Large Technical Systems as Ecologies of Games: Cases from Telecommunications to the Internet
William H. Dutton
University of Oxford - Oxford Internet Institute
University of Konstanz
Center for Political Research, Sciences Po Paris
May 31, 2008
A promising theoretical perspective on the construction of order and change in the evolution of Large Technical Systems (LTS) is an ecological approach in the social sciences, inspired by various branches of biology and environ-mental sciences. In a multitude of variations, ecological approaches apply one or more ecosystem ideas and related concepts to change and adaptation of social and technical systems. Ecologically inspired models put emphasis on: (1) the dynamic interdependencies and interactions between social actors; (2) the multiplicity of relations between the components and outcomes of these systems; and (3) the existence of multiple and relatively autonomous layers and levels in such systems, along with the emergent relations between these levels. In the social sciences, most of these approaches have been developed in the sociology of organizations (population ecology of organizations; organizational ecology). In the political sciences, approaches from this ecological perspective have been applied to understanding the development of local communities, policy sectors, and interest group systems. An under-exploited variant of this perspective is the concept of an ecology of games which emaphsizes the complexity of nested (public and private) decision-making processes in the context of tight social and technical interdependencies and re-lated conflicts. The goal of this paper is to describe the foundations of the ecology of games as a framework for the study of large technical systems in the communications and information technology sector, and explore its explanatory value to a collection of case studies.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 28
Keywords: Large Technical Systems, Ecology of Games, Telecommunications, Videotext, Internetworking papers series
Date posted: June 10, 2008 ; Last revised: February 1, 2011
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