Academic journal article Journal of the Association for Information Systems

Secondary Design: A Case of Behavioral Design Science Research

Academic journal article Journal of the Association for Information Systems

Secondary Design: A Case of Behavioral Design Science Research

Article excerpt


As user interactions have become more central to specific classes of information systems, design theorizing must expand to support the processes of interaction and the evolution of information systems. This theorizing goes beyond user-aided, participatory design to consider users as designers in their own right during the ongoing creation and recreation of information systems. Recent theorizing about an emerging class of tailorable systems proposes that such systems undergo an initial, primary design process where features are built in prior to general release. Following implementation, people engage in a secondary design process where functions and content emerge during interaction, modification, and embodiment of the system in use. This case study reveals that people are engaged designers, framed by dualities in behaviors including planned and emergent behaviors, and participatory and reifying behaviors. We contribute to design science research by extending work on tailorable systems, investigating processes of secondary design in a highly interactive system suited to support user engagement. We also contribute more broadly to design science research by explicitly extending behavioral aspects associated with the use of information system artifacts.

Keywords: Secondary Design, Design Theory, Tailorable Technology, Systems, Embodied Interaction, Qualitative Methods, Duality.

1. Introduction

The phenomenon of secondary design, in which users modify technology in the context of use, is well recognized but under-researched. Research into secondary design provides insights into two areas that can inform the design of information systems. First, it strengthens the conceptualization of secondary design as a key component of design for a growing class of information systems. Specifically, it illuminates the processes by which people directly participate and experience the everyday world through construction of meanings and representations within, and mediated by, information systems. We illustrate that system use can sometimes be best understood as system secondary design; that people are active, aware, and intentional participants in an ongoing process of embodied interactions involving technological and social dualities. Within the class of systems that are intended to be tailored are a large number of social-software systems built on the philosophy that a community and its members are responsible for the creation of system value through processes of secondary design. What is Wikipedia without articles generated by community members? What is Twitter without the tweets of millions? What is Flickr without the photo tagging of members? They are all pieces of technology that realize their true potential only through the secondary design of an active community of members, willing to share their time and effort in the design of systems (Shirky, 2010).

Second, this paper offers a critique of the predominant conceptualization of design science research (DSR). Current design science research is often focused on the development of artifacts, and an expansion of DSR to include the people and processes by which systems change and evolve will improve our understanding of design processes and design products and lay the foundations for behavioral design. The widely accepted DSR model, as articulated by Hevner, March, Park, and Ram (2004), is concerned with the primary design of a system artifact prior to implementation and use of the system. The build and evaluate phases are informed by both technical and behavioral theory but do not address the secondary design of a system by users in the context of their everyday behaviors and activities (Germonprez, Hovorka, & Collopy, 2007). DSR incorporates behavioral theory and may include people as informants in a participatory design process or as sources of feedback on prototypes in the primary design phase. However, people who encounter and modify the system are not considered secondary designers in the context of their use of the system. …

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