Modelling soft systems relationships with digitised LEGO. Relating Systems Thinking and Design Symposium (RSD5).

Research output: Other contribution


Checkland wrote of models that they are:

‘surrogates for the real world, on which experimentation is cheap. In these fields the key feature of a model is representativeness. In soft systems methodology (SSM) models are not part of the world; they are only relevant to debate about the real world and are used in a cyclic learning process’ [1, p.47].

This workshop seeks to address the complex human ‘soft’ dimensions of systems, through a cycle of work that moves from the hands to the computer.Ultimately data from the workshop concerning actor relationships mediated by technology can be recorded in the Actor Mapping App and thus can be introduced into traditional infrastructural mappings if desired. The goal is to facilitate transdisciplinary collaboration and reveal human-centered perspectives and concerns relating to the complexities of socio-technical systems.

The session begins by introducing the backdrop to the methodology, which is followed by a hands-on demonstration of it’s practice. A particular first aim is for the participants to augment the existing colour-coded typology that is used in the method (which is derived from Archimate [2], an enterprise analysis tool). The goal is co-design an adapted version of the Library of Systemic Relationships [3] for use in a physical modelling context, selecting colours and shapes of LEGO and other materials, and creating a schema based on systemic design patterns. A no less important objective is to digitally record the outcomes from the session, identifying and visualising the key narratives that have emerged, via the App and transforming modelling insights into shareable digital data.

Analysis and reflection: workshop participants will be given a number of post-modelling analysis options, either singly or in combination. They will be able to produce a set of design principles specific to their scenarios, closely tied to the particular topologies of the models. They will be able to use a drawing protocol to reveal the affordances of different spaces within their models. These outcomes can be visualised and shared with a mixed array of stakeholders including those involved in the design of solutions. They will be able to converge their insights about actor relationships within the App and feeding this into the TReSPASS ‘attack navigator map’ interface [4], showing how these relationships sit within and serve to socially construct the technical landscape.

[1] Peter Checkland. Model validation in soft systems practice, Systems Research 12, 1, pp.47-54, 1995, Wiley Online Library.

[2] Lankhorst, Marc M., Henderik Alex Proper, and Henk Jonkers. The architecture of the archimate language. In, Enterprise, Business-Process and Information Systems Modelling. pp. 367-380. Berlin Heidelberg, 2009.

[3] Birger Sevaldson. Library of Systemic Relations, 2016. See:

[4] TREsPASS EU project see:
Original languageEnglish
TypeParticipatory workshop at Relating Systems Thinking and Design Symposium (RSD5), OCAD Toronto
Media of outputModelling
Publication statusUnpublished - 2017

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