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58221 Social Informatics

Warning: The information on this page is indicative. The subject outline for a particular semester, location and mode of offering is the authoritative source of all information about the subject for that offering. Required texts, recommended texts and references in particular are likely to change. Students will be provided with a subject outline once they enrol in the subject.

Subject handbook information prior to 2015 is available in the Archives.

UTS: Communication: IKM and Digital Studies
Credit points: 8 cp
Result type: Grade, no marks

Requisite(s): 58125 User Experience Design OR 58126 Information Discovery and Analysis OR 58127 Information Cultures
These requisites may not apply to students in certain courses. See access conditions.


This subject critically examines the interplay between society and technologies. Students develop an advanced understanding of the key social issues associated with the design, uses and consequences of information and communication technologies that takes into account human interaction with technology in a range of institutional and cultural contexts of development and deployment. The subject builds on understandings of the interpretation and representation of knowledge; how particular knowledges are privileged and translated; and the relationship between issues of access and power. Students develop critical analysis skills required to understand the dynamic nature of relationships affecting the transfer and use of knowledge and information in emerging social and technological contexts.

Teaching and learning strategies

This subject employs innovative and engaging teaching & learning activities in order to demonstrate core themes of the subject (e.g.: Social Informatics in practice) as well as to foster core graduate attributes (e.g.: collaboration and communication). Teaching and learning will be presented as an interactive process, combining a variety of face-to-face and online activities to provide a range of constructive learning activities integrating formal input, personal and professional experiences, discussion, reflection and action. Tutorials, assessments and take-home tasks are designed to promote informed discussion of key social issues associated with the design, uses and consequences of information and communication technologies. Active contribution at all stages of the program is valued and expected.

Learning will be enhanced by having opportunities to develop a range of intellectual abilities, such as analysing, synthesising, evaluating, critiquing and reflecting on ideas and viewpoints. Students will also actively engage with the literature of the field, both in preparation for and reflection of each session, and as part of the assessment process. In the assessed tasks, students will be expected to further develop their individual understanding of course content by examining literature in addition to references listed in this outline. Students are also expected to keep up-to-date on current debates surrounding course topics.

Collaboration and communication in face-to-face and online contexts are integral to success in this subject. Work associated with online collaboratories is integral to individual and collective learning in this subject. Peer learning is another critical component of this subject and group work will provide experience in participating in a team. During the entire semester, students need to be prepared to work in teams and be active in the collaboratories. Assignments will offer students an opportunity to evaluate the development of their collaboration and communication skills in relation to professional and theoretical literature.


This subject introduces students to a socio-technical framework for understanding the relationship between people, information and technology in past, present and future contexts. The subject’s content includes:

  • Concepts and issues of social informatics (e.g. Kling, Brown, Duguid, Bowker, Nardi, Turkle)
  • Interactions between people and information and communication technologies within institutional and cultural contexts, e.g. social shaping.
  • Exploration of the 'isms' of the relationship between the social and technology (determinism, luddism, utopianism/dystopianism, globalism, etc.)
  • Information and communication technologies (ICTs) and social change
  • Social issues in decision-making for implementing information technologies (including design and usability).
  • Ramifications of new technologies for work practices (e.g. workflows, invisible work, collaboratories, digital libraries)
  • The power, privilege and interpretation of knowledge vis à vis emerging technologies

Emerging technologies are both the subject matter and the teaching tools. Students will use alternative ways of working with technologies to engage in interactive, constructive learning and collaborative activities, integrating creative and analytical skills with academic and personal experiences.


Assessment task 1: Digital Scrapbook: Interrogating the Socio-Technical (Individual)


a, b and d

Weight: 40%
  • Depth and breadth of reading and investigation evident in various aspects of the scrapbook
  • Depth of analysis and reflection with regard to items selected for your collection
  • Depth of critical insight: evaluating ways theories and ideas introduced through lectures and readings relate to your personal collection included and analysed in your scrapbook
  • Imagination evident in the collecting and organising of the texts selected for the scrapbook
  • Quality of rationale for the organising and structuring of the scrapbook around clearly identified themes
  • Relevance of the texts collected to the identified themes
  • Thoroughness and accuracy in acknowledgement of sources
  • Thoroughness of synthesis of the key concepts of social informatics

Assessment task 2: Issues of Emerging Technologies Working in a 'Collaboratory' (Group and Individual)


a, b, c, d, e and f

Weight: 30%

1,500 words

  • Quality and consistency of participation in all collaboratories displayed in submission.
  • Evidence of teamwork
  • Depth of understanding and quality of critical reflection of the collaborative process.
  • Quality of critical evaluation of your own collaboration and communication practices in the collaboratories.
  • Depth of analysis of the theoretical underpinnings of the collaborative experience
  • Effectiveness of communication
  • Thoroughness and accuracy in acknowledgement of sources

Assessment task 3: Critical evaluation of an emerging technology (Individual task)


a, b, c and d

Weight: 30%

2,500 words or equivalent

  • Breadth of application of the literature associated with the emerging technology.
  • Clarity of communication with regard to structure, layout and stylistic consistency.
  • Depth of analysis with regard to the implications of a technology within particular contexts of use.
  • Depth of insight in relation to theories underpinning the acceptance or non-acceptance of ICTs and their evolution.
  • Imagination and projection of sociotechnical implications of implementing the technology under evaluation
  • Thoroughness and accuracy in acknowledgement of sources

Minimum requirements

Attendance at tutorials is important in this subject because it is based on a collaborative approach which involves essential workshopping and interchange of ideas with other students and the tutor. During the entire semester, students need to be prepared to work in teams and be active in the online spaces associated with assignment and tutorial activities. An attendance roll will be taken at each class. Where possible, students should advise the tutor in a timely manner if they are unable to attend.

