Kristo Ivanov (born in 1937) is a Swedish-Brazilian information scientist and systems scientist of ethnic Bulgarian origin. He is professor emeritus at the Department of informatics of Umeå University in Sweden.
Ivanov was born in 1937 in Belgrade in the former Yugoslavia, and grew up and was educated in Italy and Brazil. In 1961 he moved to Sweden, where he worked as an electronic engineer in the telecommunications and computer industries, with assignments in France and the USA. In 1972 he obtained a Ph.D. degree in informatics at the Department of Computer and Systems Sciences of the Royal Institute of Technology and Stockholm University. He has conducted further studies in political economy, business administration, and statistics, and obtained a degree in psychology at Lund University
His study led to positions at Stockholm University and Linköping University. In 1984 he was appointed to a chair as full professor of informatics at Umeå University. He is professor emeritus since 2002.
From 1991 to 2004 he was scientific advisor to the National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen). In 1997 he was "president elect" of ISSS, the International Society for the Systems Sciences, a position which he later had to relinquish because of other demanding duties.
In his research and teaching Ivanov focused initially on the application of systems theory to information systems and especially on practical problems of quality-control of information in industrial data bases.
More specifically, his early work concentrated on the issue of accuracy and precision of data bases as they are related to system development and maintenance, where the systems approach is done in terms of socially framed technical systems, conceived as a further development of the "Berkeley school" in the tradition of professor C. West Churchman.
The following are some notable ideas in Ivanov's work which eventually lead to ethical and theological organizational issues with consequences for practical applications. In order to clarify these ideas they will be illustrated with references to Ivanov's own work and to literature upon which it relies.
This was a further development of the concept of social systems of the Berkeley school mentioned above, with the intent to prevent that its applications in systems design be reductively transformed into other approaches such as communicative action in the Kantian tradition, participatory design or co-design in the liberal tradition, conflict in the Marxian tradition or, lately, phenomenological and post-phenomenological postmodernism (and perspectivism, as in postmodern philosophy), social networks, actor-network theory (and its "non-modernism"), and design aestheticism.
Ivanov views the problem of political power as related to privacy or personal integrity, freedom of speech, rule of law, and ethics, where the clash between privacy and security, supposedly mediated by participatory practices, portrays in terms of political science a fruitless and hopeless clash between socialist and liberal ideologies which lack a "vertical" spiritual dimension.
In later years the emphasis switched to the furthering of systems thinking in face of perceived cultural decline of society, with emphasis on universities and research. This is cultural criticism of inadequate uses of the system concept as well as criticism of some modern and postmodern trends in research and development of computer applications, under labels such as critical theory, phenomenology, design, or sheer eclectic ad hoc theoretical frameworks. Ivanov perceives that they are often misused to downplay not only economic and political realities but also, and mainly, ethical concerns. His criticism follows from his summarizing statement about the future of the systems approach and its limitations when technology and science lead to philosophy, and further to ethics and theology. Therefore, as emeritus, Ivanov pursues research on current trends of informatics and science to be explained or countered by an understanding of the interface between information, philosophy of technology, and theology. In this respect, and except for his adduction of theology which he shares with West Churchman, Ivanov may be seen as working along a stream of earlier criticism of the ideology of computer culture. Ivanov is convinced of the necessity of an explicit relation between theology and ethics in systems philosophy and practice, in order to avoid that technology remains an "excuse for questionable ethics" in the computer-supported edutainment and financial games of affluent societies.
Ivanov published numerous articles and a few books, a selection:
- 1972. Quality-control of information: On the concept of accuracy of information in data banks and in management information systems. The University of Stockholm and The Royal Institute of Technology. Doctoral dissertation.
- 1989. "Computer applications and organizational disease". In C. W. Churchman (Ed.), The well-being of organizations (pp. 283–312). Salinas, Calif.: Intersystems.
- 1991. "Critical systems thinking and information technology". In: J. of Applied Systems Analysis, 18, 39-55. Original research report.
