The Social Design of Technical Systems

Building technologies for communities


Hundreds of millions of people use social technologies like Wikipedia, Facebook and YouTube every day, but what makes them work? And what is the next step? The Social Design of Technical Systems explores the path from computing revolution to social evolution. Based on the assumption that it is essential to consider social as well as technological requirements, as we move to create the systems of the future, this book explores the ways in which technology fits, or fails to fit, into the social reality of the modern world. Important performance criteria for social systems, such as fairness, synergy, transparency, order and freedom, are clearly explained for the first time from within a comprehensive systems framework, making this book invaluable for anyone interested in socio-technical systems, especially those planning to build social software. This book reveals the social dilemmas that destroy communities, exposes the myth that computers are smart, analyses social errors like the credit meltdown, proposes online rights standards and suggests community-based business models. If you believe that our future depends on merging social virtue and technology power, you should read this book.


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About the authors

Brian Whitworth

Picture of Brian Whitworth.

Born in England and brought up in New Zealand, Brian Whitworth currently works at Massey University in Auckland, New Zealand. After doing a mathematics degree, and a Masterís thesis on split-brain neuropsychology, Brian joined the New Zealand Army, where he wa...

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Adnan Ahmad

Picture of Adnan Ahmad.

Adnan Ahmad was born in Lahore, Pakistan. He received his Bachelor of Science (Hons.) from Govt. College University (GCU, 2005), with a major in software engineering, and a Masters of Science from Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS, 2009), with a m...

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Changes to this book

02 Jan 2013: Added


The Social Design of Technical Systems: Building technologies for communities
Brian Whitworth and Adnan Ahmad
The Interaction Design Foundation
Edition number:
ISBN paperback edition:
ISBN online edition:
ISBN eBook edition:
ISBN hardback edition:
Copy editor:
Ailsa Campbell
Reference validation:
Armin Walinsky
Graphics, interior/editorial design, and cover:
Roland Szattler and Mads Soegaard
Copyright clearance:
Michael Thorman
Ailsa Campbell
Supervisory Editors:
Mads Soegaard and Rikke Friis Dam
Editorial assistant:
Soeren Dam
This text is set in Georgia
See section on Copyright
Front page cover:
Production and dissemination of this work has been funded in part by SAP
Peer review:
This book has undergone double-blinded peer-review based on the reviewing guidelines
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