Digital Eco-systems Pre-design: Variety Analyses, System Viability and Tacit System Control Mechanisms
This paper reports research into the application of Ashby's Law of Requisite Variety to assist with identifying optimal choices of design solutions at the pre-design stage of designing digital ecosystems, This study of the application of Ashby's Law is a component of a larger research program investigating the application of classical systems analysis tools in pre-design optimisation processes in designing digital information systems. The paper describes three extensions to Ashby's Law of Requisite Variety developed by the authors that extend the analytical role of Ashby's Law in diagnosis of unintended design outcomes from changes in control of variety in complex, multi-layered and hierarchical systems (such as digital eco-systems) that have multiple stakeholders or constituencies. The paper demonstrates this application of Ashby's Law of Requisite Variety and the three extensions in a pre-design role in relation to digital learning object eco-systems. Analysis of variety generation and variety control is used to investigate how choice of software systems such as XML influences the control of system variety. The research draws attention to ways this leads to weaknesses in eco-system viability l1ecessitating additional variety controlling measures that offer opportunities for hegemonic control of the eco-system by constituencies providing the additional variety controlling infrastructures and standards.