My introduction to Social Informatics has begun. Likewise, my venture into the blogging world begins. Although I have often read other people’s blogs, I had not yet stepped into the world of crafting my own blog until this assignment. What better place to begin, than with an exploration of Social Informatics. Information and communication technologies (ICTs) have become an important part of our daily lives. We communicate through email, texts, and social media applications. Use of the internet and social networks are an assumed function of everyday life. After examining several articles describing and defining Social Informatics, I have a clearer understanding of the concept. The information model (i-model), as described by Ping Zhang and Robert Benjamin in 2007, contains four fundamental concepts – information, technology, organization and society, and people. These four concepts, when surrounded by various contexts, represent today’s model of information society, which can be directly applied to social informatics.
Zhang & Benjamin’s Information model
The “information” section of this model pertains to processes usually discussed by information specialists, such as classification, categorization, or the lifecycle of information. Classification and categorization comes naturally to us at a young age. Humans intuitively want to “sort” information in order to make sense of it. However, with the advent of social media utilizing technology, new types of lifecycles in which information with social purposes needs to be considered, as traditional models of paper or other materials do not always apply to electronic technologies.
Technology, as demonstrated in this i-model, refers to the hardware, software, applications, or other infrastructure and services that operate as interfaces for information. ICT is central to fields such as information science, computer science, engineering, and telecommunications. The fundamental concept of people encompasses those who use ICTs, how they create, disseminate, or use information, as well as how they manage and influence ICTs.
For this i-model, organization and society consists of human gatherings, which may share various levels of values, beliefs, or other such processes. This is similar to Thomas Turino’s culture concept when examining music as social life. Turino stated that society consists of networks and institutions of existing social roles – that we belong to social groups, but we are part of society (2008). Cultural cohorts are social groupings that form based on shared habits and similarities of parts of one’s self (Turino, 2008). Although Turino was referring to music as social life, these same concepts can be applied to social media and subsequent groups. Indeed, social groups with similar interests have historically bonded together. The context has now shifted to included technology as a vehicle for the cultural cohorts.
These four fundamentals, when taken with various contexts, shape social informatics. The context attracts users, who are then defined by the social, cultural, and technological facets (Cole, 2006). Thus, SI is multi-disciplinary. Through the use of ICTs, social informatics identifies problems, and then studies the interaction of the issue within a social context (Sawyer & Rosenbaum, 2000). Computers, cell phones, and other ICTs are deeply embedded in our society, even on a global level. Technical changes have happened quickly, as have our adoptions of the technology – it is difficult to reflect back on the workplace or social networking before cell phones, texting and computers. It seems that our technology is outdated almost as soon as we receive it, resulting in constant changes of applications, platforms and other social tools. Thus, the field of social informatics is vitally important to research as we move forward in social computing.
Cole, F. (2006). Appreciating context in social informatics: From the outside in, and the inside out. Proceedings of ASIS&T Annual Meeting, Austin, TX, Social Informatics Workshop, November 3-8, 2006.
Sawyer, S., & Rosenbaum, H. (2000). Social informatics in the information sciences: Current activities and emerging directions. Informing Science, 3(2).
Turino, T. (2008). Music as social life: The politics of participation. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Zhang, P. & Benjamin, R. I. (2007). Understanding information related fields: A conceptual framework. Journal of the Amercian Society for Information Science and Technology, 58(13).