Case Study of a Complex Informing System: Joint Interagency Field Experimentation (JIFX)

William F Murphy, Sandra Sanchez Murphy, Raymond R Buettner, Grandon Gill
Informing Science: The International Journal of an Emerging Transdiscipline  •  Volume 18  •  2015  •  pp. 063-109
The Joint Interagency Field Experimentation (JIFX) event, organized by the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS), is conducted 3-4 times a year at various locations. The four day event can be characterized as an informing system specifically designed to facilitate structured and unstructured communications between a variety of parties—e.g., software developers, inventors, military and civilian users of various technologies, academics, and agencies responsible for identifying and procuring technology solutions—that frequently are constrained in their informing activities in more restrictive venues. Over the course of the event, participants may observe technology demonstrations, obtain feedback from potential users, acquire new ideas about their technologies might be employed and, perhaps most significantly, engage in ad hoc collaborations with other participants.
The present paper describes an exploratory case research study that was conducted over a one year period and involved both direct observation of the event and follow-up interviews with 49 past participants in the event. The goal of the research was to assess the nature of participant-impact resulting from attending JIFX and to consider the consistency of the findings with the predictions of various theoretical frameworks used in informing science. The results suggest that participants perceived that the event provided significant value from three principal sources: discovery, interaction with potential clients (users) of the technologies involved, and networking with other participants. These findings were largely consistent with what could be expected from informing under conditions of high complexity; because value generally derives from combinations of attributes rather than from the sum of individual attributes, we would expect that overall value from informing activities will be perceived even though estimates of the incremental value of that informing cannot be made.
JIFX, informing system, complexity, disaster management, ad hoc experimentation, collaboration, military
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