Interaction Models

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= information and communication technology interaction models


"Four distinct user interaction models emerged from the systems studied. These models—planner/designer, facilitator, networked facilitator, and participant—are based on the targeted users who interact with the ICT system (figure 3).


The autocratic model is characterized by top-down management and flows of information through a central node. The process was often referred to as “planning,”“engineering,”“optimization,”“architecture,” or “design.” This model employs ICT to input explicit knowledge gathered from participants and output an optimized design for resource or energy flows that is then disseminated back to the participants. For the systems studied, this was generally a single iteration process resulting in a fixed optimum design. Regardless of an autocratic system's complexity, the single network hub creates a knowledge bottleneck and an inability to communicate tacit knowledge. As witnessed during application of the EPA's DIET system, ICT tools can provide a focal point to bring a community together during an interactive planning process (Industrial Economics 1998). These gatherings would themselves offer a participatory process even if the ICT was not designed to support it. Furthermore, modern practices in planning tend away from an autocratic approach, toward a participatory communicative process.


The facilitator model resembles the autocratic model in that there is a single person or small group that collects information from the participants, employs a central ICT solution to process the data, and then relays results back to the participants. However, unlike the autocratic model, the facilitator's goal is to build network ties by establishing connections through introductions between the individual participants. The participants can then communicate with each other to assess their complementary processes and any potential synergies. The facilitator role is an ongoing process of continual iteration as participants join, update their information, or as new processes are discovered. This model is less focused on an optimum or centrally planned network, but more so on making knowledge accessible to and between the members, and encouraging cooperation through a participatory process.

Networked Facilitator

The networked facilitator model closely resembles the facilitator model but is characterized by a large number of facilitators who use a combination of distributed and networked ICT systems to communicate among one another. The ICT systems cater toward multiple remote users and include a primary focus on communication.


The participant model facilitates communication directly between networked participants. This approach provides direct and distributed access to participants, allowing them use of ICT tools designed to store and transfer knowledge throughout the synergy development process. Participants are the primary users, identifying potential opportunities, establishing dialogue with complementary users, posting successful synergies, reviewing and vetting information, and harnessing ICT to support and initiate offline communication. Even though communication is taking place online, a participant system enables the flow of less explicit knowledge and builds relationships necessary to support the exchange of more tacit knowledge. The various functionalities associated with the facilitator and designer ICT technologies, such as case study mimicking, may be incorporated into a participant-based system, but will require larger investments in usability and sociability to successfully interact with a great number of inexperienced users.

Although not yet established within the documented case studies, a networked participant model could emerge if many nested, perhaps regional, participant networks communicated among one another through shared system protocols. This model could evolve by either transferring access from a networked facilitator system to the participants or by connecting many established participant networks." (