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Using Dooyeweerdian Philosophy to Understand Information Systems

One major use of Dooyeweerdian philosophy is to help us develop, critique and refine our frameworks for understanding in a scientific area. From such frameworks we can then develop methods, theories, categories, etc. for working in that area. Moreover, doing the latter and actually working in real life can feed back to refine Dooyeweerdian philosophy itself.

In absence of any other examples (please contact me if you have any examples of your own), I use my own work in information systems to show how this might work out. I list the papers I have written that relate to four major issues in information systems that either refer to Dooyeweerd or have been inspired by his ideas:

Papers concerned with usage of information technology artifacts

(There are also some papers on environmental sustainability included in the usage section since much the same arguments apply: both I.S. usage and environmental sustainability are multi-aspectual functioning.)

Basden A, (1994), Three Levels of Benefit in Expert Systems", Expert Systems, v.11, n.2, pp.99-107.

Uses Hart's 'Functors Functioning in Relationship' to build a three-layer classification of benefits of information systems use and a model of the dynamics of use.

Basden A, (1996), Towards an understanding of benefits of contextualized technology", Proc. 25th Anniversary Conference of the Swedish Operational Research Society, Lulea, October 1996.

This paper suggests how Dooyeweerdian aspects can aid us in understanding the use and benefits (or detriment) of technological artifacts in their working context.

Basden A (2001), "A philosophical underpinning for I.T. evaluation", 8th European Conference on IT Evaluation, ECITE, Oriel College, Oxford, 17-18 September 2001.

This paper proposes that a Dooyeweerdian approach can provide a philosophical underpinning of the evaluation of information systems, coping well with the complexities inherent in multiple stakeholders, indirect, unanticipated and unintended impacts. It discusses why Dooyeweerdian philosophy and aspects can be considered valid for evaluation.

Lombardi PL (2001) "Responsibilities towards the coming generation forming a new creed" Urban Design Studies, 7:89-102.

I introduced Patrizia Lombardi to Dooyeweerdian ideas as a means of understanding sustainability. She has developed this in some detail, adapting the aspects to the needs and culture of sustainability. This paper shows how Dooyeweerd's ideas can be worked out in the real world of understanding, planning and evaluating a wide-ranging topic like sustainability.

Papers concerned with development of information systems

(Note: development of 'information system' includes both the technical artifacts and of the human structures around it.)

Attarwala FT, Basden A, (1985), A methodology for constructing Expert Systems, R&D Management, v.15, n.2, pp.141-149.

I did not know of Dooyeweerd at this time, but this paper shows how we were reaching for a notion of understanding that went beyond scientific theory, based on a belief that there was something to understand behind all experience, and we wanted to bring both understanding and experience into methodology. Now I can see that Dooyeweerd's notion of aspectual law validates our belief, discovery of those laws is what we called 'theory formation' and how Dooyeweerd's means of bringing theory and practice together validates our desire and approach.

Winfield M J, Basden A, Cresswell I, (1996), Knowledge elicitation using a multi-modal approach". (This paper was accepted for World Futures and as far as I know it was published, but I have no details for it - I was not main author. No copy available.)

This outlines an early version of Winfield's MAKE methodology which is based on Dooyeweerd's aspects and helps experts in their field identify all the relevant aspects of their work, including the tacit ones.

Papers concerned with shaping and design of technologies

Basden A, (1993), Appropriateness", in Bramer MA, Macintosh AL (eds.), Research and Develoopment in Expert Systems X, pp.315-328, BHR Group Ltd.
This paper talks about 'aspects of knowledge', arguing that they are fundamentally irreducible to each other and that knowledge representation software should cater for them in appropriate ways. At the time, these 'aspects' were not linked with Dooyeweerdian aspects, but the correspondence between them is too close to ignore, and this paper can be seen as a parallel discovery of irreducible aspects that could support Dooyeweerd's theory of aspects.

Basden A, Brown A J, (1996), Istar - a tool for creative design of knowledge bases", Expert Systems, v.13, n.4, pp.259-276, November 1996.

Does not reference Dooyeweerd, but this is an example of a tool whose design was inspired by ideas shaped by Dooyeweerd.

Basden A, Brown A J, Tetlow S D A, Hibberd P R, (1996), Design of a user interface for a knowledge refinement tool", Int. J. Human Computer Studies, v.45, pp.157-183.

Similar to the Istar paper.

Basden A, Hibberd P R, (1996), User interface issues raised by knowledge refinement", Int. J. Human Computer Studies, v.45, pp.135-155.

Does not refer to Dooyeweerd directly, but this is an example of an observation on the multi-aspectual nature of the interaction between the technical artifact and the human being.

Basden A, (2000), Guidelines for a 'Proximal' User Interface", solicited for TFWWG'2000, Biarritz, France.

This paper argues how we might achieve user interfaces that do not 'get in the way' of the user, proposing principles and guidelines. Though it does not refer to Dooyeweerd explicitly, the thinking behind it, especially about the relationship between artifact and user, is inspired by a Dooyeweerdian perspective.

Fathulla K, Basden A (2001) "Software for well-formed diagrams", Annual Conference of The Institute of Scientific and Technical Communicators, Cambridge, PE19 1JH, UK.

This paper shows how the notion of irreducible aspects (especially spatial and lingual) can influence how the process of drawing is perceived and how software might be designed to help this process.

Papers concerned with overall perspective on information systeks: world views and paradigms

Basden A, (1983), On the application of Expert Systems, Int. J. Man-Machine Studies, v.19, pp.461-477.
I did not know of Dooyeweerd at this time, but this paper shows how I was reaching for what he offers, namely the integration of real human practice with theory, and responsibility for using technology. Since then I have found that Dooyeweerd validates my desires in this area.

Basden A, (1994), A radical rethink of information systems in the context of intelligent authoring", Int. J. Construction Information Technology, v.2, no.2, pp.1-13.

Some general observations on strategy for information systems, inspired by Dooyeweerdian ideas.

Basden A, (1995), A multi-modal approach to knowledge based systems".

This unpublished paper gives an overview of how I saw Dooyeweerdian philosophy relating to the technology of knowledge based systems, its nature and use. It provides useful pointers of a wide range of issues, some of which have yet to be worked out.

Basden A, (1999), Engines of Dialectic", Philosophia Reformata, v.64, n.1, pp.15-36.

This suggests first that Hegel's notions of dialectic, inherent contradiction and Divine Reason can, with slight modification, be understood in Dooyeweerdian terms, and suggests that the process of dialectic can be understood in terms of elevation of aspects.

Kuosa T, Basden A, (2000) Predispositions as determinants of the future", Futures 32:833-852.

This paper discusses three types of predisposition especially as they operate within the information systems community and suggests that some at least can be based on Dooyeweerdian thinking about elevation of aspects, world views and ground motives.

Basden A (2001) "Imagine"

This short article sets out the responsibility that information technology professionals have before God.

Basden A (2001), "Beyond Emancipation", Conference on Critical Systems, University of Salford, August 2001.

This paper, presented to a critical theory/systems audience, shows that the three main perspectives on information systems - 'hard', 'soft', 'critical' - can be seen as part of a wider picture painted by Dooyeweerd, and thus maybe integrated. It argues why Dooyeweerdian philosophy can take us 'beyond emancipation', which is one of the big issues valued by the 'critical' community.

Papers that argue why Dooyeweerdian philosophy is valid and useful for information systems

Lombardi P, Basden A, (1997), Environmental sustainability and information systems: the similarity", Systems Practice, v.10, n.4.
This shows how Dooyeweerdian aspects can help us understand both environmental sustainability and the usage of information systems as multi-aspectual functioning.

Basden A (2000), On the Multi-Aspectual Nature of Information Systems" pp.49-60 in Heimonen J-M, Ruohonen M, eds.) Pertti Järvinen - 60 Years Work for Science, Dept. of Computer and Information Sciences, University of Tampere, Finland, ISBN 951-44-4794-8 ISSN 1457-2060.

This invited paper, a tribute to Pertti Järvinen, shows how one information systems researcher, teacher and practitioner found some portions of Dooyeweerdian philosophy very attractive.

Basden A (2002) "The knowledge level - the first twenty years" submitted to Artificial Intelligence to mark the 20th anniversary of Allen Newell's paper 'The Knowledge level'.

This paper reviews the notion of distinct levels of description of information systems, especially as proposed by Allen Newell twenty years ago, showing how useful a notion it has proved to be and how well Newell's theory coheres. It does not explicitly refer to Dooyeweerd, but sets the scene for the companion paper which does.

Basden A (2002) "The knowledge level - a philosophical enrichment for the next twenty years" submitted to Artificial Intelligence to mark the 20th anniversary of Allen Newell's paper 'The Knowledge level'.

This is the companion paper to 'The knowledge level - the first twenty years'. It explains Dooyeweerdian philosophy and argues that this alone can provide a sound philosophical underpinning for Allen Newell's notion of levels. It discusses also how the few problems in Newell's theory of levels might be ameliorated by Dooyeweerd's philosophy, and how the whole theory can be enriched by it.

This page is part of a collection that discusses application of Herman Dooyeweerd's ideas, within The Dooyeweerd Pages, which explain, explore and discuss Dooyeweerd's interesting philosophy. Email questions or comments would be welcome.

Written on the Amiga and Protext.

Compiled by (c) 2001 Andrew Basden. You may use this material subject to conditions.

Created 20 October 2001. Last updated: 7 September 2013 new .end, .nav, rid unet.