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Mike Martin

Chair of Enterprise Information Sciences

Department: Computer and Information Sciences

 Mike Martin

I am an electronics engineer by training and started my career working on first generation of speech technologies and HCI. I was heavily involved in the European Commission Research Programmes of the ’80 and ‘90s in the theory, technologies  and applications of distributed information and telecommunications systems. Since 2000, I has been involved in multi-disciplinary research into the information and communications systems needed to support multi-agency working in health, social care.

My primary research interest is the architectural discourse of complex, large scale systems that involve both people and technologies. In particular, I study the information and communications infrastructures that support care, and other relational (as opposed to transactional or process oriented) services. These services are delivered in mixed economies in which public, private and third sector agencies need to interwork and co-operate. In these contexts, the “Integrationist” assumptions of the “single point of truth”, and that there is, ultimately, a single point of direction and control, are unsustainable. In the face of this complexity and ambiguity, conventional approaches to design, whether organisation centred or user centred, prove problematic. Equally, the “universalist” assumption that everything is connected to everything else, in a world where the network regulates itself, is equally problematic.

The conventional approaches to design and management  generate these difficulties because they focus exclusively on realist-determinist notions of function and capacity. The contexts of care and development that I am interested in demand that we are equally explicit and rigorous about the intentional aspects of the system. Function and capacity are determined by observations and measurements whereas intentionality must be considered in terms of interpretations and evaluations (or more precisely, and according to Lawrence Halprin’s terminology, “valuactions” where value adding, value extraction and evaluation are brought together under a single construct).  The consequence of this framing of the problem is that we must include both realist-determinist  and constructivist stances within a unified architectural discourse and leads to a concept of governability which involves the reflexive deliberation of those  who participate in, and constitute,  the system and have the duty to ask and answer  the questions: “Is this what we intended?”, “Do we still intent this?”, “Can this be improved?” The challenge of socio-technical systems (of care) is to make the subject of these questions evident and accessible to the socially constructed processes of valuaction and make the consequences of such governance actionable within the system.

In combination with this theoretical framework I have been developing and applying a web based platform and a set of practical tools to support what we call a “third order intervention” which has the objective of nurturing, provoking or encouraging constructive transitions between ordinary first order work, within existing conceptual framings, and second order work in which re-examines and reformulates those framings. This is the Newcastle Living Lab which is based on the use of multi-screen visualisations and animations to help participants negotiate shared intentions and co-produce  and govern socio-technical systems in which they can be realised. 


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