Learning about information technologies and social change: The contribution of social informatics 資訊社會學的貢獻


Kling, R. (2000). Learning about information technologies and social change: The contribution of social informatics. The Information Society, 16(3), 217–232.

1. Introduction

  1. 近年來社會受到新的資訊與通訊技術(information and communication technologies, ICTs)影響相當大,但是研究過於簡化與分散,讓一般人難以理解
  2. "Social informatics" is the new working name for the interdisciplinary study of the design, uses, and consequences of information technologies that takes into account their interaction with institutional and cultural contexts.

2. Early Research in Social Informatics: Alternatives to Deterministic Impact Studies早期的決定影響論研究

  1. Which will happen, X or Y?” “sometimes X, and sometimes Y. 有些辦事員經濟能力不高,但有些秘書經濟能力就很高
  2. 爭論 "Is it A or B?":科技造成組織集中,還是分散?
  3. 許多自稱科學家提倡決定論:” The Web means that the public will get better information than ever before.” 但是社會資訊學家抱持質疑觀點
  4. 社會資訊學家關注情境問題:"When will the Web enable the public to locate 'better information'? Under what conditions? For whom? For what?" 而這取代了傳統的決定論宣告研究

3. Some key Ideas of Social Informatics 社會資訊學的關鍵概念

3.1 Information Technologies as Socio-Technical Networks 研究角度的改變:資訊科技作為社會科技網路
  1. Socio-Technical Netowork的例子:local computing package 區域電腦套組
    • people in various roles and relationships with each other and with other system elements; 人們在不同人群與系統間有著各種角色與關係
    • hardware硬體 (computer mainframes, workstations, peripherals, telecommunications equipment);
    • software軟體 (operating systems, utilities and application programs); 
    • techniques 科技 (management science models, voting schemes);
    • support resources 技術支援 (training/support/help); and 
    • information structures 資訊架構 (content and content providers, rules/norms/regulations, such as those that authorize people to use systems and information in specific ways).
  2. During the course of conducting our research in the 1970s, we shifted from viewing ICT as "having impacts" to an appreciation that "the impacts" of ICT were socially shaped.
(我自己加的分類) Standard (Tool) Models
Socio-Technical Models
角度 ICT is a tool ICT is a socio-technical network
觀點 Business model is sufficient 運作模式 Ecological view is also needed 生態觀點
建置 One shot ICT implementation 一次建完 ICT implementations are an ongoing social process 持續建置
影響方式 Technological effects are direct and immediate 直接且即時的影響 Technological effects are indirect and involve different time scales 影響是間接的
政策 Politics are bad or irrelevant 不相干 Politics are central and even enabling 重要
獎勵 Incentives to change are unproblematic Incentives may require restructuring (and may be in conflict)
關係 Relationships are easily reformed Relationships are complex, negotiated, multivalent (including trust)
範圍 Social effects of ICT are big but isolated and benign 樂觀影響 Potentially enormous social repercussions from ICT (not just quality of worklife, it’s overall quality of life) 巨大影響
情境 Contexts are simple (a few key terms or demographics) Contexts are complex (matrices of businesses, services, people, technology history, location, etc.)
知識 Knowledge and Expertise are easily made explicit 容易外顯 Knowledge and Expertise are inherently tacit/implicit 內隱
支援 ICT Infrastructures are fully supportive 已有良好支援 Additional skill & work needed to make ICT work 仍須額外技能
  1. Socio-technical network應用的一種:” highly intertwined model”
    • technology-in-use and the social world are not seen as separate – they co-constitute each other.
    • 傳統觀點:"Indiana University is using web-boards to support class discussions when the participants are not in class together." 大學與班級是"social forms",而網頁公布欄是"information technologies"
    • In the highly intertwined model the web-boards could be examined to see how they are constituted as socio-technical networks.
      An organization such as Indiana University is composed not just of people in social relationships, but also of diverse technologies
3.2 Socio-technical Interaction Networks: The Vitality of Electronic Journals 電子期刊的社會科技互動網路


  1. Electronic Transactions on Artificial Intelligence (ETAI)
    • 兩階段處理:第一階段:開放到不同主題的公開線上討論區三個月,作者可以持續修改;第二階段,修改之後才進入同儕審查的期刊審核過程
    • 接受58篇稿件
    • 公開討論可以讓作者與讀者間有所互動,打響知名度;反之,如果作者無法勤於修改稿件,就會讓人覺得不太好意思。
  2. The Electronic Journal of Cognitive and Brain Sciences (EJCBS)
    • “an autonomous system”: 稿件放到公開同儕審查系統,讀者可以匿名發表意見以及「投票」給予分數,每月平均分數達到門檻以上就接受,否則退稿
    • 僅有6篇投稿,而且沒有接受稿件
    • 作者收到匿名讀者的投票與建議,但卻沒有互動討論的空間,無法保證作者能藉由EJCBS提高知名度。
  3. ICTs as tool: As technological systems, they are viewed only as collections of software, data (text, picture files, etc.), metadata (indices, etc.), and links that run on networked computers.
    ICTs as socio-technical interaction networks:


