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Thursday, September 9, 2004

Chickens, eggs and basics

originally posted by Aidan

From the perspective of the system, there appears to be information and knowledge about the system that is needed to make sensible judgements about its operation. From the perspective of the individual, there is communication that creates a space for responsible action and there is communication that expects obedience and compliance. The problem is that knowledge almost always gets attached to the second sort of communication.

It is only when knowledge becomes explicit and valued that this happens. Once knowledge becomes important in the choices that are made about the system and its operation it becomes important for people to control and to police. It must be shown to be correct and it must be sanctioned by the management systems. So most of the things that might be learned about the operation of the system are not even available as perceptions. Knowledge management is on dangerous ground before it starts.

The issue to me is responsibility for what is perceived. I know I can change what I see and what I hear and what intuitions I have. I know that these changes affect the systems I work within. I know that no-one can change these perceptions but me. But most people in power want to insist that knowledge is external and that we must act rationally in the face of consensus knowledge. It is just that I know that what I am capable of perceiving is repressed by this insistence: its character is closed and not open to what I can know.

When people talk about socio-technical systems they seem to mean rational technical systems that have some unfortunate dependence on human players within them. I want socio-technical to mean that human actors have acquired huge extensions of reach and power via technological devices. They need to learn to use this reach and power, not to have their perceptions dominated by the supposed logic of the system.

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