Social Informatics

or Information Technology and Society? A Search for Traces

The question "Social Informatics ... How can we promote, learn, teach and use it?" (Blog 16 Feb 2018) was the starting point for further questions. I looked for education programs and courses at universities, for scholars and their publications, for research institutes and conferences. And now there is enough reading material for the next weeks. I collected references and more in the section Ressourcen zur Sozio-Informatik - and decided to write about social informatics in my blog from now on in English.

Education, research and more

Interesting education programs and materials stem from Norway, South Africa, Slovenia, the United States and Germany. Research Institutes in Scotland, Germany, Russia, Italy and the Middle East show awareness for the leading question of social informatics: How do people handle technology? And how does technology deal with people? Scholars and - I hope - practitioners meet on conferences like the SocInfo2018 in September in St Petersburg. And most rewarding: I found people who address social informatics since decades, both as teachers and as researchers.

The need to find common sense

The pitfall is, that it is often not called social informatics. In Germany computer scientists speak about "Informatik und Gesellschaft", information technology and society. Since decades this topic is part of curricula in computer sciences. The 2000 and 2001 lecture topics of Professor Wolfgang Coy at the Humboldt University Berlin are a fine example. Imho the headlines are with minor adaptations still applicable in a today seminar on social informatics.

My travel through the world of social informatics and information technology and society inspired an assumption. Two major disciplines work on the question "How do people handle technology? And how does technology deal with people?" Sociologists and computer scientists. It is all to human to put the own focus in the front. So they talk about social informatics respectively information technology and society. During the last two decades social media, big data and artificial intelligence enhanced the field of research and development and more groups evolved, that work on topics related to social informatics.

So far so distracting. There is still the question "Social Informatics ... How can we promote, learn, teach and use it?" The need is clear. There is no way without informatics in our daily life and work. Thus digital dexterity has to be a topic already in schools and social informatics should be part of study programs in computer sciences, sociology, business administration and - as an example from Siegen University shows - media studies.

Thus this day and evening ends with a new question: What will enable that professionals with these diverse roots and activities work on the implementation of education programs concerning social informatics? In the era of multi-disciplinary work it should be easy.

One more point: The research during the recent months induced to expand the definition of social informatics by Rob Kling, I frequently cite. It is not just the research.


Social Informatics is ...

Social Informatics deals with the interrelationship of information- and communication technology and social change.

The task of social informatics is to support the design, the implementation and the maintenance of information systems for the benefit of individuals, groups and society, so that those, who develop, build, sell and maintain these systems, tailor technology to people and not inverse. To afford this social informatics builds upon disciplines like sociology, psychology, philosophy, anthropology, historical sciences, economics, law and - of course - computer sciences.

Especially the world wide web and the internet have a lasting effect on our daily life: Web 1.0 (static data presentation), Web 2.0 (the reader turns into player, for instance in social media), Web 3.0 (semantic) and the internet of things, internet 4.0.

Further readings

I collect references on education programs and courses at universities, scholars and their publications, research institutes, conferences and more in the section Ressourcen zur Sozio-Informatik. Books and its subsections contain my work so far.

Christa Weßel - Thursday, 17 May 2018

Blog section Sozioinformatik

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