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The machine in the ghost: a socio-technical perspective...


This is my keynote from the WikiSym 2010 meeting in Gdansk, Poland

This is my keynote from the WikiSym 2010 meeting in Gdansk, Poland

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  • 1. The Machine in the Ghost: a Socio-Technical Approach to User- Generated Content Research Dr. Cliff Lampe Dept. of Telecommunication, Information Studies and Media Michigan State University
  • 2. Overall narrative: We need to combine the theories, techniques, and passions of multiple fields to truly understand (and possibly affect) human interaction mediated by information and communication technology. We also need to engage practitioners.
  • 3. Clifford Arthur Cochise Lampe Researcher at Michigan State University PhD in Information from U of Michigan Studies Online communities, Social Media, socio-technical systems, blah, blah blah Human interaction mediated by Information and Communication Technology
  • 4. Cliff’s Biases One centric jerk U.S. Centric Social science centric Inductive-ish Practice-oriented research i.e. Technological Determinist MSU as a land grant
  • 5. Sociotechnical systems Definition, examples, totally sweet diagrams
  • 6. My boiled down definition Sociotechnical system: The interrelated social and technical aspects of mediated interactions But really: Don’t get hung up on the definition.
  • 7. Technical Social socio technical
  • 8. Hardware Usability Groups Organizations Applications Technical socio Social technical Society Openness Design Interpersonal
  • 9. Characteristics of sociotechnical systems Common characteristics Direct user-to-user interaction Mediation Uncommon characteristics Size of the social system Set of ICT tools Task being supported
  • 10. Some obvious examples of sociotechnical systems
  • 11. Sociotechnical systems are the interrelation between technological and human systems.
  • 12. The science of sociotechnical systems Consistently multidisciplinary Leads to multiple methods, multiple theories Consequently dominated by disciplines that “play ball” Hard to feed findings/results back into the main disciplines Hard to bring in new disciplines fully (i.e. the “sucking hind tit” problem)
  • 13. Some people who helped me think about sociotechnical systems
  • 14. Lawrence Lessig A Dot’s Life
  • 15. Paul Resnick Mark Ackerman Gary and Judy Olson Sociotechnical Sociotechnical Distance Matters capital gap
  • 16. Judith Donath “Signals in Social Supernets” Barry Wellman “Connecting Community: On- and Off-Line” Jonathan Grudin “Why groupware applications fail.” Joe Walther “Interpersonal effects in computer- mediated communication” Communitylab Bob Kraut, Sara Kiesler, Loren Terveen, John Riedl, Joe Konstan, Resnick: communitylab.org
  • 17. Popular press discussions
  • 18. A sordid history of sociotechnical systems I’ve researched
  • 19. An even more sordid history of sites I’ve been helping to create
  • 20. The MSU-INgage Collaboration
  • 21. Quick aside to reflect on my shame The following projects are built on proprietary software. That’s eating me up from the inside. My university president could care less. University = bureaucratic organization
  • 22. The Great Places Network In development Partners Michigan State University Cooperative Extension, The Land Policy Institute Economic development in Grand Rapids and the Great Lakes Bay region Goal Help local leaders and NGOs create and promote regional economic plans
  • 23. Michigan Energy Efficiency Network In development Partners Michigan Dept of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth; Office of the Governor, MI Depts of Information Technology, Education, Transportation, Wildlife and Natural Resources Goals Help anchor institutions in Michigan consume less energy, and save money on energy expenditures
  • 24. Recurring questions How do we get people to go to this site? How do we get people to participate on the site? How do we get them to do X because they were on the site?
  • 25. Defining the success of STS System-internal metrics More common in the history of research in this area Focuses on a rich set of possible interactions in the system Still needs much research on the intersection of social and technical systems System-external metrics An effect of the wide scale use of STS? Crazy hard to measure.
  • 26. Example questions What has been the wide-scale effect of Wikipedia been? How much more do people know than they did before the site came along? For the Michigan Energy Efficiency Network, how much energy is saved as a result of the system? How much money was saved? How many new jobs were created because of this effort? New jobs, more education, new grant money, less out- migration, better schools, more social capital, more voting, better decisions ETC ETC
