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A Network States Approach for Mapping System Changes Matthew M. Mehalik Introduction In this chapter, I describe the use of a three-states network framework, derived from actor network theory, distributive cognitive systems, trading zones, and shared mental models, to describe how a group of University of Pittsburgh researcher-interventionists attempted to promote district alignment on several policy goals and measurement initiatives in a large, urban school system in the United States. These researcherinterventionists engaged various district personnel in a process of policy, measurement , and network innovation. I begin by describing the origins of the states framework in actor network theory, shared mental models, distributed cognitive systems, trading zones, and boundary objects. I then use the framework to describe how the researcher-interventionists engaged with the school system. Finally, I interpret some of the findings from these observations. Because of their high degree of complexity, school districts are a perfect setting in which to investigate the utility of such a framework. Two of the largest impediments to district reform are the difficulty of aligning information systems and district data with the decision-making capacities in the district, and the ways in which the district’s extant internal sociotechnical networks become integrated with how the information is collected, used, and implemented (Callon 1987; Latour 1999; Law 1987; Law and Bijker 1992). The complexity of navigating these problems in network alignment is also typically overshadowed by (but integrally linked with) the many challenges faced by urban school districts. District personnel must make careful decisions about how to direct their resources. Determining the correct policies to institute and knowing how to move them forward are difficult precisely because of the network alignment challenges. 9 182 Matthew M. Mehalik The chapter describes how one district’s network changed over time, using a threestates networking framework that has previously been applied to sociotechnical engineering systems (Mehalik and Gorman 2006; Gorman and Mehalik 2002). The framework, which will be discussed in detail later in the chapter, consists of three network states: • State 1, in which one actor or small elite group of actors has a comprehensive view and “black-boxes” others into specific roles whose purpose(s) these others do not fully understand; • State 2, in which no group of actors has a comprehensive view. In this state, actors construct and renegotiate “trading zones” (Galison 1997) and boundary objects (Star and Griesemer 1989) that permit them to work together while still pursuing their own enterprises or goals; and • State 3, in which all participants share a common view (Gorman 1997). Networks shift among these states. The framework is used as a tool to help practitioners reflect upon how to be strategic in their ability to work with others and to achieve innovation amid network complexity. The purpose for applying this framework to the urban school district case study is to illustrate how such a framework can offer assistance to decision makers in complex organizations who are responsible for initiating a process of innovation to improve how that organization functions. In these cases, the decision maker must first be able to understand what is currently happening in the organization, and then decide which types of actions should be taken to achieve appropriate outcomes through the process of change. In the parlance of trading zones, key questions for systems change include: What sorts of trading zones exist in my complex organization? What holds them together? For what reasons were they constructed in the first place? What new trading zones should be fostered? How can they be created? The case study that follows is intended to provide some insight into these questions. Deriving the Three-States Framework Actor Networks Technologies do not … evolve under the impetus of some necessary inner technological or scientific logic. They are not possessed of an inherent momentum. If they evolve or change, it is because they have been pressed into shape. But the question then becomes: why did they actually take the form that they did? (Bijker and Law 1992, 3) An actor network perspective typically focuses on how human agents (superintendents and principals, for example) try to strategically align other human agents (teachers A Network States Approach for Mapping System Changes 183 and students) and nonhuman elements (such as technology and curricula) in a mutually sustaining way (Bijker, Hughes, and Pinch 1987; Bijker and Law 1992). A network’s structure and alignment determine how well it responds to, deflects, or transforms challenges to its integration (Law 1987, 132). Latour and Woolgar (1979), Callon...


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