A Photo Elicitation of Systemic PerceptionRachel Jones, Aalto University, HelsinkirachelcornerJones@gmail.com
Jim Corner, Waikato University, New Zealand
Professor Raimo P. Hmlinen
Professor Jim CornerProfessor Esa SaarinenSystems Dynamics = external conceptualization of systems, modeling
Soft Systems Methodology = internal conceptualization of systems, problem-solving
Systems Intelligence = co-evolving with systems, living well
Perceiving systems important to all the approaches.Existing Approaches to SystemsUnder motivations for the paper: Mention the 2 basic similar but different approaches to considering systems -
Systems dynamics - external conceptualisation of a system, an epistemological issue of getting the reality right for that system, thru modelling. To be agreed upon to get it "right." Centred in MIT and Stanford in US.
Soft Systems Methology (SSM) - internal conceptualisations of a system. An ontological issue considering multiple interpretations of systems, not a fixed entity to be discovered. A basis for dealing with problematic situations considering multiple interpretations of them. Centred in UK (Checkland, Jackson).
There is disagreement as to the values of the approaches and little interaction between the camps. However, all perhaps agree that identifying systems in important, regardless of their epistemological and ontological nature, so systems awareness is important to all. Is also a cornerstone of SI, blah, blah, blah.3Extensive systems literature, howeverAverage person unable to: articulate their understanding of systemsapply systems thinking formally (Dawidowicz, 2012)
Systems awareness/thinking is important; needs to be applied more often (Goekler, 2003; Stowell, 2007; Colbert et al., 2011)
Systems community needs fresh approaches
Motivation to explore photo elicitation (1)Systems Intelligence (SI) accounts for the human capacity to act intelligently in systems (Hmlinen, R. P, & Saarinen, E., 2006)
Systemic perception a key dimension of SI
SI theoretically explored but needs tools that place the actor in the system
Motivation to explore photo elicitation (2)First suggestion to bring visualSI developing tools from within actors in the SIAlready visual methods used in organizationsAdding systems component is an innovation
5Method:Exploratory, qualitative, photos, thematic analysis.15 university students at Aalto University, Helsinki.Data collection:Each take 10 photos of important systems in their lives.Write for each - why this, what system does each photo represent?Six weeks lateroverall reflection on this photo process.
What systems do people perceive? What key aspects of systems are present (and absent)?How does thinking about systems effect/affect their understanding?What value, if any, does photo elicitation have for engaging with systems?Research questions
Photo elicitation as a method Role of the ResearcherStatus of the PhotosPhotos Taken By ResearcherPhotos Taken by RespondentsPhotos as data(photo analysis)Researcher takes the photos, analyses them, and concludesRespondents take photos but researcher analyses them alonePhotos as elicitation(photo views)Researcher takes the photos and discusses them with respondents during interviewRespondents take photos but discuss them with researcher during interviewMix(Petersen and Ostergaard, 2004)Sample Photos
Findings Theme, Type, Within ParticipantsParticipants# of ThemesMain Theme(s)Main System Type# Times Self in Photo114PeopleSocial72 9PeopleSocial0 (9 photos)312Groups, computerSocial1411Work, sportsMan-made1515Self, sport, universityMan-made4610City, natureNatural07 (F)12NoneBoth3814Computer, city, homeMan-made0915CityMan-made01018GroupsSocial511 (F)14City, workMan-made212 (F)14Self, peopleSocial61316Groups, workBoth41418City, university, sportMan-made11519People, groups, workSocial11 (13 photos) Findings systems concepts discussedSystems Concept% Initially% in reflection (count)Purpose99100 (12)Type99100 (12)Interconnectivity57 75 ( 9)Decomposition46 42 ( 5)Boundary40 42 ( 5)Processes24Emergence22 58 ( 7)Structure18 17 ( 2)Complexity15 58 ( 7)Sustainability12 8 ( 1)Stasis11Synergy 8 17 ( 2)Control 7Feedback 7 8 ( 1)Holism 1Initial data:Did not initially understand what a system isMost did not automatically consider themselves to be part of the systemsImmediate environments ruled (people and places)Dynamics often not consideredPhotos caused some anxiety
From Reflections:Photo + reflection made them think more deeply about:Interconnections, complexity, decomposition, boundaries, emergenceTheir own roleThe real systems in ones lifeNot easy to capture the concept of system in a photoStart to see how things interact with and impact upon peopleMore aware of systems nowInteresting way to introduce systems, active engagement with the term
FindingsI think this was a very useful and interesting exercise...I think it is great to stop for a moment in your life and evaluate it from different perspectives. This made me to see myself from many anglesParticipant reflections on processSomehow, putting them on a piece of paper facilitates the observation of behavior and identification of improvement opportunities.could I copy this pattern in this particular system to others? Participant reflections on processWhen I now see some systems-like structures or mechanisms, Im more likely to identify them that way than what I was couple of months ago.
Participant reflections on processSystems: Awareness of systems is generally lowPeople still see systems just dont know itUse of systems concepts under-developedSystems education is possible
Photo elicitation as method:Makes the familiar unfamiliarPhoto expands their thinkingBrings subjectivity to the systems worldInterviews would be useful
Great potential for raising systemic perception and awareness of SI through photos
ConclusionsColbert, C. Y., Ogden, P. E., Ownby, A. R., and Bowe, C. (2011. Systems-based practice in graduate medical education: Systems thinking as the missing foundational construct, teaching and learning. Medicine: An International Journal, 23(2), 179-185.Dawidowicz, P. (2012). The person on the street's understanding of systems thinking. Systems Research and Behavioral Science, 29(1), 2-13.Goekler, J. (2003). Teaching for the future: Systems thinking and sustainability. Green Teacher, 70, 8-14.Hmlinen, R. P, & Saarinen, E. (2006). Systems intelligence: A key competence for organizational life. Reflections: The SoL Journal, 7(4),1728. Petersen, N. J., & stergaard, S. (2004, August). Organisational photography as research method: What, how and why. Paper presented at the Research Methods Division, Academy of Management Annual Meeting, New Orleans, LA.Stowell, F. (2007). The knowledge age or the age of ignorance and the decline of freedom? Systemic Practice Action Research, 20, 413-427.