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

There is something rotten in DC.

The U.S. Department of Justice has announced that they are investigating Penn State’s reporting of sexual assaults this week.  An announcement that curiously coincides with a presidential address on the subject.  Speaking of coincidences, it also happens to coincide with with an mid-term election year, an established political strategy (defending against the straw man “war on women”) and will appeal to one of President Obama’s key political demographics (young, college educated, women).  Indeed, there are so many coincidences that one is almost tempted to think that this is the kind of using government offices to serve the party machine of they type we see in, you know, Chicago.

Nothing to see here.  Just like the IRS targeting of conservative groups.

Beyond the political dubiousness of the whole thing, what stood out to me was the White House’s dubious claim that 1 in 5 women are victims of sexual assault on campus.  Let’s take that number at face value:  20% of all undergraduate and graduate women are sexually assaulted.

There are 44, 679 students enrolled at University Park alone.  Let’s make the reasonable assumption that national demographic patterns apply and the male to female ratio of students is 42.5%:57.5%.  That means there are 25,670 female students at Penn State; and thus, if the 1 in 5 number is accurate, 5,138 women are assaulted during their academic tenure (or approximately 1,284 per year if we assume four-year graduates).

Penn State, in the so-called huge spike in reported assaults, reported 56 last year.  Or, in other words, 97% of sexual assaults went unreported.

I think we can file the 1 in 5 number in the “If you like your plan you can keep it” file.

 

  1. “I ain’t no bandleader.” Comments Off
  2. Get a clue. Comments Off
  3. Rock and Roll Hoochie-Koo Leave a reply
  4. Mark Emmert – Asshat Leave a reply