Information Users and Society
Three hours of lecture per week. The impact of information and information systems, technology, practices, and artifacts on how people organize their work, interact, and understand experience. Social issues in information systems design and management: assessing user needs, involving users in system design, and understanding human-computer interaction and computer-mediated work and communication. Use of law and other policies to mediate the tension between free flow and constriction of information.
Designing and managing effective information systems requires an understanding of the circumstances of their use: real people use them for specific purposes under specific circumstances. Information systems (computer-based and traditional) both shape and are shaped by their users and their context. In the first half of this course, we consider the social nature of information and information systems, and their design and use as part of how people make sense out of their worlds, interact with one another, and coordinate action across time and space. We consider such issues as the social construction of information; knowledge communities (including organizations) and the collaborative nature of knowledge; the self and community in an electronic world; assessing user needs; involving users in system design; and issues in human-computer interaction, and computer-supported cooperative work.
Designing and managing effective information systems also requires having a larger understanding of law and policy issues arising from the uses of information. Sometimes these laws, especially intellectual property laws, provide important sources of protection against unauthorized uses or appropriations of information. Sometimes, as with state privacy and federal encryption regulations, the law places limits on what uses can be made of information or what kinds of security systems can be used to protect information. Sometimes, codes of conduct within an industry also constrain the freedom of firms to do whatever they want with information. Because information law and policy is evolving at a fairly rapid pace in response to new technologies, it is important to have a sense of some of the larger information policy debates going on at national and international levels, such as those requiring libraries to filter content and those concerning privacy, because what is a policy debate now may turn out to be a regulation or a broader rule at a later time. As information becomes the principal commodity of the information economy, traditional "freedom of information" policies need to be adjusted.
This course is required of all entering SIMS students and serves as an introduction to other courses in the curriculum treating these issues in greater depth.