Social Informatics Experience

Paper Submission and a Book Review

A few weeks ago I wrote "Writing is learning. Currently I'm working on a paper in social informatics. I hope I will meet the deadline." (15 Jun 2021 The Art of Case Study Research). I met the deadline and submitted the paper on Wednesday. Thanks to the opportunity to spend about ten days during the final sprint without appointments in other jobs and thanks to the literature I could build on (18 Jun 2021 Auf den Schultern von Riesen) - and - the most important at the end - thanks to Nastassia. She offered inspiring insights, questions and suggestions, as she did already for three of my manuscripts, two of them meanwhile published books. Nastassia is one of the best manuscript readers I know. There are several others, of course. Thank you all.


Now it is up to the reviewers, whether they will accept the paper and, if yes, what I will have to adapt. I'm looking forward to their comments. This is the second part of "writing is learning": the feedback of colleagues, with whom you do not work in other circumstances.


The paper

Social Informatics Experience:

Learning and teaching sociological basics in a technical context. A case study.


Abstract of the submitted Version of 2021, July 28:

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. At a university of applied sciences students attended a one-term seminar that consisted of eight two-day workshops. The students learned and used theories, concepts and methods of social informatics (SI) focusing on the sociological part of SI. The learning and teaching approach is based upon competency-based learning. It enables students to explore a certain field. This is implemented by means of organization development, project-based learning, agile learning and teaching plus blended learning. It empowers teacher and students to work together efficiently, effectively and with joy. To learn how and why this approach worked, an embedded two-case case study investigated the design, implementation and evaluation of the workshop-serials. Finally the paper describes impediments to the communication and understanding of the term and the field social informatics and sketches ideas how to deal with it concerning study programs and the value social informatics can contribute to challenges like a pandemia.



social informatics, socioinformatics, socio-informatics, project-based learning, continued multidisciplinary project-based learning (CM-PBL), competency-based learning (CBL), agile learning, blended learning, organization development, case study


Extended list of references, sorted by topic:

The paper will include the cited references in alphabetical order. The assorting by topic facilitated the work on the paper: .../resources/for-social-informatics/si-case-study-2021/


It was indeed a final sprint with so much material from literature and of course the case itself, respectively the two cases. It is an embedded two-case case study. 


A short introduction to case studies

The section "method" in the paper (Version 0.3, submitted on July 28, 2021) starts with the following two paragraphs: 


A case study takes place in the field. Field means to perform a study not in a laboratory but in the "real" world. A case is a defined unit, that can be explored and analysed. Case studies are used in education and research. In research the purpose of case studies is to gain insights, to understand, to develop theories, models, concepts and hypotheses and - depending on the design - to test a hypothesis. The case study approach uses especially qualitative research methods and in certain designs also quantitative methods (Scholz & Tietje, 2002, p. 14). The steps of a case study are to define the case and research questions, to sketch the research process and to perform the data collection, analysis and conclusion. The researcher can either be only an observer or both, researcher and participant. In the case study "Social Informatics Experience: Learning and teaching sociological basics in a technical context" the researcher is also a participant. She is the teacher. The students are in so far also researchers as this study follows Lewin's action research.


Case studies are performed to answer how- and why-questions (Stake, 1995, p. 1; Yin, 2018, p. 2). The dimension and classification of case studies can be described by the aspects design, motivation, epistemological status, purpose, data, format and synthesis (Scholz & Tietje, 2002, p. 10). There are four basic case study designs, that can be sketched on a 2x2-table (Yin, 2018, p. 48). One dimension is the number of cases: single or multiple. The other dimension is the number of analysed units. A holistic case study has one unit. If more than one unit in a case is analysed, it is an embedded case study.


Social Informatics and Science Fiction

The learning approach we, the students and the teacher, used in the social informatics workshop serials included the work with science fiction movies. The students had to see the movies and the group worked on several questions related to the movie. The movie dealt with topics of the particular workshop.

  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

In the book "Blackout" the IT specialist Piero Manzano tells himself, that when the blackout is over he will only see kitchy love films. I like for rest and relaxation science fiction and thriller about the world of "people and technology, especially IT and digitalization". 


Book: Blackout

One very good specimen is "Blackout" by Marc Elsberg (2021/2017). Black indeed. A group of anarchists paralyze the European power grid and non-atomic power stations. Because there is not enough diesel for the emergency generators or the generators are failing, several atomic power stations undergo nuclear accidents. Some have to release contaminated cooling water. At least two show a melt down, a core melt accident. Where? In the middle of Europe, for instance in France.


What at once fails is the fresh and waste water supply. This is more relevant than cold meals and rooms: thirst and the danger and coming true of infectious diseases and epidemics. Only a few days into the blackout quite a number of people become raiders and rapacious usurers. Plus what is anyway to expect: breakdown of the food supply, of the health care system, the communication, banks et cetera. On day seven of the European blackout the blackout in the United States follows. 


Viewed in this light a viral pandemic is just a Sunday stroll for wealthy countries with working electricity supplies.


The players in "Blackout" are the anarchists, electricity suppliers, government, public authorities, police, aid organizations, hospitals, media, many others and the two heroes, an IT specialist (he) and a journalist (she). The author is clever. These two do not become lovers, but of course there is another love story. And the author joins social (journalist, communication) and informatics (IT expert, technical skills).


The anarchists come from different political backgrounds, united by the conviction that only the destruction of the current system can induce another, better life for people. The anarchists are highly skilled in information technology and financially well equipped. And they take a long view in the realization of their project: years, large staff and a lot of money.


My high esteem goes to the experts and the administration and all the others in the organizations of the other players. They afford that such a complex and sensitive system as the electricity supply works 24/7. Every day, every night. They afford this although there are surely continued attacks on this system or parts of it.


Thank you. 



Christa Weßel - Sunday, 01 Aug 2021


Reading material

the extended list of references for the case study Social Informatics Experience



the books

Elsberg, M. Blackout – Morgen ist es zu spät. Blanvalet, 2012.

Elsberg, M. Blackout: Tomorrow Will Be Too Late. Soucebooks, 2017.


[CW 25 Jan 2022: article is published]

  • Weßel, C. (2021). Social Informatics Experience: A Case Study on Learning and Teaching Sociological Basics in a Technical Context. Acta Informatica Pragensia, 10(3), 211–235. https://doi.org/10.18267/j.aip.170


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