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TRUST IN TECHNOLOGY: A socio-technical systems perspective. Springer, September 2005.




This book encapsulates the work done in the DIRC project activity concerned with trust and responsibility in socio-technical systems (PA2). It brings together a range of disciplinary approaches – computer science, sociology and software engineering - to produce a socio-technical systems perspective on the issues surrounding trust in technology in complex settings. Computer systems can only bring about their purported benefits if functionality, users and usability are central to their design and deployment. Thus, technology can only be trusted in situ and in everyday use if these issues have been brought to bear on the process of technology design, implementation and use. The studies detailed in this book analyse the ways in which trust in technology is achieved and/or worked around in everyday situations in a range of settings – including hospitals, a steelworks, a pubic enquiry, the financial services sector and air traffic control.

Whilst many of the authors here may already be known for their ethnographic work, this book moves on from accounts of ‘field studies’ to show how the DIRC project has utilised the data from these studies in an interdisciplinary fashion, involving computer scientists, software engineers and psychologists, as well as sociologists. Chapters draw on the empirical studies but are organised around analytical themes related to trust which are at the heart of the authors’ socio-technical approach.

For example, Chapter Two - Calculation and Calculability – explores the notion of calculation work and the relevance the idea of ‘trusting’ technology. How trust in technology is carried out in practice is instantiated here from a number of studies including one of middle-level management in an NHS Trust and also in a steel production plant. Other chapters move on from the ethnographic work to, at first, reflect on how trust in technology can be seen in practice and what how the ethnographic studies has informed the work of software engineers and system developers on the DIRC project.

This book shows how previous work on trust e.g Lorenz, Gambetta, misses the nuanced ways in which technology is used, ignored, refined and so on in everyday settings. It also looks at issues related to trust and offers an alternative approach to these. For example, much has been written about the associated notions of ‘failure’ and ‘error’ e.g. Leveson, Reason, Rasmussen. However, this has most often been looked at in terms of conventional safety critical settings and has not addressed ‘everyday’ or ‘mundane’ failures. The book fills those gaps in the current market


Chapter summaries (all chapters)


Mark Rouncefield and Karen Clarke (Lancaster)


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