Social Informatics

Rob Kling’s (2005) proposed definition of social informatics states that it is the “interdisciplinary study of the design, uses, and consequences of information and communication technologies that takes into account their interaction with institutional and cultural contexts.” In other words, social informatics is a field of study where sociology, anthropology, technology, and information studies all combine. However, technology is shaped by society and society by technology, so I personally agree with the view that says that ICT are primarily social and not society-external factors (Cole 2006). So I don’t quite agree that the definition only involves the examination of “consequences” of technology when human technologies and societies are so tied up with each other. Sawyer and Rosenbaum (2000) state that the field, like human computer interaction and the like is defined by a unifying problem area rather than by a unifying theory and agree that society and technology shape each other. Zang and Benjamin‘s 2006 model showing the field as an intersection between technology, information, people, and society seems useful in accurately describing the boundaries of the field. I personally liked Shifman and Boxman-Shabtai’s 2013 article on how ethnic/racist humor can be propagated and mutated by information technology, and see it as a nice (if a bit depressing) example on how certain facets of culture can be drawn out or exaggerated by technology.

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