Social Informatics

How can we promote, learn, teach and use it?

To be able to play an active role in the design, creation and development of a networked society students, scholars and practitioners need basic knowledge in social informatics. Rob Kling, who founded the Center for Social Informatics at Indiana University, defined social informatics as "the body of research that examines the design, uses, and consequences of information and communication technologies in ways that take into account their interaction with institutional and cultural contexts." (Rob Kling 2000)


Social informatics deals among others with topics from sociology and psychology and from organizational development and learning theory in relation to technical and cultural contexts and developments.


Alas in Germany the term social informatics is not widely known

In Germany the topic "sociology and computer science" is part of many curricula in informatics. Seldom it is called social informatics. A title is for instance "information technology and society". Only a few universities offer a particular degree course, for instance the University of Kaiserlautern. Another approach is to focus in a study path on social informatics, for instance this is the case at the University of Applied Sciences Furtwangen in the bachelor course IT product management. Last summer and winter two workshop series on social informatics took place. Each series contained the two modules "Informatik im sozialen Kontext"  (information technology and its social context) und "Soziale Netze" (social networks).


Learn and teach the basics

The objective was to empower the students to use theories, concepts and methods from social informatics for their work as IT product managers. They shall be able to take social, political and technical preconditions into account and to be aware of the social and ecological responsibility of IT product managers.

As the technical aspects are object of other modules the workshops focused on the following topics:

  1. Getting started: Social net and electronic media
  2. Exploration and evaluation: What do the users need?
  3. Internationalization and globalization: Life is a net
  4. Product management and ethics: The art of balance between the technically feasible and social consequences
  5. Life world and work world:  In fact I live while I work
  6. Hackathon: Let's work ... and have fun
  7. Digital Dexterity and Internet of Things: About handling the new
  8. Synopsis: It's all about communication

The complete curriculum is available via (Wessel 2018).



Case-based, competency-oriented learning is a profound access to accomplish a high degree of social informatics dexterity (Wessel / Spreckelsen 2009). Thus the students worked on two proofs of performance from the first workshop on. In "social networks" they built teams of two or three students and wrote a paper concerning a small students' research project on topics such as smart city or digital dexterity. In "information technology and its social context" they created a portfolio that contained several reflexions on topics like "ethics and IT product management" and a description of the tasks the students worked on during the workshops.

The students presented their progress in each workshop and got feedback from their peers and from the teacher. 


The need to promote, learn and teach social informatics

The author would like to discuss with the audience how we as scholars, teachers and practitioners can promote the relevance and the contents of social informatics in education and our daily work.




Submitted on Feb 16, 2018 for the Weizenbaum Symposium: The Future of Work and Innovation in a Networked Society, taking place in Berlin on May 15, 2018.


Christa Weßel - Thursday, 16 Feb 2018


Wednesday, 28 March 2018 ... The Reviews

The program committee of the Weizenbaum Symposium sent the reviews six days ago. Once again I received profound and respectful feedback from colleagues. This is one reason why I enjoy being a reviewer myself at conferences and for journals. It is a continued give-and-take.

In the case of the Weizenbaum Symposium it is encouragement to continue with my work in social informatics: to research, to do and to teach it ... and to learn off course.

To offer you, the reader, an example, how reviews work and to store it for myself on my public desk (see the intro to my blog in German) here follows the e-mail with the three reviews.

I'm looking forward to the symposium in May and perhaps I will meet the anonymous reviewers.

Christa Weßel

(For more reflections on the reviews [in German] see the blog of today Sozioinformatik ... Auf einem guten Weg)

Von: WING-2018 <wing2018@easychair.org>
An: Christa Wessel <christa.wessel@hs-furtwangen.de>
Datum: 22. März 2018 um 18:56
Betreff: WING-2018 notification for paper 26

Dear Christa Wessel,

thank you for your understanding that we had to recess the final decisions on the admission / rejection of abstracts for the Weizenbaum Symposium. We regret to inform you that your submission was not selected for presentation at the Weizenbaum Symposium 2018:

Paper: 26
Title: Social informatics ... How can we promote, learn, teach and use it?

We received 51 valid submissions. We were able to accept only 19 of these, representing an acceptance rate of about 37%. Due to the limited number of available slots in the conference schedule, we unfortunately had to make very difficult decisions, and many worthy submissions were not accepted to the research track.

The program committee worked very hard to thoroughly review all the submitted papers and to provide action points to improve your paper. All papers were reviewed by at least two program committee members. The discussions were extensive, and a large number of submissions was discussed among the chairs and the PC.

We would like to thank you very much for your submission and hope that you will consider to submit to the next Weizenbaum Symposium. Of course you are invited you to take part in the symposium - registration will open next week (https://vernetzung-und-gesellschaft.de/symposium/).

Please find below the remarks and comments of the reviewers.

Best regards,

Manfred Hauswirth, Martin Krzywdzinski, Axel Metzger
PC Chairs

----------------------- REVIEW 1 ---------------------
TITLE: Social informatics ... How can we promote, learn, teach and use it?
AUTHORS: Christa Wessel

Relevancy: 4 (good)
Importance / implication: 4 (good)
Originality / innovation: 3 (fair)
Method / results: 3 (fair)
Structure / comprehensibility: 3 (fair)

----------- Overall evaluation -----------
While I agree to the view that the social implications of computer science and engineering are important, I wonder why the concepts by R. Kling are taken 1:1 (at least, it reads like that). For example, what about the localization of social implications for Europe and / or Germany?

Furthermore, I like to see a discussion on related work in other "hyphened computer science disciplines". Up to my best knowledge there are likewise very concrete approaches for understanding and teaching social implications from the various perspectives (such as legal, socio-economic, economic, communication, etc.)

----------------------- REVIEW 2 ---------------------
TITLE: Social informatics ... How can we promote, learn, teach and use it?
AUTHORS: Christa Wessel

Relevancy: 3 (fair)
Importance / implication: 4 (good)
Originality / innovation: 3 (fair)
Method / results: 5 (excellent)
Structure / comprehensibility: 4 (good)

----------- Overall evaluation -----------
The decline of interdisciplinary research programme called "Social Informatics" is indeed a pity. It is a challenge teaching it, for it requires not only a broad knowledge both in social sciences and informatics, but also in psychology, economics, and teachers even needs practical skills like programming. The described methods are very hands-on and include case studies and practical workshops. The talk will surely map the social informatics landscape and give advices to teachers in the audience. As a technician with a background in Socio-Informatics, I would like to hear this talk.

----------------------- REVIEW 3 ---------------------
TITLE: Social informatics ... How can we promote, learn, teach and use it?
AUTHORS: Christa Wessel

Relevancy: 4 (good)
Importance / implication: 4 (good)
Originality / innovation: 4 (good)
Method / results: 3 (fair)
Structure / comprehensibility: 3 (fair)

----------- Overall evaluation -----------
The abstract describes a need to promote social informatics in Germany and contains an overview of different study programs including social informatic contents.
The abstract also includes a part where the author presents her workshop topics in order to show how social informatics can be teached.

The author only presented one definition of social informatics. I suggest to include the range of topics that would be researched/teached under that umbrella term. Also, I would like the author to show differences to the traditional informatics curriculum.

What does "Alas in Germany" mean?

[CW: "Alas - In Germany the term ..." I forgot the "-"]