A service systems may exhibit pathologies, i.e. an abnormal, unhealthy, maladjusted or inefficient state that is maintained in a living system for a significant period. Correcting a pathology may require a history-making change where significant capital investment is needed.
As a way of reframing the definition of a service system, interactions between parties are expressed as an interaction where a provider offers affordances and clients may have varying levels of ability. The needs and expectations of high-ability clients can be contrasted to those of low-ability clients. Portraying affordances as essential or discretionary may enable segmentation of client target groups into coproducing or full-service arrangements.
Some example service systems, in municipal services, pension plans and open source communities are described to illustrate considerations of pathologies towards potential pursuits of sustainability.
Alternative approaches to correct the pathologies are related to theories of ecological complexity, in panarchies and supply-side sustainability. Directions for further development are outlined.
David Ing, "Is that affordance essential? Pathology in service systems and redesigns for sustainability", 1st International Conference on Human Side of Service Engineering, at the Fourth International Conference on Applied Human Factors and Ergonomics, San Francisco, California, July 24, 2012.