Investigating the usability and utility of tangible modelling of socio-technical architectures

TitleInvestigating the usability and utility of tangible modelling of socio-technical architectures
Publication TypeMiscellaneous
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsIonita D., Wieringa R.J, Bullee J.H, Vasenev A.
Keywordsenterprise models, participatory modelling, socio-technical, tangible modelling, usability experiment

Socio-technical models are models that represent social as well as technical elements of the modeling subject, where the technical part consists of both physical and digital elements. Examples are enterprise models and models of the target of assessment used in risk assessment. Constructing and validating these models often implies a challenging task of extracting and integrating information from a multitude of stakeholders which are rarely modelling experts and don't usually have the time or desire to engage in modelling activities. We investigate a promising approach to overcome this challenge by using physical tokens to represent the model. We call the resulting models tangible models. In this paper we illustrate this idea by creating a tangible representations of a socio-technical modelling language used in Risk Assessment and provide an initial validation of the relative usability and utility of tangible versus abstract modelling by an experiment and a focus group, respectively. We discuss possible psychological and social mechanisms that could explain the enhanced usability and utility of tangible modelling approaches for domain experts. Finally, we discuss the generalizability of this approach to other languages and modelling purposes.