The position of large computer systems in the society is strengthened through an extended need to save and process information. Developing continuously larger and sometimes also more complex systems is one solution to manage all the information that exists. The focus on the interplay between the technological and the social aspects of large computer systems has increased in informatics. This focus makes the relations and the processes related to large computer systems more visible.
This thesis concentrate on changes in and around large computer systems. What are the consequences of the changes, and what happens to the different parties involved? The use of actor-network theory makes it possible to look at the changes as a translation process. The changes in and around Felles Studentsystem (FS - "Joint Student System") as Kvalitetsreformen ("The Quality Reform", a reform in Norwegian higher education) was introduced form the basis for the study. A large number of higher education institutions in Norway use FS for both students and studies administration. The system is closely connected with institutions and other actors in the higher education sector. The thesis’ analysis is based on data collected through participant observation, textual analysis and interviews.
The use of actor-network theory in the analysis resulted in a special focus on the relations between the actors in the network, and the results of these relations. The analysis in the thesis shows how a lot of separate parts have to work together in order to make the network around a large computer system work. The thesis demonstrates how problems that evolve around a computer system not necessarily become problems within the computer system. Some parts of Kvalitetsreformen were included without difficulties in FS, even though they caused problems in other networks. The analysis also shows the consequences of complexity and decreased action space in a network. The thesis concludes by pointing at the contradictory relation between the vulnerability of large computer systems and the increased dependency on data quality. This calls for a throughout consideration of the vulnerability of large computer systems versus the need for increased focus on data quality.