and Weir M (1979). Computer systems in work design – the ETHICS method. New York: Wiley.

Mumford, E. (2006). The study of socio-technical design: reflections on its successes, failures and potential. Information Systems Journal, 16, 317–342.

Myers M and Klein H.K (2011). A Set of Principles for Conducting Critical Research in Information Systems. MISQ, 35(1), 17-36.

Orlikowski, W. (1992). The duality of technology: Rethinking the concept of technology in organizations. Organization Science, 3(3), pp 398-427.

Shin, D. (2014). A socio-technical framework for Internet-of-Things design: A human-centered design for the Internet of Things. Telematics and Informatics, 31(4), 519-531.

Silver, M. S., & Markus, M. L. (2013). Conceptualizing the SocioTechnical (ST) Artifact. Systems, Signs & Actions, 7(1), 82–89.

Sommerville I (2011). Software Engineering 9. Harlow: Pearson.

Stein M-K; Galliers R. and Whitley E.A (2016). Twenty years of the European information systems academy at ECIS: emergent trends and research topics. EJIS 25(1), 1-15.

Trist, E. (1981). The evolution of socio-technical systems – a conceptual framework and an action research program. Occasional Paper, 2, 1–67.

Vickers G (1965). The Art of Judgment: A Study of Policy Making. SAGE Publication.


Possible topics include, but are not restricted to:

  • Critically-informed sociotechnical approaches to organizational change

  • Relationships between Lean and sociotechnical approaches

  • Dynamics of work groups and their impact on system design

  • Leadership and organizational learning

  • Participatory design

  • Systems theory in design

  • Organizational anthropology

  • Appreciative systems and Weltanshauungen

  • The socialised enterprise

  • Inter-organizational communication and culture

  • Sociotechnical approaches to IS Security

  • Sociotechnical perspectives on Systems Failure

  • Interconnected Human Activity Systems and Organizational Learning

  • Soft Systems Thinking

  • Contemporary Sociotechnical theory and practice

  • Sustainable organizational change and routinization of habits

  • Continuous re-design of interconnected human activity systems

  • Contextually dependent IS diversity

  • Sociotechnical practices and thinking in industrial and public sectors

  • How IS affords meaningful action in relation to goal-oriented activities

  • Sociotechnical perspectives on contemporary issues of digital technologies (e.g. misinformation, digital citizenry, citizen and state surveillance, etc.).


Publishing Opportunities in Leading Journals

One possibility is The Journal of Strategic Information Systems where the editor in chief Bob Galliers is sympathetic to sociotechnical ideas and methods, and there is a potential for a special issue in this area. There is a potential to get published in the Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW) journal and we believe that having papers published in this Journal would be possible if they bring a critical and constructive perspective on ST and their quality is good. A further potential to get published is in the form of a special issue of International Journal of Sociotechnology and Knowledge Development (IJSKD) where the editor-in-chief José Abdelnour-Nocera has expressed support for the idea of a potential special issue with good quality papers. IT & People is also a potential opportunity as it is a journal which has previously had special issues with a focus on Socio-Technical Approaches.


Track Associate Editors

1. Christine Welch, Visiting Research Fellow, University of Portsmouth, UK

2. Ilia Bider, Associate Professor, Stockholm University, Sweden

3. Federico Cabitza, Associate Professor, Università degli Studi di Milano-Bicocca, Italy

4. Umberto Fiaccadori, Adjunct Professor, Lund University, Sweden

5. Eli Berniker, Professor Emeritus, Council for International Exchange of Scholars, USA

6. Alexander Nolte, Associate Professor, University of Tartu, Estonia

7. Pernille Bjorn, Associate Professor, IT University of Copenhagen, Denmark

8. Carla Simone, Professor, University of Siegen, Germany

9. Moufida Sadok, Associate Professor, University of Portsmouth, UK

10. Aurelio Ravarini, Assistant Professor, Università C. Cattaneo – LIUC, Castellanza, Italy

11. Stephan Aier, Professor, University of Sankt Gallen, Switzerland

12. Donna Champion, Reader, Cranfield School of Management, UK

13. Andrea Resca, Senior Researcher, Università LUISS “Guido Carli”, Rome, Italy

14. Antonio Piccinno, Assistant Professor, Università degli Studi di Bari, Italy

15. Paolo Spagnoletti, Associate Professor, Università LUISS “Guido Carli”, Rome, Italy

16. Sandi Kirkham, Associate Professor, Staffordshire University, UK

17. David Edwards, Lecturer, Business School, University of Nottingham, UK & China

18. David Allen, Professor, University of Leeds, UK

19. Gianluigi Viscusi, Research Fellow, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland

20. Penny Hart, Senior Lecturer, School of Computing, University of Portsmouth, UK