    • people in various roles and relationships with each other and with other system elements
    • support resources (training/support/help) 
    • information structures (content and content providers, and rules/norms/regulations, including those that authorize people to use systems and information in specific ways and those involving access controls) 
    • the networks' content for various constituencies, who is authorized to change the content, and how that matters
3.3 How Social Context Matters: Intranets in Action

Lotus Notes, a documentary support system, is superficially similar to an Internet-like system with bulletin boards, posting mechanisms, discussion groups, and electronic mail for organizations.

  1. Alpha Consulting’s tax consultants in Washington, D.C.: Lotus Notes allowed them to broadcast for visibility: it gave them the ability, in effect, to electronically publish their advice and make it quickly available to many of the consultants around the firm who wanted to read the Notes database.
  2. The senior line consultants often seemed uninterested in learning how to use Notes, readily gave up if they faced early frustrations with Notes, and as a group did not spend much time with it.
    Their ability to attract new business becomes more critical. Relatively few associates saw much value in Notes, and there were no exemplary demonstrations showing them how other successful line consultants used Notes.
  3. Ernst and Young (E&Y) designed a human organizational "intelligence system" for sharing insights, ideas and materials in specific topical areas. Lotus Notes served as an information support system – a medium for storing, organizing, and communicating these materials.

Our job as researchers is not simply to document the various consequences of computerization, but also to theorize about them.

  • Social context is characterized by particular incentive systems for using, organizing, and sharing information in different work groups and work roles.

3.4 A Socio-Technical Approach to ICT Infrastructures: Public Access to Information via the Internet

The numbers of people with Internet access continues to rise rapidly (NTIA, 1999)

  1. "Technological access" 科技取用能力 refers to the physical availability of suitable equipment, including computers of adequate speed and equipped with appropriate software for a given activity.
  2. "Social access" 社會取用能力 refers to know-how -- a mix of professional knowledge, economic resources, and technical skills -- for using technologies in ways that enhance professional practices and social life.

We believe that getting good social access to the Internet is likely to prove troublesome for many people, based on the findings of careful studies of computer and Internet use.

  • Using the Internet is too hard for many “ordinary people” (Kiesler, Kraut, Mukhopadhyay, Scherlis, 1997)
  • "We were wrong. Even after a year of experience with the Internet, participant's initial computer skill still constrained their Internet usage. This result held across different gender and age groups."

In fact, a recent large scale study reports a widening gap of Internet use within the US population (NTIA, 1999):

  • The gaps between White and Hispanic households, and between White and Black households, are now more than six percentage points larger than they were in 1994. 
  • The digital divides based on education and income level have also increased in the last year alone.

4. How Social Informatics Matters

  • We may be ignorant of the needless waste and human distress that improperly conceived ICTs may cause.
  • In this article I have identified a few key ideas that come from 25 years of systematic analytical and critical research about information technology and social life:
    • These analyses differ considerably from the traditional deterministic impact analyses.
    • Such analyses consider an array of relevant factors, including social, cultural, organizational, and other contextual components.
    • Work processes and practices need to be studied for how they are actually carried out.
    • ICTs are more usefully conceived as socio-technical networks than simply as "tools."


  • 非常複雜的大環境問題,而且難以理解。儘管我們都知道不能斷言各種現象的發生原因,而是要仔細去研究、調查各種起因,但是由於各種原因錯綜複雜,到底要怎麼研究起呢?
  • 在科技界常用「導入」一詞來探討科技技術導入企業組織的方法與成效。他們更注重科技的使用、訓練、支援與成果,非常科技導向。而此篇更注重的則是人與人之間的關係,很像是探討科技中社會網路互動的方式。
  • 如果太過擔心科技對於各種現象的影響,導致舉步維艱,那究竟算是好事還是壞事呢?任何事情之間應該要取得平衡,有時也要嘗試挑戰,同時也要有承擔風險的責任,但這平衡的標準究竟該如何訂定?這種決策層級的問題,學者會從社會資訊學研究的角度去看,但對決策執行者來說,應該還有更多政策層面的考量。

Rob Kling經典論文之一,國內「資訊社會學:一個社會與技術並重的觀點」也是在講述這篇。不過問題範圍層級比單純的圖書館業務或系統開發還要大上許多,不是很好理解喔。

總共2 則留言 ( 我要發問 , 隱藏留言 顯示留言 )

  1. “Whick will happen, X or Y?” “sometimes X, and sometimes Y.” 有些辦事員經濟能力不高,但有些秘書經濟能力就很高
    上面的which 打错了。


  2. To 1樓匿名: