Social Informatics

Social Informatics is scholarly movement focused on the social analyses of information and communications technologies (ICTs). Scholars who engage in social informatics research eschew socially or technologically deterministic discourses in favor of approach that assigns agency equally to the material properties of the computing artifact and the broader social contexts in which the artifact is engaged. A more formal definition of social informatics is “the study of the design, uses, and consequences of ICTs (information and communications technologies) that takes into account their interaction with institutional and cultural contexts (Kling, Rosenbaum, & Sawyer, 2005).” Scholars from the field of Information Systems have termed the social informatics approach the ensemble or the emergent view of technology (c.f., Markus & Robey, 1988; Orlikowski & Iacono, 2001). The key concept here is that the social informaticist views ICTs as a socio-technical network of artifacts, social contexts, and their relationships.

Social informatics arose out of the writings and thinking of Rob Kling and a network of likeminded scholars. Initially social informatics research focused on organizational uses of technology; and much of current social informatics research engages an organizational level of analysis. However, with ICTs becoming ubiquitous in all forms of life – for example cell phones, instant messaging, digital photography, blogs, and e-commerce – there is rich opportunity for extending social informatics research beyond the organizational domain.

My attraction to social informatics is grounded in empirical observations I have made as both a researcher and a practitioner. As a researcher, I have repeatedly observed the ways in which technology shapes, and is shaped by, the social context within which it is used. As a practitioner, I experienced time and again the limitations of utopian discourses about ICTs and experienced the frustration of failed “silver-bullet” technological remedies.

Social Informatics Resources


Some Social Informatics researchers who have influenced my work:

Selected Social Informatics Readings

Boudreau, M.-C., & Robey, D. (2005). Enacting Integrated Information: A Human Agency Perspective. Organization Science, 16(1), 3-18.

Horton, K., Davenport, E., & Wood-Harper, T. (2005). Exploring sociotechnical interaction with Rob Kling: five “big” ideas. Information Technology & People, 18(1), 50.

Kling, R. (1999). What is Social Informatics and Why Does it Matter? D-Lib Magazine Retrieved September 1, 2004, from http://www.dlib.org/dlib/january99/kling/01kling.html

Kling, R., McKim, G., & King, A. (2003). A Bit More to IT: Scholarly Communication Forums as Socio-Technical Interaction Networks. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 54(1), 47-67.

Kling, R., Rosenbaum, H., & Sawyer, S. (2005). Understanding and Communicating Social Informatics: A Framework for Studying and Teaching the Human Contexts of Information and Communications Technologies. Medford, New Jersey: Information Today, Inc.

Kling, R., & Scaachi, W. (1980). Computing as Social Action: The Social Dynamics of Computing in Complex Organizations. Advances in Computers, 19, 249-327.

Kling, R., & Scaachi, W. (1982). The Web of Computing. Advances in Computers, 21, 1-90. Lamb, R., & Sawyer, S. (2005). On extending social informatics from a rich legacy of networks and conceptual resources. Information Technology & People, 18(1), 9.

Markus, M. L., & Robey, D. (1988). Information Technology and Organizational Change: Conceptions of Causality in Theory and Research. Management Science, 34(5), 583-598. Orlikowski, W. J., & Iacono, C. S. (2001). Research commentary: Desperately seeking “IT” in IT research – A call to theorizing the IT artifact. Information Systems Research, 12(2), 121.

Sawyer, S., & Eschenfelder, K. R. (2002). Social Informatics: Perspectives, Examples, and Trends. In B. Cronin (Ed.), Annual Review of Information Science and Technology (Vol. 36, pp. 427-465). Medford, NJ: Information Today Inc./ASIST.
References
Kling, R., Rosenbaum, H., & Sawyer, S. (2005). Teaching Key Ideas of Social Informatics. In Understanding and Communicating Social Informatics: A Framework for Studying and Teaching the Human Contexts of Information and Communications Technologies (pp. 83-103). Medford, N.J.: Information Today Inc.

Markus, M. L., & Robey, D. (1988). Information Technology and Organizational Change: Conceptions of Causality in Theory and Research. Management Science, 34(5), 583-598.

Orlikowski, W. J., & Iacono, C. S. (2001). Research commentary: Desperately seeking “IT” in IT research – A call to theorizing the IT artifact. Information Systems Research, 12(2), 121.

Recent Posts

Hate to say I told you so.

As I’ve written multiple times (c.f., here, here, here, and here), the NCAA egregiously overstepped in its sanctions of Penn State to satisfy the personal ambitions of its repugnant leader Mark Emmert.  Mark Emmert dreamed of bigger things in his life, and the Penn State scandal was going to be the springboard by which he achieved his greater ambitions.

When the NCAA got hammered by the PA Commonwealth Court over the consent decree, it moved to have its own lawsuit dismissed.  As I said at the time:

The NCAA Is afraid of discovery and what it might reveal about their own internal processes leading up to the consent decree.  As the Ed O’Bannon trial showed us, the NCAA doesn’t do well on the stand.  Mark Emmert, in particular, is just plain awful and, as he was the driving force behind the consent decree, the organization has to be seriously worried about what he would say under questioning from Commonwealth attorneys.

And low and behold even the very beginnings of discovery reveal just how corrupt the NCAA’s entire approach the Sandusky charges was:

“Delicate issue, but how did PSU gain a competitive advantage by what happened?” Kevin Lennon, the NCAA vice president for academic and membership affairs, wrote July 14, 2012. “Even if discovered, reported, and actions taken immediately by the administration, not sure how this would have changed anything from a competitive advantage perspective.”

Julie Roe Lach, then the NCAA’s top enforcement officer, responded to Lennon about 75 minutes later. She told him that “Mark” — believed to be Emmert — thought Penn State did gain a competitive advantage, although she and several others disagreed with that point.

“I characterized our approach to PSU as a bluff when talking to Mark yesterday afternoon after the call,” she wrote.

Again, this from the documentary evidence that the NCAA was willing to release (they’re contesting much more).  What does it say in the e-mails they’re trying to hide?

Rod Erickson has said on record that PSU was threatened with the “death penalty” if they didn’t sign the consent decree.  Emmert denied the claim.  Who ya gonna believe?

The consent decree, and the NCAA’s days are numbered.

  1. Welcome to the club Clay! Comments Off
  2. Media Bias Comments Off
  3. Remedial math. Comments Off
  4. Where have all the good times gone? Comments Off