Info 296A

Social Informatics: Social Studies of Information Technology

2-4 units

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This course is not currently offered.

Course Description

In this seminar, we will look at some key approaches to the interaction between Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) and society. Our premise is that, to design and build effective information systems, we need to address both knowledge creation and use, and the relationship between technology and society, including the individual, disciplines, organizations, and groups and communities of various sorts.

We will draw on the field of STS — variously interpreted as Science, Technology, and Society, and Science and Technology Studies. STS addresses how science and technology shape society, and how society shapes science and technology. STS includes a diversity of fields, such as sociology, anthropology, history, philosophy, political science, economics, psychology, feminist studies, and cultural studies, as well as information studies.

Topics will include: knowledge creation and knowledge communities; how information systems both support knowledge communities, such as workgroups and disciplines, and cross the boundaries between them; the social construction of technology; practice, the dynamic activity of knowledge creation and use; representation, a key issue in STS (e.g. the use of texts and visualizations in scientific practice) and how it applies to information systems; social approaches to documents, and categorization and classification; and ethnographic research methods as applied to knowledge communities and information systems.

This seminar will be flexible, to accommodate the interests of participants. It is designed for students from SIMS, both Master's and Ph.D., as well as graduate students from other disciplines, and so will accommodate a diversity of experience and interests. It is expected that Master's students will be more interested in the implications for design and management of information systems, while Ph.D. students will be more concerned with more conceptual issues.

Possible readings:

  • Karin Knorr Cetina, Epistemic Cultures ; Lave and Wenger on communities of practice; Steve Shapin, A Social History of Truth;
  • MacKenzie and Wajcman, The Social Shaping of Technology;
  • Bijker, Hughes, and Pinch, The Social Construction of Technological Systems;
  • Lynch and Woolgar, Representation in Scientific Practice;
  • David Levy, Scrolling Forward;
  • Bowker and Star, Sorting Things Out: Classification and its Consequences;
  • Julian Orr, Talking About Machines.




Last updated:

January 10, 2017