Exploring sociotechnical interaction with Rob Kling: Five "big" ideas

Keith Horton, Elisabeth Davenport, Trevor Wood-Harper

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Purpose - To provide a view of Rob Kling's contribution to socio-technical studies of work. Design/methodology/approach - The five "big ideas" discussed are signature themes in Kling's own work in the informatics domain, and of his intellectual legacy. Findings - This paper conveys something of Kling's presence in social informatics (SI) thinking by focusing on a number of "big" ideas - "multiple points of view", "social choices", "the production lattice" (and its corollary, the problematization of the user), "socio-technical interaction networks", and "institutional truth regimes". Research limitations/implications - A growing research community has demonstrated the power of SI techniques. It is essential that this body of work is sustained and developed, demonstrating how to undertake investigation and observation, that is not driven by instrumentalism but is informed by and leads to "technological realism". Practical implications - The SI corpus, exposing the dangers of naïve instrumentalism as an approach to information systems design and management, can guide practitioners on how to unpack the history of what is in view. This may be a specific technology, a social formation, or a sociotechnical circumstance. Practitioners may draw on the concepts presented, not as a prescriptive toolkit, but rather as a sensitizing frame to assist those who wish to re-vision the workplace. Originality/value - Central to the successful utilisation of computers in work, we argue, is the continuing development of a portfolio of interpretive concepts (such as STINs, regimes of truth, production lattices) that can consolidate Rob Kling's "big" ideas that are the core of this paper. © Emerald Group Publishing Limited.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)50-67
    Number of pages17
    JournalInformation Technology and People
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2005


    • Communication technologies
    • Social behaviour
    • Sociotechnical change


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