Information Studies 282 -- Information Systems Analysis and Design

Phil Agre
Office: 229 GSE&IS Building
Phone: (310) 825-7154


Christine Borgman
Office: 235 GSE&IS Building
Phone: (310) 825-6164

Winter 2007
Monday 1:30pm - 4:50pm, GSE&IS room 111

This is an introductory and relatively nontechnical introduction to systems analysis and design. The main idea is that data modeling provides a language, and that iterative design provides a process, with which designers and users can articulate the functionality of a computer system.

The only course prerequisites are those of the program in general, including the programming requirement. The course complements several other courses in the program, including IS 240 (Management of Digital Records), IS 245 (Information Access), IS 260 (Information Structures), IS 270 (Introduction to Information Technology), IS 272 (Human/Computer Interaction), IS 274 (Database Management Systems), IS 276 (Information Retrieval Systems: Structures and Algorithms), IS 277 (Information Retrieval Systems: User-Centered Designs), and IS 464 (Metadata).

The course has three parts. The first part consists mostly of lectures and discussion on the nature of design, including a fieldwork exercise.

The second part concerns the two most important skills of systems analysis, data modeling and process modeling. Because data and process modeling are so fundamental to the main tradition of system design, we will take time in class to work examples of them.

The third part will consist of a group design exercise. Each group will get its own design problem. The groups will then iterate their designs, starting at the most conceptual level and working over five weeks toward detailed designs.

This class, like most serious design classes, involves a significant amount of group-oriented work outside of the weekly class meeting. Although we will attempt to assign students to groups based on the times when they are available for group meetings, we cannot guarantee that group work will be feasible for those whose weekly schedules are almost entirely filled with other activities. Because those people's scheduling issues will make life difficult for the other students in their group, they should not enroll in the class.

Grades will consist of 15% for the fieldwork exercise, 15% for the take-home process and data modeling assignment, and 70% for the group projects.

Notes on the design project.

There is no textbook. There is, however, a reading from Pelle Ehn, Work-Oriented Design of Computer Artifacts, second edition, Stockholm: Arbetslivscentrum, 1989. This is on reserve in the lab. There is also a reading packet, available from the LuValle Commons bookstore.

The reader includes two chapters from a conventional systems analysis and design textbook: Jeffrey A. Hoffer, Joey F. George, and Joseph S. Valacich, Modern Systems Analysis and Design, third edition, Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2002. The book as a whole is not required for the course because (like all of the textbooks on the subject that we have read) it is far too expensive for the amount of intellectual substance it includes. If you want a conventional systems analysis textbook, many used copies of this book (many of them probably earlier editions) are available cheaply on the Web. One good site for used books is <>. Another reasonably good textbook for which used copies are available cheaply is Jeffrey L. Whitten, Lonnie D. Bentley, and Kevin C. Dittman, Systems Analysis and Design Methods, sixth edition, Boston: Irwin McGraw-Hill, 1998.

Reading assignment for the first class. Historically, there have been roughly two types of design, engineering design that proceeds linearly from requirements to supposedly optimal solutions and a more artistic form of design, for example in architecture, that places much more emphasis on the early phases of conceptualizing and reconceptualizing the design before the more detailed phases of design begin. Computer systems have generally been designed using design methods from engineering. In recent years, however, the engineering and artistic varieties of design have increasingly been combined. Class readings will therefore be drawn from both varieties. To get a sense of the more artistic variety of design, all students should read, before the first class meeting, the October 2002 issue of the design magazine Metropolis. The article about IDEO's information design project at a hospital is especially useful, but the rest of the issue, including articles about the Queens library and the Getty, is worth reading as well. Ask yourself what it would be like to design computers in the ways that these articles describe. The issue is on reserve in the lab. It is also available by mail for $8.95 a copy from Back Issues, Metropolis, 61 West 23rd St, New York NY 10010, or fax (212) 627-9988. They take checks or Amex/Visa/Mastercard.

The rest of the reading assignments in this syllabus should be done after the class for which they are listed. So, for example, read Brand's article after the first week's lecture on design. The same applies to assignments number 1 and 2, which are due in weeks 5 and 6, respectively.

Week 1 (January 8th). Design

Stewart Brand, How Buildings Learn: What Happens after They're Built, New York: Viking, 1994. Chapter 10: Function Melts Form: Satisficing Home and Office.

Batya Friedman and Helen Nissenbaum, Bias in computer systems, ACM Transactions on Information Systems 14(3), 1996, pages 330-347.

Roger Montgomery, Architecture invents new people, in Russell Ellis and Dana Cuff, eds, Architects' People, New York: Oxford University Press, 1989.

Donald A. Schon, The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think in Action, New York: Basic Books, 1983. Chapter 3: Design as a Reflective Conversation with the Situation.

Week 2 (January 15th). Holiday

Read Ehn, Part II, The Art and Science of Designing Computer Artifacts (pages 145-246).

Week 3 (January 22nd). Requirements and organizational context.

Class presentation (Powerpoint)

Fieldwork assignment.

Week 4 (January 29th). Fieldwork projects.

Students document their projects

Week 5 (February 5th). Data modeling and process modeling.

Hoffer, George, and Valacich. Chapter 10: Structuring system requirements: Conceptual data modeling, and Chapter 8: Structuring system requirements: Process modeling.

Individual assignment.

Week 6 (February 12th). Group projects

Week 7 (February 19th). Holiday

Week 8 (February 26th). Group projects

Week 9 (March 5th). Group projects

Week 10 (March 12th). Group projects

Finals week (March 19th). Group projects

The team project is due on Thursday of finals week, i.e., March 22nd.