Interaction with rule-bound systems : introducing a new 'ideal type' problem context
This PhD thesis introduces a new ideal-type problem context of rule-bound systems. The thesis has been generated through a belief in the ability of metaphor to make the abstract visible, its capacity to make the unfamiliar familiar, and its effectiveness as a legitimate means of generating insight and organizing knowledge. Metaphorical description remains an integral part of this thesis from beginning to end. It shows how the new context of rule-bound systems provides closure of the ideal problem context grid along the participants access. Following the ideas that created the basis for this closure, insight into a new role for systems practitioners is provided and the ideal problem context grid developed to form of a Torus. Part 1 outlines the theoretical foundations and other inspirations that underpin the thesis. Grounded on a wider definition of rules, including rules in both a formal and informal sense, multiple ways of viewing rules are highlighted. The characteristics of rule-bound systems are identified, drawing comparisons with other 'ideal-types'. Suggestions are also drawn out as to how change might be affected in a rule-bound context. Part II of this thesis is an account of a real world intervention informed by Critical Systems Thinking, carried out under the auspices of Participatory Action Research. A number of systems research methods and concepts were employed to investigate the participation of students in policy making in two contrasting senior schools in the North of England - organizations believed to present many of the characteristics of the rule-bound system. The approach used was one mixing methods, specifically, the creation of a symbiotic relationship between Soft Systems Methodology and Critical Systems Heuristics. Part III describes the process of reflection undertaken and the conclusion to the thesis.