Critical Professional Education about Information and Communications Technologies and Social Life

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Rob Kling Center for Social Informatics
Looking back over the 1990s, it is easy to see the widespread troubles of many ventures that depended upon advanced IT applications, including business process reengineering projects, enterprise systems, knowledge management projects, online distance education courses, and famously -- some of the dot-com businesses of the 1990s. These "troubles" vary from substantial underperformance (ie. projects that were much more costly and/or produced much less social or business value than most of the participating IT professionals anticipated) and many outright failures. Many of these 'troubles" could have been avoided (or at least ameliorated) if the participating IT professionals had much more reliable and critical understanding of the relationships between IT configurations, socio-technical interventions, social behavior of other participants in different roles, and the dynamics of organizational and social change. Social Informatics is the name for the field that studies and theorizes this topic, and I will discuss it in more detail below. The key issue addressed in this paper is who will produce social informatics research for IT professionals, and where will they learn about important findings, theories, design approaches, etc.? The paper examines the record of computer science in the U.S. as a major contributor to the relevant research and teaching. It also examines the possibilities for new kinds of academic programs -- sometimes called “information schools” and "IT Schools" -- that are being developed to expand beyond the self-imposed boundaries of computer science and to integrate some organizational and social research as sites for social informatics.
social informatics, ICT, computer science education, organizational informatics, information science, IT professionals, cultural models, IT discourses
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