ECEG2013 13th European Conference on eGovernment vol 2

Page 272

Conceptualizing Public Service Networks as Complex Adaptive Sys‐ tems Ameneh Deljoo and Marijn Janssen Delft University of Technology, Delft, The Netherlands Abstract: Public private service networks (PPSN) and complex adaptive systems (CAS) have gained a lot of research atten‐ tion recently. Combining these two streams results in conceptualizing organizational networks as complex systems. Such complex network consists of many different actors that make use of a variety of different technologies. This complex net‐ work is susceptible to cascades of information, norms, and coordinated actions. Nowadays due to the explosion of digital connectivity, a significant improvement in communication and information technologies is occurred which influence the shape of PPSN. The inherent complexity and unpredictability of the information society demands new kinds of network coordination that focus on rapid joint responses and collective actions instead of centralized predictive planning. In such a network private and public organizations have to adapt these developments through ‘nonlinear innovation’. Policy‐makers are looking for way to direct the development of these networks. Our aim is to improve the understanding of PPSN by reviewing the contemporary literature in PPSN and complexity systems. Finally we discuss the CAS characteristic in PPSN and illustrate that a complex system lens can help to conceptualize PPSNs. By modeling PPSN as CAS the effect of policy‐ intervention should be evaluated and the evolution of PPSN should be understood. Keywords: public private service network, coordination, complex systems, complex adaptive system, eGovernment, policy‐ making

1. Introduction Researchers and practitioners started to use complexity science to understand better organizations (Dooley et al. 2003). Theoretical models and proposals emerged on organizational and managerial issues. Concerning these theories, Dooley et al. (2003: 62) state that: a basic assumption within these theories is that organiza‐ tions are conceptualized as complex adaptive systems (Anderson 1999; Axelrod and Cohen 2001). CAS is com‐ posed of semi‐autonomous agents that seek to maximize fitness. By adjusting interpretative and action‐ oriented schema that determine how they view and interact with other agents and the environment. Also, (Mathews et al. 1999) argue that the emerging complexity sciences have the potential for extending and en‐ hancing our knowledge of organizational change and transformation processes. At the same time policy‐makers are looking for way to direct public‐private service networks (PPSN) to let them better meet societal needs. PPSN are networks of the autonomous the agents they are interacted with each other and environment. The focus of this paper will be on seeking aspects of CASs that can be used as a generative metaphor in PPSN settings. For that reason, we avoid the more theoretical and philosophical discussions on CASs. Further, the question of whether the literature and research conducted on CASs constitutes a theory is also avoided, not because it is unimportant, but rather from the viewpoint that the discussion is of little value in building a gen‐ erative metaphor as a starting point for this research. In this work, first we review literature about CAS and Network organizations. Following that, we will argue that PPSN can be conceptualized as CAS to capture its intricacies. We use the general definition of CAS as a system that emerges over time into a coherent form, and adapts and organizes itself without any singular entity delib‐ erately managing or controlling it (Brown 2004). Through the CAS lens, a PPSN is conceptualized as a network of organizations interacting with each other using technology. In this paper we discuss the relationship be‐ tween PPSN and the CAS theory and make the argument why CAS is a suitable lens for conceptualizing PPSN. This paper is structured as follows: In section 2, we give an overview on the CAS literature, which is followed by a description of network organization in section 3. In following in section 4, CAS model development and the application of the CAS in PPSN. Finally, in Section 5, the implications of this research are presented and conclusions drawn.


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