- 1992. Proceedings of the 14th IRIS: Rev. papers of the 14th information systems research seminar in Scandinavia. Umeå-Lövånger, 11–14 August 1991. Umeå: Umeå University - Inst. of Information Processing. (ISSN 0282-0579.)
- 1993. "Hypersystems: A base for specification of computer-supported self-learning social systems". In C. M. Reigeluth, B. H. Banathy, & J. R. Olson (Eds.), Comprehensive systems design: A new educational technology (pp. 381–407). New York: Springer-Verlag. (NATO ASI Series F: Computer and Systems Sciences, Vol 95.)
- 1995. "A subsystem in the design of informatics: Recalling an archetypal engineer". In B. Dahlbom (Ed.), The infological equation: Essays in honor of Börje Langefors (pp. 287–301). Gothenburg: Gothenburg University, Dept. of Informatics (ISSN 1101-7422).
- 1996. "Presuppositions in information systems design: From systems to networks and contexts? Accounting". In: Management and Information Technologies, renamed Information & Organization, 5, 99-114.
- 1996. "Future foundations of inquiring systems: Reformed pragmatism or spirituality?" In J. M. Carey (Ed.), Proc. of the AIS Americas Conference on Information Systems, August 16–18, 1996, Phoenix, Arizona, USA (pp. 829–831). Pittsburgh: Univ. of Pittsburgh, Katz Graduate School of Business, Pittsburgh, PA
- 2000. "Platonic information technology. Reading Plato: Cultural influences and philosophical reflection on information and technology. In: Proc. of ISTAS 2000, IEEE Int. Symposium on Technology and Society, 6–8 September 2000, Rome, Italy (pp. 163-168).
- 2001. "The systems approach to design, and inquiring information systems: Scandinavian experiences and proposed research program". In: Information Systems Frontiers, 3(1), 7-18.
- 2006. "Whither computers and systems?" In: Janis Bubenko, et all. (Eds.), ICT for people: 40 years of academic development in Stockholm. pp. 125–134.
- Further biographical details.
- Ivanov acknowledges (see further references in this article) that he has been partially influenced by Churchman's work as it is summarized in Churchman, C. W. (1971), The design of inquiring systems: Basic principles of systems and organization, New York: Basic Books, and Churchman, C. W. (1979), The systems approach and its enemies, New York: Basic Books.
- Ivanov's criticisms are found, for instance, in Ivanov (1991) and Ivanov (2001) Regarding design estheticism that followed and replaced Marxian trends in Scandinavia, Ivanov adduces the critique of post-Marxian aestheticism by Norris, C. (1990). What's wrong with postmodernism: Critical theory and the ends of philosophy. New York: Harvester Wheatsheaf. (Esp. pp. 16-30, 77-133, 263-282.) Ivanov perceives trends in computer and information science (where the design concept is grounded in design theory rather than systems theory) as related to variants of the intuitionism impersonated by Henri Bergson, or to problematic revisions of Aristotelian phronesis as expounded by Aubenque, P. (1993). La prudence chez Aristote, avec un appendice sur la prudence chez Kant [Prudence according to Aristotle, with an appendix on prudence according to Kant]. Quadrige/PUF. (First ed. 1963.)
- Ivanov, K. (1986). Systemutveckling och rättssäkerhet: Om statsförvaltningens datorisering och de långsiktiga konsekvenserna för enskilda och företag [Systems development and rule of law: On the computerization of public administration and it long-run consequences for citizens and business]. Stockholm: SAF. (ISBN 91 7152 404 5.)
- Ivanov, K. (2001). The systems approach to design, and inquiring information systems: Scandinavian experiences and proposed research program. Information Systems Frontiers, 3(1), 7-18. Abstract and orders.Original research report.
- The quoted expression is from the title of Ivanov's colleague, Mowshowitz, A. (2008). Technology as excuse for questionable ethics. AI & Society, Volume 22 (3, January), pp. 271-282. An overview of Ivanov's latest and ongoing research is available on the Internet.
- Kristo Ivanov - Institutional Website.
- Kristo Ivanov - Personal Website
- An appreciation of C. West Churchman