iConference Workshop, 2014

This was the best attended workshop at the 2014 iConference in Berlin, featuring a broad array of participants and session leaders. It was a stimulating event, with many fascinating discussions and a sense of intellectual community building. Participants supported the idea of continuing the effort at future conferences, but we were unsuccessful in our primary aim of recruiting an organizing committee for a follow-up event at the 2015 iConference, where we had hoped to focus less on meta-questions and more on the presentation of research in specific areas of SSI. Plans for follow up efforts were also stymied by budget cuts at UWM, which have almost entirely eliminated travel funding. We hope to revive the effort in future, with the participation of colleagues from other institutions.


When and Where?

Tuesday, March 4, 9:30 AM- 5:30 PM, as part of the 2014 iConference at Humboldt University, Berlin. We will be in room 1.102.

Why Did I Never Hear About “Social Studies of Information” Before?

This full day workshop builds a new community of scholars interested in exploring the potential of the “Social Studies of Information” (SSI) as a meta-identity for information research informed by the humanities and social sciences.  We are inspired by the broad field of STS (for either “Science and Technology Studies” or “Science, Technology, and Society”). Calling this the “Social Studies of Information” acknowledges the shared object of study around which iSchools are built.

STS-influenced work within iSchools has been balkanized across a range of functional classifications and disciplinary identities, sometimes seen as marginal or esoteric. This includes much work in areas such as information policy, information ethics or philosophy of information, values in design, software studies, socio-technical systems, archival studies, information organization information systems, Kittlerian media studies, information history, community informatics, internet studies, and social informatics. SSI embraces the full range of information-related work, cultures, practices, and institutions rather than being focused exclusively on the use of information technology identities. We are not seeking to supplant the existing identities held by these scholars, but rather to create opportunities for them to discover common ground.

What Happens at The Workshop?

Note: we are coordinating our schedule with the organizers of the simultaneous workshop “Breaking Down and Building Up: Accelerating Sociotech Scholarship in the iSchool Community.” This is held in room 1.403 but we are aligning our coffee and lunch breaks to encourage discussion between participants in the two events and are holding a joint closing session so that participants can participate in a common discussion on the next steps for our community.

Session 1. Introduction and framing discussion. 9:30-10:50

a) Short address by Thomas Haigh (University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee) outlining the SSI concept and its relationship to science and technology studies (STS). (20 mins) <slides here>
b) Opening presentation by Caroline Haythornthwaite (University of British Columbia) on the place of STS scholarship in the iSchool environment (20 mins) <slides here>
c) Roundtable discussion. Thomas Haigh and Caroline Haythornthwaite will be joined by Alistair Black (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign), Jenna Hartel (University of Toronto), David Ribes (Georgetown University), Pnina Fichman (Indiana University, Bloomington). (40 mins)

(Coffee break 10:50-11:15)

Session 2. Community discussion. 11:15-12:30

Moderators: Maria Haigh (University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee), Anabel Quan-Haase (University of Western Ontario) & Jenna Hartel (U. of Toronto).

This is a Fishbowl session for participants to introduce their own SSI research interests by addressing the questions:

  • What ideas and techniques from your own research and teaching might be of interest to other scholarly communities within the broad field of SSI.
  • What areas of your own teaching and research might benefit from engagement with members of other scholarly communities within the broad field of SSI.

These questions ground discussion in the interests of participants, rather than the organizers. We will start with an invited subset of participants, who will be replaced with others as discussion progresses.

(Lunch 12:30 to 2:00. Bag lunches will be provided, and could be eaten in informal groups by participants from both workshops).

Session 3. Breakout sessions for small group discussion. 2:00-3:30

Each session to address
• What might members of this area gain from increased involvement with other STS-influenced areas of information studies under the umbrella of SSI?
• What particular skills, insights, or expertise do members of this community have that other areas of SSI might benefit from?

a. First set of groups. 2:00-2:45 Topics and moderators:

i. SSI and Information Science. Howard White (Drexel University), and Jenna Hartel (U. of Toronto)
ii. SSI and Information History. Alistair Black (University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign).
iii. SSI and Theory, Ethics & Philosophy. Lai Mai (University College, Dublin) & Lilly Nguyen (University of California, Irvine).

b. Second set of groups. 2:45 to 3:30. Topics and moderators:

i. SSI and Information Policy. Nadine Kozak (University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee) & Kristene Unsworth (Drexel University).
ii. SSI and Archival Studies. Anne Gilliland (UCLA) and Kelvin White (University of Oklahoma)
iii. SSI, Social Science and Social Informatics. Anabel Quan-Haase (University of Western Ontario) & Kalpana Shankar (University College, Dublin) & Howard Rosenbaum (Indiana University, Bloomington)

(Coffee break 3:30-4:00)

Session 4: Conclusions and further steps. 4:00-5:30.
(Joint with CSST iConference Workshop: Breaking Down and Building Up: Accelerating Sociotech Scholarship in the iSchool Community)

a. Roundtable discussion between one designated participant in each breakout group, reporting back on the key findings from earlier discussion. (35 mins)
b. Steven B. Sawyer (Syracuse University) will discuss the potential for aligning SSI with existing efforts by the Consortium for the Science of Sociotechnical Systems  (20 mins)
c. Closing discussion moderated by Nadine Kozak (University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee), Ingrid Erickson (Rutgers University) & Anabel Quan-Haase (University of Western Ontario), on next steps in building an SSI community. (30 mins)
d. Farewell remarks by Thomas Haigh (5 mins)

What Are the Goals and Outcomes?

Discover others with common interests and start to situate own topics and approaches within the broader context of SSI.

  • Lay the groundwork for further community building, and support ongoing initiatives based around the web domain socialstudiesof.info, including a discussion listserv, syllabus repository and membership directory.
  • Develop a suitable organizational structure to develop this online hub further and to enlist volunteers able to extend its presence into social media.
  • Build ties between related initiatives including SSI, the digitalSTS initiative, and the Consortium for the Science of Sociotechnical Systems.