Call: “The sociotechnical systems approach for AI” issue of Minds and Machines

Call for Papers

Minds & Machines special issue on
The sociotechnical systems approach for Artificial Intelligence

Guest Editors:
Olya Kudina, Assistant Professor, Delft University of Technology
Ibo van de Poel, Professor, Delft University of Technology

Deadline for paper submissions: September 1, 2021


A sociotechnical systems approach is a generally recognized lens to look at complex technologies by underscoring the intrinsic entanglement of their technical, social and institutional dimensions that together produce specific use patterns and ethical concerns (e.g. Franssen 2015; Kroes et al. 2006). What distinguishes Artificial Intelligence (AI) from traditional sociotechnical systems is the presence of artificial agents, or algorithms, and technical rules that manage their interaction with the other elements of the system (Van de Poel 2020). In addition, the presence of human-like elements (e.g. intelligent agents) is increased in a dynamic, evolving environment. However, the way artificial agents learn may not be understandable to human actors, making uncertainty and unpredictability in AI systems present to a higher degree than in traditional systems. Another particular feature of AI systems is that its borders are fuzzy and dynamic, making it difficult to ensure that the values intended by the designers become in fact embedded and making a phenomenon of value change of particular interest to AI systems. These features of AI systems raise significant questions about what the designers of the AI system are actually producing, which human roles, which system rules and values, which practice situations arise within and outside of the system.

It seems that the sociotechnical systems perspective in considering the dynamic combination of the technical, governance and sociocultural or institutional elements of AI has implications for the design and governance of AI. In parallel, it might provide guidance on how one deals with the ethical issues in AI and how those issues are defined. Surprisingly, however, little research to date has focused on applying the sociotechnical systems perspective to AI (e.g. Borenstein et al. 2019; Behymer and Flach 2016; Jones et al. 2013). The main goal of this Special Issue is to inquire what the sociotechnical systems approach means when applied to AI.

We invite the submission of papers focusing on but not restricted to:

  • What can the sociotechnical systems approach deliver for AI?
  • How can institutions give a fitting and dynamic embedding to AI systems?
  • How to promote the embedding of values into AI systems?
  • What is the role of culture in AI systems?
  • How to ensure a transparent governance of AI systems in a dynamic environment?
  • How can the developers and users of AI systems make informed choices regarding their design and use?
  • How can the subject of value change be embedded in AI systems?


Behymer, K. J., & Flach, J. M. (2016). From Autonomous Systems to Sociotechnical Systems: Designing Effective Collaborations. She Ji: The Journal of Design, Economics, and Innovation, 2(2), 105–114.

Borenstein, J., Herkert, J. R., & Miller, K. W. (2019). Self-driving cars and engineering ethics: The need for a system level analysis. Science and Engineering Ethics, 25(2), 383–398.

Franssen, M. (2015). Design for values and operator roles in sociotechnical systems. In J. van den Hoven, P. E. Vermaas, & I. van de Poel (Eds.), Handbook of ethics, values, and technological design: sources, theory, values and application domains (pp. 117–149). Dordrecht: Springer.

Jones, A. J. I., Artikis, A., & Pitt, J. (2013). The design of intelligent socio-technical systems. Artificial Intelligence Review, 39(1), 5–20.

Kroes, P., Franssen, M., Van de Poel, I., & Ottens, M. (2006). Treating socio-technical systems as engineering systems: some conceptual problems. Systems Research and Behavioral Science, 23(6), 803–814.

Van de Poel, I. (2020). Embedding Values in Artificial Intelligence (AI) Systems. Minds and Machines, 30(3), 385-409.


Deadline for paper submissions: September 1, 2021
Deadline for paper reviewing: November 1, 2021
Deadline for submission of revised papers: December 1, 2021
Deadline for reviewing revised papers: January 15, 2022
Papers will be published in 2022


To submit a paper for this special issue, authors should go to the journal’s Editorial Manager at The author (or a corresponding author for each submission in case of co- authored papers) must register into EM.

The author must then select the special article type: “Special issue: The sociotechnical systems approach for Artificial Intelligence” from the selection provided in the submission process. This is needed in order to assign the submissions to the Guest Editor.

Submissions will then be assessed according to the following procedure:

New Submission => Journal Editorial Office => Guest Editor(s) => Reviewers => Reviewers’ Recommendations => Guest Editor(s)’ Recommendation => Editor-in-Chief’s Final Decision => Author Notification of the Decision.

The process will be reiterated in case of requests for revisions.

For any further information please contact:,

This special issue is part of the project ValueChange that has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 788321.

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