The work group SoteG – Sociotechnical Systems Design and Gender – combines results of gender and diversity studies with the analysis and design of socio-technical systems. The research focus is on user-oriented and participatory software design.

Sociotechnical Systems Design

Technological artifacts and their social settings cannot be separated from each other, together they form socio-technical systems. Socio-cultural factors and technological necessities or conditions mutually influence each other. The socio-technical design perspective applies to all phases of hardware or software development. Starting with the requirements analysis and to the point of the application of a technology, the focus of socio-technical systems design is on the system as a whole and in particular on the needs of all people acting within that system.

Gender and Diversity

Gender and diversity studies help to take into account the diversity of user requirements in systems development. The gender & diversity perspective draws attention to research topics and fields of knowledge that might otherwise be ignored or neglected. Gender is socially constructed on various levels. On a structural level, the construction of gender is related to the social division of labor and the access to ressources. On the level of identity construction, gender performance leads to an intelligible self. „Doing gender“ is an active process that reproduces social patterns and socio-political discourse. Gender constructs on a symbolic level can be found, e.g., in stereotypes and their display in the media.

A person's gender affects their social reality in conjunction with other dimensions such as age, physical ability or ethnicity. The diversity perspective helps to analyse and address this multi-layered reality.

Gender Aspects in Systems Design

A good example of how results of gender and diversity studies can have an impact on system design is the area of work. An clear understanding of work as it actually happens within a socio-technical system, is necessary for the development of useful and usable technical support. Insights into the gendered division of labor can help to discover and focus on „invisible work“ when analysing and designing socio-technical systems. In particular, so-called infrastructure work in teams is often overlooked. This may lead to serious shortcomings in design. Informing the designers' professional perspective by gender and diversity research helps them to discover hidden requirements and to take these into consideration. It may also uncover conflicting interests of and within various stakeholder groups regarding the design and use of technology. Such conflicts should be openly addressed and reflected in the design process.

User-Centered and Participatory Design

SoteG research is embedded in the field of human-computer interaction. User-centered and participatory design offer a wide variety of methods for requirements elicitation and design that allow to involve the future users in the software development process. Such methods offer a chance to uncover otherwise „invisible“ work practices. Within a basically ethnographic approach we study, adapt and use methods of user-centred design such as observational interviews, focus groups, co-design workshops, and various prototyping and testing procedures. The area of service work is our main application field. In particular, employees whose positions usually receive little attention are included in the development process.