Complexity in multi-actor system research: Towards a meta-analysis of recent studies

T.E. van der Lei, G.L. Kolfschoten, P.J. Beers

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/Letter to the editorAcademic

3 Citations (Scopus)


Researchers 30 years ago already emphasised the importance of a more social perspective on the design and implementation of systems. To create high value designs, and to learn from design, it is critical to take both the system and the (social) actor perspective into account. However, this multi-perspective view can easily impose a level of complexity that complicates research rigour. In this paper, we propose a framework to assess the degree of complexity that has been taken into account in research on multi-actor systems to understand how researchers balance rigour and relevance in their studies. Multi-actor systems research focuses on research topics in which the lens of study is a system in which the stakes and perspectives of multiple actors in or outside this system are considered. We present a framework to assess to what extent the actor and the system dimension are actually studied in combination. We used the framework to perform a first pilot of a meta-analysis that shows how researchers reduce the complexity of multi-actor systems for their research purposes
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)317-342
JournalJournal of Design Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • complexity
  • design science
  • multi-actor system
  • socio-technical system


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