SocioTechnical Systems Overview



socio-technical systems is a relatively new area which takes a more holistic approach to the development of engineering projects that involve the interaction between people and technology but let's start by taking an example of how our traditional approach to the development of technology and social organization works take Bob and Alice they're both web developers and they both work on the same website but Bob is back-end web developer he's databases for breakfast and spends his days crunching code whilst alice is a front-end web designer she makes word sing and graphics come alive in simple and user-friendly interfaces that people love every few months the site needs updating and Bob works hard behind the scenes coding away he then hands the project over for Alice to work her magic on this works fine initially but as the site grows with more employees being taken on things become a little less straightforward we soon have multiple people working on increasingly specialized areas of the site with developers and designers often needing to interact and collaborate but finding themselves stuck in their separate departments Bob analysis site now requires a more holistic and nonlinear approach to overcome this stumbling block as it has now become what we would call a complex socio-technical system what does this mean exactly firstly it is complexed in that it has multiple elements such as lines of code databases graphics and so on with all of these different things needing to interact and being dependent on each other's functioning secondly it is socio-technical as a website represents an interface between the technical domains of computer software and the human interaction to decide to function fully we need to design both areas to work together when we look around us we can begin to see socio technical systems everywhere let's take another example this is a subway station in Hong Kong it represents a highly integrated set of diverse elements from the residential area to the commuter centre to the transport hub it was engineered and constructed by a single company the designers of this system not only about how the physical technologies would interact and work together within a confined space but also about how the residents and commuters might wish to use the system for multiple different functions the website and subway stations are example of systems on the small to medium scale as we enter the 21st century many of the challenges we face involve macro scales socio technical systems such as growing demographics in urbanization with urban infrastructure companies now offering solutions that integrate power grids water supply transportation and other utilities that must interface with thousands of people on a daily basis and have a strong influence on the social fabric while with respect to the environment where nations must balance both social needs technological requirements and environmental considerations to manage and grow efficient and sustainable economies so we can think about socio technical systems then as an approach to overcoming the problems of optimizing either the social or technical side to a project in isolation and a more holistic method for developing synergistic relations between both areas that create optimal solutions for the system as a whole




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