EBCS faculty member, Professor Baskerville, released two research papers regarding information systems in the digital age. His first paper, “Going Digital,” Professor Baskerville discusses how the “the digitization process invokes an emerging model of the science of design that incorporates the assembly of information systems from a wide variety of platform ecosystems.” Baskerville traveled to South Africa to present his findings at the 47th Annual Conference of the South African Computer Lecturers’ Association in June. “Everything that takes place, takes place in an information system,” Baskerville said. “This is a reversal of what we saw 25 years ago. We now see information systems as a reflection of reality.”
In his second paper, “Digital First: The Ontological Reversal and New Challenges for IS Research,” Professor Baskerville’s highlights ontological reversal. Baskerville co-authored his research with Professor Youngjin Yoo of Case Western Reserve University Department of Design & Innovation and Professor Michael D. Myers of University of Auckland Business School.
The researchers’ theory distinguishes how we perceive information technology in a digital age. The paper discussed how “previously, information systems were seen as only reflecting reality,” but also how modern “digital technologies shapes reality” as well. Common forms of this creation and shaping of realities are obvious examples such as 3D printers. “When you think of robotics, you think of programming a robot to weld or manufacture cars,” Baskerville explained.
However, the less obvious example is the machine learning system in Netflix viewer filtration and selection algorithm. When viewers log on to Netflix, Netflix preselects out of hundreds and thousands of productions and content what the viewer would likely watch and have interest in. In that case, “Netflix’s algorithms and computer systems decide what people are interested in,” Baskerville continued. “In my view, you have notions of algorithmic robots where—for an example—Netflix’s algorithm decides what the viewers want to see.” Baskerville describes this form of technology as a “soft form of robotics.”
Security Implications of the Modern Information Systems: An Ontological Reversal Perspective
Baskerville explained that in a traditional view of securing information systems, “we are always focused on securing the system—the computer and the people who are using it.” “In a reverse ontological view, the securing mission shifts to securing the produce of the information system because the system is producing those products.” We often see this in the form of parental controls. Baskerville analogized the theory with a farmer’s tractor. “In the old model, we protect the tractor, the computer and the network.” However, in the new model, Baskerville believes we should focus on protecting “the crop.” In the Netflix case, the crop would be the audience. “We are not protecting people because they are not products of the system,” Baskerville explained. We are now protecting the users “entertainment experience, which is the product of Netflix’s system.” This form of machine learning poses a new form of security challenges for information security professionals because since “the system is creating the reality” we now have to protect the audience’s experience.
Interested in reading more about Professor Baskerville’s latest research? Visit https://ebcs.gsu.edu/research/ to download Professor Baskerville’s latest publications.