Substantiating Agent-Based Quality Goals for Understanding Socio-Technical Systems

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In this paper we propose a method for using ethnographic field data to substantiate agent-based models for socially-oriented systems. We use the agent paradigm because the ability to represent organisations, individuals, and interactions is ideal for modelling socio-technical systems. We present the results of in-situ use of a domestic application created to encourage engagement between grandparents and grandchildren separated by distance. In such domains, it is essential to consider abstract and complex quality requirements such as showing presence and sharing fun. The success of such domestic technologies is based on the meaningful realisation of these difficult-to-define quality goals. Our method addresses the need to adequately inform these quality goals with field data.

We substantiate the quality goals with field data collected by introducing an application into the home of three families. The field data adds an understanding of what sharing fun means when “filled” with concrete activities. The quality goals served as a template to explore and represent the rich field data, while the field data helped to formulate the requirements for a more complex and refined technology. This paper’s contribution is twofold. First, we extend the understanding of agent-oriented concepts by applying them to household interactions. Second, we make a methodological contribution by establishing a new method for informing quality goals with field data.