Integrating Ontology, Epistemology, & Methodology -- Zhichang Zhu
ISSS Meeting at Asilomar, June 28-July 2, 1999
Paper Session, June 28, 1999, 5:15 p.m., chaired by ?
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Won't be discussing foundations of information science, as the Chinese
philosophy is to immediately apply the concepts.
Insights which may be useful in information systems
Insight 1: The differentiated Tao
Everything is connected to each other, but they transform / inform each
Insight 2: The complementary ying/yang -- everything should have its opposite.
ISD is differentiated, but is also integrated.
Implication 2: No single aspect of IS is permanently central or fundamental.
Dialectical usage is methods is more meaningful than endless polarization
No single ISD method alone can do the right things right all the time.
Insight 3: The bubbling lis (patterns)
e.g. soft systems says social systems are most important, but still need
IS as a bubble-li management
Insight 4: The cyclical I (transformations)
Technical, organizational issues are like bubbles, and we can't predict
how they will bubble up.
Societies, systems always move.
Even history moves in cycles: 12-year cycles (this year as monkey).
ISD as a spiral learning process.
In linear, when you deliver the system, it no longer suits the user.
Methodology is a monster blocking participation.
The spontaneous wu-wei: have to work / act compatibly in the local situation.
Lots of new methodologies now geared towards user participation, but all
claim that they are ISD methodologies.
In Singapore, China or Sri Lanka: When you talk IS methodology, you've
become an expert, and already reduce the user.
Need to transform ISD methodologies to be more compatible with the wisdom
of the common management.
Insight 6: The golden shi-chong
ISD methodologies should not take a form different from general problem-solving
-- not artificial and arbitrary.
Always want to be comfortable with the new.
Chinese philosophy has been around for 5000 years, but how to make this
compatible with ISD?
Then, there's no "best" wisdom to follow, no fixed route to take, ...
li is a subjective word, depends on situation and background.
wu = objective conditions, resources, restraints
Wuli, shili, renli: An Oriental Systems approach to management.
wuli = relation with the world pattern of transformation
shi = subjective modeling
shili = relation with the self ways of seeing / thinking / doing.
ren = intersubjective values interests, behavior
renli = relations with others.
In three dimensions, they inform each other:
ISD focuses on W and S, but sociology suggests they're also shaped by R.
Philosophy of WSR:
What domains does ISD cover?
Need to know wuli: resources
Reflect model: shili -- the view of management, technical, workers
If different people have different world views, then need a concern on
human relations: renli -- caring for.
Wuli has physical boundaries
Shili has conceptual boundaries
Renli has ethical boundaries.
Each conditions the other.
Have a WSR methodology not only for IS, but also for management.
We may have to enlarge our scope of IS and management.
Need to understand the desires -- what do we need.
Investigate conditions -- what do we have (as resources)?
How do you reduce the distance between experts and users?
What shall we do -- traditional IS methods take the above two as objective.
Translate from General Problem Solving form into Information Systems Design
The two are very similar in structure.
Don't presume as an IS method, but instead as a general management situation.
Only when we get to something formal, then move to this type of format,
with both GPS and ISD.
Is there a practical way to separate the three entities, because they're
Is there a concept of optimization in this model?
Always a challenge to discuss over different cultures, e.g. engineers.
In any single situation, would optimize, but no fixed process.