Systems in Our Life and How Systems Matter in Design?

No matter as a user or an operator, a designer or an engineer, understanding the things we interact in a systematic view is important, since nearly no object is absolutely isolated from a system, even a person self is also in a system.

Simply imagine that, one day you want to read a book so that you open your computer to search for a digital version in Amazon or some online library, or you want to read a paper book, so you could buy one from the internet or go to a library with public transportation or by your car. From the idea that you want to read a book to the stage you get the book, so many sociotechnical systems are involved, including the Internet system that connects different computers and servers to transmit information and help users find the one they need, the Cloud system which offers a virtual space to store data so that a great number of books could be “piled up” there and users in different places can access with the permission of a certain library website, public transportation systems that combine passengers, drivers, vehicles, route plan and integrated within traffic systems. If you drive a car to the library, you would participate a traffic system which means that you, traffic lights, roads, vehicles, traffic rules come out as a system. It’s safe to say that we are always a part of a system or part of multi systems at the same time.

If we only see the products we use a technical artifact, not part of a system and treat ourselves as simply a user, we will have difficulty in understanding the principle before them and always be blinded by them. Every time you use a computer, you will be amazed by its functions and think they are magic. Furthermore, we will become followers of products around us and lose the ability to optimize them by ourselves. Most importantly, understanding every object and ourselves as a part of systems can help us adapt to new products since in a sociotechnical system, every new product would not come from blue-they will more or less overlap or use the concept or organism of other systems.

Although designing a product in a systems view is more difficult because we must consider not only the technology used in it, but also a broad social situation with institutions, organizations and regulations, the designers should keep it while taking its benefits into account. In the very beginning of ideation, a team gathering experts in different areas is necessary. A team should include engineers who can build a technical object, consultants, or professors who can provide opinions and suggestions about the social system and further how to integrate the product into the system, and consumers who will possibly use this product so that they can help designers find a way to make their product more useful and understandable. In this sense, the systems view help us avoid making a product out of tune. This kind of process is for some simple products, like an App. For the more complicated products, designers and even the society as a whole should constitute a new system for them. Only in this way, new products could actually be useful and valuable. Can you imagine airplanes flying without a civic airplane system mentioned in A Philosophy of Technology: From Technical Artefacts to Sociotechnical Systems, it will definitely have a severe effect and airplane would never have today’s important position in our transportation system and daily life. 



Martin Irvine, “Understanding Sociotechnical Systems with Mediology and Actor Network Theory.

Pieter Vermaas, Peter Kroes, Ibo van de Poel, Maarten Franssen, and Wybo Houkes. A Philosophy of Technology: From Technical Artefacts to Sociotechnical Systems. San Rafael, CA: Morgan & Claypool Publishers, 2011.