  • 27. The vitality of the online system itself is no longer a sufficient outcome.
  • 28. In other words: Can STSs save the world?! * p.s. Let’s hope so...
  • 29. STS Researchers in Action Nathan Eagle Ultimately, our research agenda is to determine how we can use these insights to actively improve the lives of the billions of people who generate this data and the societies in which they live. Keith Hampton i-Neighbors.org: using ICT to connect support connections in local systems Kurt DeMaagd Solar-powered, Satellite internet workstations in rural Tanzania, with local copies of Wikipedia Reid Priedhorsky Using geo-wikis to create a community of cyclists in Minneapolis
  • 30. So what’s the hold up? Challenges to a sociotechnical perspective.
  • 31. Social science vs. Computer science
  • 32. The wisdom of XKCD
  • 33. Social vs. Computer Scientists Social Scientists... Computer Scientists... Are distant from Are technological practice determinists Don’t understand how Have no theories tech works Ignorant of applicable Can’t code social science Overly dependent on journals Sloppy methods
  • 34. Social scientists are divorced from practice i.e. “useless” This was not always the case Social scientists of the 30s and 40s were very interested in changing behavior through social science Lewin, Lippman, Festinger, Milgram Render unto the practitioner that which is the practitioner’s.
  • 35. Computer scientists are technological determinists. Technological determinism The idea that large historical/ sociological changes are caused by changes in technology The idea that you can cause change in social structures with a technological intervention Straw man argument Pretty much everyone agrees it’s a complex interaction
  • 36. General challenges to academic collaborations Mixed incentives Journals or conferences? Books or patents? (Un)shared vocabularies For terms, but also for methods, seminal work, theories, ground knowledge Competition for limited resources Who gets credit for what? Who manages the budgets? Are we helping them poach our turf? Few opportunities to interact Cocktail hours every term don’t cut it
  • 37. But it’s even harder than that... We also have to get the practitioners on board
  • 38. The ecology of STS in action Who do we need to get real change from online interactions? Social and technology researchers Practitioners Site designers entrepreneurs policy experts subject experts marketers/advertisers educators end users
  • 39. Researcher-Practitioner Collaboration Challenges Different cultures Includes different languages, relational norms, communication styles, etc. Different goals Are we doing research, or getting the project accomplished? What if you have to pick between the two? Unmatched incentives The sweet dangling hook of tenure vs. reputation or pay. Journal publications vs. active sites.
  • 40. How to encourage this approach Ways to combine the efforts of researchers in multiple fields, STS practitioners, and more general audiences.
  • 41. Phenomena-based research
  • 42. Phenomena-based research Benefits Brings multiple perspectives to play Easier discovery process Risks Generalizability Examples AoIR, CSCW, F/OSS, Communities and Technologies, FooCamp etc.
  • 43. Workshops
  • 44. Funding pressure to collaborate Existing opportunities Cross-disciplinary requirements in large grants Computing Innovation Fellows Program Supported Workshops e.g. Technology Mediated Social Participation Potential opportunities Paid academic internships But... Hard to do across borders Dominated by core disciplines/locations
  • 45. Practitioners and researchers making sweet STS love Practitioners Can help by making data and experience available Need to articulate their needs and interests Researchers Can help by explaining the interactions taking place in STSs Need to work harder to show the value of that work Examples of sort of success Sourceforge, Wikipedia, Twitter
  • 46. How to make it happen Mixed events like WikiSym, CHI, other ACM conferences But how to get the core social sciences involved? Sabbaticals Industry sabbaticals need to be rewarded in new ways Adjunct positions for practitioners Not just for teaching Funding for practitioner participation Need to be included in academic grants Specific project partnerships between the two not just talks in corporate settings, but actual problems to take on
  • 47. These collaborations are difficult, but they will be worth it.
  • 48. Final Thoughts Take-aways Combine social and technical approaches Combine efforts of researchers and practitioners Thanks! WikiSym, for the invitation, lampecli@msu.edu Phoebe Ayers for kicking twitter: @clifflampe ass