On Chosen Relations Between the Dynamics of a Global Information System and Collective Behavior

Jacek Unold


This research is supported by a Marie Curie International Fellowship (2005-2008) within the 6th European Community Framework Program

The issue of human behavior within an information system is the most recent research trend in the area of information systems development (ISD). In 1994 Akio Morita, the founder of Sony Corp., pointed to the constantly growing gap between the world of business, and generally a society, and the new world of information technology, and called it the “IT/business gap.” Arguably, it was the first human aspect within the area of IS that was detected so clearly. The problem identified by Morita concerned individual attitudes and actions. It still reflects a more general approach to the issue of ISD: the scope of interests within this area has focused mainly on technological aspects so far. If the human component is taken into account, it has been analyzed from the level of an individual. So have all new concepts of rationality. However, the Internet revolution and an unprecedented growth of dispersed collectivities denote a necessity of a new perspective on the society and organization.

This paper argues that collective behavior, which is a basic determinant of the dynamics of a Global IS, does not proceed in a planned manner, but is adaptive and follows certain patterns found in nature. It follows that this behavior can be expressed in a model form, which enables to structure it. Most generally, the research method is based on the identification and analysis of the determinants of the IS dynamics. It then relates this phenomenon to the behavior of a social subsystem of this IS, thus, to the issue of collective behavior. The point is to identify a quantitative dimension of this, otherwise known as purely qualitative, phenomenon. It appears that this social subsystem reveals all four attributes of a nonlinear, complex adaptive system. This allows for the application of the most recent achievements of complexity theory and chaos theory. Thousands of independent and difficult to observe transactions, carried out by individual participants of the market, generate an emergence of specific and predictable patterns of collective behavior. These phenomena can only be identified on the higher – collective, not individual – level of social organization. The fundamental challenge of this project is to find a quantitative measure of that emergence.

A model exemplification of a Global Information System is a modern, electronic, stock exchange, because the performance of capital markets is a typical example of crowd reactions. The identification of quantitative characteristics of a social subsystem within a Global IS can provide substantial theoretical and methodological premises for the extension of the optimizing and individualistic notion of rationality by the social and adaptive aspects.