A New Look at the Social Aspects of
Information Systems Development

Andrew Basden

Professor of Human Factors and Philosophy in Information Systems,
University of Salford.


1.1 Problems of ICT in Society

ICT and its use is changing society. It seems to offer opportunities. Yet it changes the way people do things, and not always for the better. It has changed the way we work. It has removed certain jobs. Nowadays it is changing the nature of relationships we have, perhaps making them more shallow, but perhaps making them more numerous. It offers convenience and yet seems to demand extra time from us. Email and social-media-checking account for large amounts to time. It absorbs much time via procrastination.

Three attitudes:

With the 'liberating vision', ICT can become a blessing more than a curse. It can make the world better, not worse.

1.2 The Responsibility of IS Developers

Most IS developers assume their responsibility stops at mere delivery of software, perhaps on time and to budget. Some recognise their responsibility to support of users learning to use the software they produce. A few consider how they can make the world a better place, but only at the local level of individual 'benefits' to users. Very few IS developers consider the wider implications.

Wider implications are considered by sociolgically-oriented academics, but these do not consider the realities of IS development.

It is preferable if IS developers themselves take on a responsibility to fulfil the 'liberating vision' - to bring blessing rather than curse - by considering the wider implications, in conjunction with the more local ones.

1.3 Problems in ISD

Perspective ---> theory and methodology ---> rules of practice.
Perspective ------> everyday practice.

Hence 'a new look' should be a new perspective.

1.4 What is ISD?

Information system: "ICT artefact with its human context of use" Context of use: e.g. rules of use, documentation

Emphasis in ISD is on use of ICT artefact(s), not on their internal structure

Scope of my talk:

Elements of ISD:

1.5 Perspectives in ISD

A perspective: Defining what it is meaningful to consider

Hirschheim, Klein & Lyytinen's [1995] list:

Some they miss:


Philosophy, the discipline of disciplines: enables us to look at perspectives.

A Philosopher of Meaningfulness: Herman Dooyeweerd

Diversity of meaningfulness:

ISD involves functioning in all these aspects simultaneously.


3.1 Towards a new perspective

Every aspect involved - but in different ways.

Each aspect yields a 'key issue' in ISD.

Example: Some Social aspects of ISD:

Other aspects will be considered during the talk.

3.2 A New Perspective on ISD

Complexity of ISD:

New perspective:

3.3 MSc module in 'Key Issues in Information Systems Development'

Masters course in Salford Business School. Taught ten times from October 2007 to May 2012. Mainly international students.

Students loved it:

"Introduction to the idea of aspects and gaining a relatively better understanding of these has helped me to 'humanize' ISD activities recognizing this as comparably more important than the processes or the artefacts." - W.P.U., 2011

"I have found that the Dooyeweerd's aspects have helped me greatly as I am able to relate these aspects to everyday life not just to ISD. I intend to use the aspects in the future when I create the resource to be used in my lessons to aid the delivery of my lectures such as a powerpoint presentation." - M.A., 2011

"Getting to know about aspects has been the highlight for me because it has made me look at everything I do in a different angle. Before aspects, yes I did the right thing and in the right way but with a missing element." - M.B., 2010

"The importance of aspects as a tool in ISD projects cannot be over emphasized. ... application of aspects to my personal life currently has impacted the way I view things and make decisions" - S.O., 2010

"This module has really fulfilled my expectations. The best thing I have learned from this module is about implementation of Aspects in daily life. As it was defined in one phrase in the first lecture was the aspects in one phrase, to understanding complexity." - R.K.Y.

"I found many topics in this module but all the topics were not so important as aspects. I think aspects are one of the good and most important topic during my Master's. I will remember it for the rest of my life." - S.S., 2009

Dooyeweerd's aspects, with recognition of four human activities of ISD, have provided a new perspective on ISD, which students like:


The latest three aspects are those of the structure of society, and related to Giddens' three elements of structuration:

So this approach integrates an awareness of societal aspects along with technical and social ones.

This approach, if internatlized by IS developers, ensures they take all aspects of all activities into account, whatever actual activity they are engaged in.

Compiled for Talk as Baeksoek University, S. Korea, on 3rd June 2014.