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Knowledge management for self-organised resource allocation
Kurka D., Pitt J., Ober J.  ACM Transactions on Autonomous and Adaptive Systems 14 (1): 1-41, 2019. Type: Article
Date Reviewed: Jun 10 2021

Social systems are mainly controlled self-organizing systems dependent on participation and cooperation. The complexity of the social world needs continuous redesigns of these systems toward functional self-organizing systems. It also includes self-governance and the use of knowledge to apply “openness, transparency, and inclusivity across multiple interdependent knowledge management [KM] processes.” These issues are perfectly elaborated in the paper’s almost 50 pages, presenting the authors’ research in democracy propagation within socio-technical systems across various types of self-organizing systems that include self-governance elements. They also agree that self-governance needs transparency and proper resource allocation to provide optimal results.

Further, the study properly shows the premise that members of social groups have the ability to act responsibly, realizing at the same time their potential, “and hence should be provided with possibilities to participate in the design and management of social systems.” These notions include “a concept of social self-organization” for “democracy, emancipation and liberation from domination, inclusion, sharing, and partnership.” In the context of a modern technology-dependent society, the idea of a socio-technical system is in front of every conceptual design of any self-organizing system, and the authors recognize the real potential of socio-technical system design, that is, social systems operating on a technical base.

Socio-technical system design includes human, social, and organizational factors, as well as technical factors. In the design process, knowledge is the key factor that the authors embed into KM systems as a fundamental factor in a knowledge-based society. Elaboration of the socio-technical system design, as well as factors that impact the design, are flawlessly presented, making readers more familiar with various aspects of socio-technical system functionalities, specialties, and limitations, too. The authors identify the key KM principles. Most of the cases are followed by source code on GitHub ( for those interested in more technical details.

Since the authors argue that self-governing socio-technical systems are also regulated by conventional rules, they show the need for self-governance in which members of a socio-technical system enact these rules. This notion implicates self-modification of the rules using an applicable set of values. Based on principles found in classical Athenian democracy, they derive common KM principles applicable to the design of a socio-technical system that should be “open, inclusive, transparent, and effective in self-governed social technical systems.” They effectively explain how the design process also includes “a balance between restricted and unrestricted self-modification of conventional rules,” providing “democratic self-governance in socio-technical systems.”

Aware of the reality, including challenges, of socio-technical system deployment in digital societies, the authors brilliantly explain the availability of KM in self-governance ecosystems. Focusing on KM as the premise of successful socio-technical systems in a digital age, they follow their research to three of the eight KM design principles: voices of justice, distributed distributive justice, and flexible monitoring and sanctioning. Each principle is operational through an algorithm giving information transparency to obtain acceptable resource allocation policies for purposes that could be achieved.

What makes the paper a seminal work is the combining of KM design principles. Each is presented through a motivating scenario and justified solutions, including experiments that could be very practicable for socio-technical systems designers in the context of self-governance ecosystems and self-organizing and self-modifying elements.

Thus, the paper should be essential reading for most professionals covering social and political activities within socio-technical systems. It is a valuable contribution to the literature, especially as an introduction to a novel approach to socio-technical system design and the corresponding resource allocation paradigm from a KM point of view.

Reviewer:  F. J. Ruzic Review #: CR147284 (2111-0277)
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