Analysis of Information Organizations
This course explores online organizations, social relationships and communication networks by using theories and methods from social science, information science and humanities, including organizational theory, the diffusion of innovation, social networks and network organizations, etc. Key components of the course include:
- Methods. The course will introduce some of the key social science methods for understanding the dynamics of online ecologies, including participant observation, interviewing, focus groups, etc.
- Practice. The course will look at the way software environments give structure to communication and social relations -- and vice versa -- and introduce concepts from social science and humanities that help to frame the broader theoretical issues. For example: New software ecologies such as Tribe or Friendster can be analyzed by using social network theory ('six degrees of separation') and information theories, such as the 'strength of weak ties.' E-mail has been analyzed using the theory of small group behavior. Organizational change after new information systems are introduced has been analyzed using the diffusion of innovation and structuration theories. The idea of 'network organizations' has been developing to describe new kinds of social organization that are neither markets nor firms.
- Theory. Key social theories about IT and organization will be covered, for example: Ev Rodgers' theory of the Diffusion of Innovation, small group behavior; Walter Powell's on networks, markets and network organizations; social network theory; the idea of structuration as a model of how IT changes organizations, etc.
- Design. The idea of "experience design" has evolved to connect social science to software and hardware design.
Course evaluation will include both exams and a research paper analyzing the social dynamics of an online ecology.