Technology: a tool or a system?

Depending on your point of view, you can see technology either as a tool that is wielded by humans and thus subject to our priorities and concerns; or as a system to which we as humans are subjected. Either you are in control, or you feel subject to control. The issue is not purely philosophical. It goes to the heart of our architectural and programming models. Even in the so-called “object oriented” programming paradigm, the individual is still an “object” rather than a subject of action. We see the same in information systems: it is rare that the actual information content is put at the centre of the model, it is rather seen as an object manipulated and treated through a lifecycle, like in a sausage machine. Much attention isgiven to formalising, for example, the business processes and workflows involved in information management, but the formalisation of the actual information content is often considered as purely accessory to the process. XML as a data standard was supposed to put the information model centre stage, but some eight years after the standard was formalised, it is still largely used to formalise information content in the context of a specific application development and not as an inherent part of the information itself.

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