8 The Concept of “Interactions”

An interaction is an action, function, service, or capability that makes use of the resources in a collection or the collection as a whole. The interaction of access is fundamental in any collection of resources, but many Organizing Systems provide additional functions to make access more efficient and to support additional interactions with the accessed resources. For example, libraries and similar Organizing Systems implement catalogs to enable interactions for finding a known resource, identifying any resource in the collection, and discriminating or selecting among similar resources.[1]

Some of the interactions with resources in an Organizing System are inherently determined by the characteristics of the resource. Because many museum resources are unique or extremely valuable, visitors are allowed to view them but cannot borrow them, in contrast with most of the resources in libraries. A library might have multiple printed copies of Moby Dick but can never lend more of them than it possesses. After a printed book is checked out from the library, there are many types of interactions that might take placereading, translating, summarizing, annotating, and so onbut these are not directly supported by the library Organizing System and are invisible to it.

For works not in the public domain, copyright law gives the copyright holder the right to prevent some uses, but at the same time “fair use” and similar copyright doctrines enable certain limited uses even for copyrighted works.[2]

Digital resources enable a greater range of interactions than physical ones. Any number of people or processes can request a weather forecast from a web-based weather service because the forecast is not used up by the request and the marginal cost of allowing another access is nearly zero. Furthermore, with digital resources many new kinds of interactions can be enabled through application software, web services, or application program interfaces (APIs) in the Organizing System. In particular, translation, summarization, annotation, and keyword suggestion are highly useful services that are commonly supported by web search engines and other web applications. Similarly, an Organizing System with digital resources can implement a “keep everything up to date” interaction that automatically pushes current content to your browser.

But just as technology can enable interactions, it can prevent or constrain them. If your collection of digital resources (ebooks or music, for example) is not stored on your own computer or device, a continuous Internet connection is a requirement for access. In addition, access control policies and digital rights management (DRM) technology can limit the devices that can access the collection and prevent copying, annotation and other actions that might otherwise be enabled by the fair use doctrine.

Interaction design is especially crucial for managing resources that have the capability to initiate interactions with each other or with external agents. Consider the vast differences in how workers behave in businesses organized according to principles of scientific management and those that embody the Kaizen principles of continuous improvement. In the former, work is highly standardized and bureaucratic, giving workers little autonomy. In the latter, work is also standardized, but workers are motivated to analyze and improve work processes whenever possible, and they are given great discretion in how to do that.[3]

Just as with organizing principles, it is useful to think of interactions in an abstract or logical way that does not assume an implementation because it can encourage innovative designs for Organizing Systems.

  1. The four objectives listed in this paragraph as those proposed in 1997 by the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions(IFLA). The first statement of the objectives for a bibliographic system was made by (Cutter 1876), which (Svenonius 2000) says it is likely the most cited text in the bibliographic literature. Cutter called his three objectives “finding,” “co-locating,” and “choice.

  2. Copyright law, license or contract agreements, terms of use and so on that shape interactions with resources are part of the Organizing System, but compliance with them might not be directly implemented as part of the system. With digital resources, digital rights management (DRM), passwords, and other security mechanisms can be built into the Organizing System to enforce compliance.

  3. Frederick Taylor developed “scientific management” to improve industrial efficiency and conducted detailed time and motion studies to devise what he thought were optimal ways to perform work tasks (Taylor 1914). The Kaizen principles of continuous improvement were introduced to Western audiences by Imai Masaaki and by numerous books about their application in the Toyota production system (Masaaki 1986).

    Scientific management views a business as a machine, while Kaizen principles treat it as a brain that learns. These metaphors for business organization are among those described by (Morgan 1997) in a classic business textbook. Other metaphors discussed include organisms, cultures, political systems, and psychic prisons.


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The Discipline of Organizing: 4th Professional Edition Copyright © 2020 by Robert J. Glushko is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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