Reviving the Individual in Socio-technical Systems Thinking

Lars Taxén


Socio-technical Systems theory sees an organizational work system as comprised of two distinct subsystems – a technical and a social one – that influence each other. Together, these subsystems determine the performance of the work system. Alternative socio-technical trends, such as sociomateriality, understand the social and material as non-existent before they are related. A problematic feature of both approaches is the downplaying of the individual, which is either subsumed under the social or only cursorily treated. To this end, an alternative approach for socio-technical systems thinking is proposed, based on the premise that the individual and social are distinct phenomena, however dialectically constituting each other in everyday activities. We illustrate the central idea of the approach with an example from the telecom industry. Further, we discuss theoretical and practical implications of the approach to be elaborated in future research. In conclusion, we provide a theoretical foundation for advancing socio-technical systems thinking in which the individual is on par with the social and the technical.


Socio-technical Systems Theory; Individual, Dialectics, Neurobiological Abilities ; Activity Modalities

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DOI: 10.7250/csimq.2020-22.03


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