Students who fail to attend 85% of classes will be refused to have their final assessment item assessed (see Rule 3.8).


  • Brown, B., Green, N. and Harper, R. (eds) 2001, Wireless World: Social and Interactional Aspects of the Mobile Age, Springer, London, UK.
  • Brown, J.S. and Duguid, P. 2000, The Social Life of Information, Harvard Business School Press, Boston, Mass.
  • Carroll, J. M., & Rosson, M. B. (2007). Participatory design in community informatics. Design Studies, 28(3), 243-261.
  • Buchanan, R. (1992). Wicked Problems in Design Thinking. Design Issues, 8(2), 5-21.
  • Brown, T. (2008). Design Thinking. Harvard Business Review.
  • Friedman, B., & Peter H. Kahn, J. (2003). Human values, ethics, and design. In A. J. Julie & S. Andrew (Eds.), The human-computer interaction handbook (pp. 1177-1201): L. Erlbaum Associates Inc.
  • Duguid, P. (2005). The Art of Knowing: Social and Tacit Dimensions of Knowledge and the Limits of the Community of Practice. The Information Society, 21(2), 109-118.
  • De Castell, S., & Jenson, J. (2003). OP-ED Serious play. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 35(6), 649-665.
  • Davenport, E. (2008). Social informatics and sociotechnical research: a view from the UK. Journal of Information Science, 34(4), 519-530.
  • Haraway, D. 1992, The promises of monsters: a regenerative politics for inappropriate/d others. In L. Grossberg & C. Nelson & P. A. Treichler (Eds.), Cultural Studies (pp. 295-337): Routledge.
  • Horton, K., & Davenport, E. 2005, Exploring sociotechnical interaction with Rob Kling: five “big” ideas. Information Technology & People, 18(1), 50-67
  • Katz, J.E. and Rice, R.E. 2002, Social Consequences of Internet Use: Access, Involvement and Interaction, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.
  • Kling, R. 2000, Learning about information technologies and social change: The contribution of social informatics. The Information Society, 16(3), 217-232.
  • Kling, R. 2001, Social Informatics, in Encyclopedia of Library and Information Science, eds A. Kent and H. Lancour, M. Dekker, New York.
  • Kling, R., Rosenbaum, H. & Sawyer, S. 2005, Understanding and Communicating Social Informatics: A framework for Studying and Teaching the Human Contexts of Information and Communication Technologies, Information Today, Medford, New Jersey.
  • Lalley, E., 2005, At home with information: the informatization of domestic life, in M. Consalvo & M. Allen (eds.) Internet Research Annual, Volume 2, Peter Lang, New York, pp 153-162.
  • Lamb, R., & Sawyer, S., 2005, On extending social informatics from a rich legacy of networks and conceptual resources. Information technology and people, 18(1), 9-20.
  • Mumford, E. (2000). A Socio-Technical Approach to Systems Design. Requirements Engineering, 5(2), 125-133
  • Nardi, B.A. and O'Day, V.L. 1999, Information Ecologies: Using Technology with Heart, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.
  • Nardi, B. A., Whittaker, S., & Schwarz, H. (2002). NetWORKers and their Activity in Intensional Networks. Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW), 11(1), 205-242.
  • Nardi, B. A., Miller, J. R., & Wright, D. J. (1998). Collaborative, programmable intelligent agents. Commun. ACM, 41(3), 96-104.
  • Sawyer, S. and Eschenfelder, K. R. 2002, Social Informatics: Perspectives, Examples and Trends, Annual Review of Information Science and Technology, vol. 36, pp. 427-465
  • Sawyer, S. and Rosenbaum, H. 2000, Social Informatics in the Information Sciences: Current Activities and Emerging Directions, Informing Science, vol. 3, no. 2. <>
  • Sawyer, S. & Tapia, A., 2006, Always articulating: theorizing on mobile and wireless technologies, Information Society, Vol 22, pp 311-323.
  • Schrage, Michael. 2000, The new economics of innovation (Chapter 1), in Serious play: how the world's best companies simulate to innovate, Cambridge,MA: Harvard Business School, pp.11-36.
  • Shneiderman, B. (2000). Designing trust into online experiences. Commun. ACM, 43(12), 57-59.
  • Shneiderman, B. (2000). Universal usability. Commun. ACM, 43(5), 84-91.
  • Turkle, S., & Papert, S. (1990). Epistemological Pluralism: Styles and Voices within the Computer Culture. Signs, 16(1), 128-157.