Doctor of Philosophy
University of Wollongong. School of Computer Science and Software Engineering
Brown, Robert B. K. Ph.D, The ATSA method for specifying both system and user interface requirements: an application of activity theory, Doctor of Philosophy thesis, University of Wollongong. School of Computer Science and Software Engineering, University of Wollongong, 2010. http://ro.uow.edu.au/theses/3202
The many diverse practices of computerised information systems analysis anddesign, both of the systems themselves and their human computer interfaces, hasonly further mired themselves more deeply with each passing methodology, method,technique or tool; including those which reject Methodism and strive for a near Zenstate of ‘structurelessness’.
The stakeholders and customers whose personal and business lives rely so deeply onthe facilitating tools crafted by the artisans of these ‘design’ practices deserve betterthan the disappointingly low success rates delivered to date. No amount ofobfuscation or rhetoric can hide the embarrassing reality that these professionscannot reliably and predictably perform their jobs to an acceptable and reliable level.Few other practices aspiring to be professions could tolerate such a history, and itinvites speculation as to the veracity of a claim to professional status.
A review of the literature reveals challenges for the design artisan and their methods:they lack a single coherent informing philosophical or theoretical base; they lack clear lines of communication between themselves, their customers and the stages of their work; they rely too heavily on accumulated experiences, difficult to transfer toneophytes whose entry to professional practice was discouraged. Finally, customer requirement capture was poorly understood and poorly conducted.
There are grounds to consider selecting an informing theory which readily grasps thecomplexities and scaling issues of user organisations. It was decided that ActivityTheory showed promise, despite no demonstrably complete systems analysis anddesign method (inclusive of interface) based on Activity Theory having been locatedin the literature.
The hypothesis was formed, that:
Systems Analysis and Design (SAD) may be improved if conductedthrough a prescriptive but agnostic method, constructed accordingto Activity Theory (AT) principles.
The thesis describes in narrative detail how just such a method was constructed andtested for indications of feasibility under a Normative Research Methodology and anIdeational Evaluation.
It is hoped that the method produced can provide a consistent, learnable andlightweight framework for future practice; if only for early career neophytes, suchthat they may work with each other and their clients to produce workable andacceptable results, whilst they accumulate the tacit experience necessary to allow formore elegant future designs.