Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to report research that sought to understand the requirements of information systems designed to support people engaged in creative intellectual activity. The research aimed to provide empirical evidence based on a case study of a particular arena of creativity, namely electro‐acoustic music composition. However, it also sought to identify issues that may apply more widely to other arenas of human creativity. Design/methodology/approach – The research was based on a related series of three in‐depth studies of electro‐acoustic music composers at work. These studies entailed the collection of qualitative data from interviews, observations and “think aloud” protocols. These data were analysed inductively to reveal concepts and relationships that formed the basis for a model of interactions between the composers and the information systems with which they were working. Findings – The paper presents a model of relationships between information system features and use, and the resulting effects in terms of the extent to which creativity was perceived by the composers to have been facilitated and inhibited. In particular, a number of tensions were identified which suggest that conventional “best practice” in the design of data‐intensive information systems may be fundamentally at odds with the requirements of such systems to support important aspects of creativity. Research limitations/implications – The limitations associated with in‐depth qualitative research based on small samples is acknowledged, relating in particular to its lack of ability to generalise on the basis of statistical probability. However, such an approach arguably offers the complementary strength of being particularly suited to exploratory research aimed essentially at charting new territory and identifying rich and possibly unanticipated constructs rather than testing hypotheses based on existing theory. The resultant findings, however, must remain tentative and provisional pending further systematic investigation designed to establish the extent to which they are generalisable. Practical implications – As well as identifying limitations in conventional approaches to designing data‐intensive information systems, an alternative architecture is proposed which seeks better to map onto the requirements of creativity support. It is hoped that both the criticisms of conventional approaches and the proposed novel architecture may be of practical use to those engaged in the design of data‐intensive creativity support systems. Originality/value – The research reported here offers a novel perspective on the design of information systems in that it identifies a tension between conventional “best practice” in system design and the requirements of important aspects of creativity support. It has the advantage of being based on the in‐depth observation of real composers in action over protracted periods of time. It also proposes a novel system architecture which seeks to avoid reduce such tensions.
Journal of Documentation – Emerald Publishing
Published: Jul 31, 2007
Keywords: Information systems; Systems software; Music
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