4S/EASST Open Panels: Program Practice

Copenhagen is coming closer every day – only 263 days to go until the next 4S/EASST joint meeting will take place this October. Nicholas already announced that we are going to organize a so called Open Panel on “On states, stateness and STS: Government(ality) with a small ‘g’?” which can hold up to 15 papers. I repeat the call here: we are still looking for good contributions – please feel free to contact us!


(c) Photo: Tobias Sieben

As there are 106 panels in 10 thematic fields many of you might have noticed the flood of emails with CfPs on the various STS lists. Although the list of Open Panels is included in the overall CfP many (we are no exception) felt the necessity to individually post the call. You might have guesses that this has to with promoting our own work, but well…no, that is not the reasons. The reason is: software.

Here is why: To submit a paper to an Open Panel the submitted has to tick a checkbox – that is how a paper proposal gets linked to a panel. The problem for us organizers is the following: we do not know what has been submitted yet – there might already be 15 papers, there might be none. We simply cannot see that until the call is closed. So: the only way to get informed is getting individual notifications from those who submit. I guess that is the “secret” reason for individual calls: To remind potential submitters of who is organizing which panel individual calls are one opportunity…we still do not know the exact number of submissions until March 18th, but we can try to get an approximation. So: you would do us a real favor if you could send us a notice when you submit a paper to our panel. Thanks a lot!

Social significance of gap analysis

Although I’m not entirely sure of the implications for infrastructure, gap analysis is commonly used and seems promising as a research site — and yet, despite widespread use in management and implementation of software, gap analysis is an untapped and unappreciated workflow analysis technique in research.

In general, gap analysis takes three forms, which document the gaps between two states: current versus future, expected versus actual, perception versus delivered. The difference between the two states defines the gap, and from such assessments others are possible such as benchmarking (Boxwell 1994).

The first form is a map. Cartographic representations are mainly utilized in lean management to chart flows of raw materials – including information – currently necessary to make a product or service available to consumers so that they can be assessed for flow and waste. Once areas for improved flow and reduced waste are identified, analysts draw them into a future state value stream map. The differences between the two states define the gaps, which orient work toward that future condition. The map gap was designed at Toyota (Rother and Shook 1999).

The second form is a step chart. Temporality is built-into the step chart, which also identifies and compares current practice and desired future state for the performance of a service or product. Brown and Plenert (2006:319) provide a good example of where a step chart might solve the gap between expected and actual states: “customers may expect to wait only 20 minutes to see their doctor but, in fact, have to wait more than thirty minutes.” Step charts chart the steps necessary to move from current practice to future practice (Chakrapani 1999).

The third form, which is most appropriate for working-around packaged software, is a cross-list. Such analyses are most routinely undertaken in consumer research wherein gap analysis refers to the:

methodological tabulation of all known requirements of consumers in a particular category of products, together with a cross-listing of all features provided by existing products to satisfy existing requirements. Such a chart shows up any gaps that exist (n.a. 2006).

Once cross-listed in table format gaps make themselves obvious and their analysis points to unmet consumer demand which new or poorly marketed products might fulfill. However, prior to the establishment of a cross-list, consumer expectations and experiences must be gathered, for example, by focus-group interviews. Once collected and made to populate a cross-listed table, according to Brown and Plenert (2006:320), “gaps can be simply calculated as the arithmetic difference between the two measurements for each attribute.”