Explanation in information systems : a design rationale approach
This dissertation investigates the relationship between the information systems (IS) development context, and the context in which such systems are used. Misunderstandings and ambiguities emerge in the space between these contexts and often result in construction of systems that fail to meet the requirements and expectations of their intended users. This study explores this problem using an approach derived from three largely separate and distinct fields: explanation facilities in information systems, theories of explanation, and design rationale. Explanation facilities are typically included in knowledge-based information systems, where their purpose is to provide system users with the underlying reasons for why the system reaches a particular conclusion or makes a particular recommendation. Prior research suggests that the presence of an explanation facility leads to increased acceptance of these conclusions and recommendations, therefore enhancing system usability. Theory of explanation is a field of study in which philosophers attempt to describe the unique nature of explanation and to identify criteria for explanation evaluation. Design rationale research is concerned with the capture, representation, and use of the deep domain and artefact knowledge that emerges from the design process. The design rationale approach goes beyond specification and suggests that to understand a system requires knowledge of the arguments that led to its realisation. This study proposes a model of IS explanation structure and content derived from formal theories of explanation with a method for obtaining this content based on design rationale. The study has four goals: to derive a theory of explanation specific to the domain of information systems; to examine this definition empirically through a study involving IS development and management professionals; to investigate in a case study whether the information needed to populate the explanation model can be captured using design rationale techniques; and construction of prototype software to deliver explanations per the proposed framework.