The user role in the design of information systems is increasingly portrayed as active and complex, and the relationships between users and developers are portrayed as blurry. Information systems have become ubiquitous in most work processes, and users typically rely on several large scale information systems tightly integrated into other information systems, machines and work practices. In this paper we propose the notion of generativity as a framework to assess generative socio-technical characteristics of such systems, conceptualized as information infrastructures. Further, the paper will discuss the role these characteristics play in users’ involvement by exploring the ways in which users can contribute as designers and thereby expand on the conceptual views of users and design processes of generative information infrastructures.
Empirically, this paper presents the evolution of an information system for cooperation between general practice and hospital laboratories, where users in both settings participated in the design process. The system was designed using agile methods, and design and implementation were continuous and iterative co-existing processes. The case showed that a high degree of generativity in the system itself is a necessary condition for users to make changes. However, in an integrated and complex setting the flexibility of the existing and integrated systems will heavily influence the possibility to make changes. The paper also provides an in-depth illustration of how user and designer roles evolve together with circumstances and relationships. However, we argue that this type of evolvement requires dedicating a considerable amount of time and effort to achieve a climate in which such evolvement can take place. Finally, design is more than just the development of technology. It is also the development of work practices in which users’ contributions are decisive. Designing work practices alongside the design of the technology has given rise to insights that feed directly into the design process. Acknowledging users’ substantial contributions in design processes can aid in refining conceptualizations of users and developers along with bolstering efforts to facilitate appropriate user involvement.
Recommended CitationJohannessen, Liv Karen; Gammon, Deede; and Ellingsen, Gunnar (2012) "Users as Designers of Information Infrastructures and the Role of Generativity," AIS Transactions on Human-Computer Interaction (4) 2, pp. 72-91
Available at: http://aisel.aisnet.org/thci/vol4/iss2/3