Bauer, J.M. and P.M. Herder: Designing Socio-Technical Systems, pp. 601-631 In: Handbook of the Philosophy of Science: Handbook Philosophy of Technology and Engineering Sciences. Eds.: Dov M. Gabbay, Anthonie Meijers, Paul Thagard and John Woods. North-Holland: Elsevier, 2009. ISBN-13: 978-0-444-51667-1, ISBN-10: 0-444-51667-0.
This chapter reviews issues related to the design of socio-technical systems in general and of one particular class of such systems, infrastructure networks, in particular. The socio-technical systems approach was initially developed in the context of organizational studies. One of the key insights of the approach was that social and technical aspects of such systems need to be optimized jointly. In principle, this method can be applied to the issues raised by infrastructure networks. At present, no overarching approach to designing such systems is available and a socio-technical systems approach might assist in closing that gap. However, the issues reach beyond devising a method of joint planning and design and might be rooted in inherent limits of designing large complex systems. The chapter first reviews the multiplicity of design decisions that need to be made in such systems. Our review of alternative conceptual frameworks that might inform such choices reveal a bifurcation between theories that do not principally question the ability of planners and designers to shape socio-technical systems and theories that question whether this is possible at all.
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