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Sociotechnical challenges in the design of a knowledge portal

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This paper describes the authors' experiences as a multidisciplinary team within a national science research organization, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), in building a web-based knowledge portal to support water quality management in an Australian wet tropical region, the Douglas Shire. Their initial assumption was that a knowledge-sharing tool developed through community participation would enhance efforts towards sustainable development in this predominantly sugar cane growing area of far north Queensland. After presenting the general context of the study and a description of the web portal developed, we discuss three sociotechnical challenges faced: the question of value, i.e. understanding what motivates members of a community to become involved in co-design of technology; the problem of translation, i.e. how to develop common understandings and shared visions, given the often differing epistemologies in the so-called lay-expert knowledge divide and between the different discipline areas; and the paradox of meta-design, i.e. the difficulty of asking people to commit to a project of collaborative technology development at a stage when - by the very nature of co-design - that technology is still undefined and emergent. The article ends by offering some tentative conclusions on the authors' experience.
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Keywords: Information and communications technology design; integration of social and technical research; interdisciplinary project case studies; knowledge-sharing IC technology; meta-design in ICT; sociotechnical design processes

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: School of Social Sciences, La Trobe University, Bundoora, Vic., Australia 2: CSIRO Minerals, Clayton South, Vic., Australia,School of Social Sciences, La Trobe University, Bundoora, Vic., Australia 3: CSIRO ICT, Cn., Mansfield, NSW, Australia 4: KAZ Technology Services, Turner, ACT, Australia

Publication date: February 1, 2007

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