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The Machine in the Ghost: a
Socio-Technical Approach to User-
Generated Content Research
Dr. Cliff Lampe
Dept. of Telecomm...
Overall narrative:
We need to combine the theories, techniques,
and passions of multiple fields to truly
understand (and po...
Clifford Arthur Cochise Lampe
 Researcher at Michigan
 State University
 PhD in Information from
 U of Michigan
 Studies
 ...
Cliff’s Biases
 One centric jerk
   U.S. Centric
   Social science centric
 Inductive-ish
 Practice-oriented research
   i...
Sociotechnical systems
Definition, examples, totally sweet diagrams
My boiled down definition
Sociotechnical system:
  The interrelated social and technical aspects of
  mediated interactions...
Technical               Social
              socio
            technical
Hardware               Usability            Groups



                                                                Orga...
Characteristics of
sociotechnical systems
Common characteristics
 Direct user-to-user interaction
 Mediation

Uncommon cha...
Some obvious examples of
 sociotechnical systems
Sociotechnical systems are
the interrelation between
technological and human
systems.
The science of
sociotechnical systems
Consistently multidisciplinary
  Leads to multiple methods, multiple theories
  Cons...
Some people who helped
me think about
sociotechnical systems
Lawrence Lessig
A Dot’s Life
Paul Resnick     Mark Ackerman    Gary and Judy Olson
Sociotechnical   Sociotechnical   Distance Matters
capital          ...
Judith Donath
“Signals in Social Supernets”
Barry Wellman
“Connecting Community: On- and Off-Line”

Jonathan Grudin
“Why g...
Popular press discussions
A sordid history
of sociotechnical systems
     I’ve researched
An even more sordid history
of sites I’ve been helping to create
The MSU-INgage Collaboration
Quick aside to reflect on my shame
 The following projects are
 built on proprietary
 software.
 That’s eating me up from
 ...
The Great Places Network
In development
Partners
   Michigan State University
   Cooperative Extension,
   The Land Policy...
Michigan Energy Efficiency Network
 In development
 Partners
    Michigan Dept of Energy, Labor and
    Economic Growth; Of...
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 ge...
Defining the success of STS

 System-internal metrics
   More common in the history of research in this area
   Focuses on ...
Example questions
What has been the wide-scale effect of Wikipedia
been? How much more do people know than they did
before...
The vitality of the online
system itself is no longer a
    sufficient outcome.
In other words:
Can STSs save the world?!
* p.s. Let’s hope so...
STS Researchers in Action
        Nathan Eagle
        Ultimately, our research agenda is to determine how we can use
    ...
So what’s the hold up?
Challenges to a sociotechnical perspective.
Social science vs. Computer science
The wisdom of XKCD
Social vs. Computer Scientists
 Social Scientists...     Computer Scientists...
   Are distant from        Are technologic...
Social scientists are
divorced from practice
 i.e. “useless”
 This was not always the case
   Social scientists of the 30s...
Computer scientists are
technological determinists.
 Technological determinism
   The idea that large historical/
   socio...
General challenges to
academic collaborations
Mixed incentives
  Journals or conferences? Books or patents?
(Un)shared voc...
But it’s even harder than that...
We also have to get the practitioners on board
The ecology of STS in action
 Who do we need to get real change from online
 interactions?
    Social and technology resea...
Researcher-Practitioner
Collaboration Challenges
Different cultures
  Includes different languages, relational norms,
  co...
How to encourage this approach
Ways to combine the efforts of researchers in
multiple fields, STS practitioners, and more
g...
Phenomena-based research
Phenomena-based research
Benefits
  Brings multiple perspectives to play
  Easier discovery process

Risks
  Generalizabili...
Workshops
Funding pressure to collaborate
 Existing opportunities
   Cross-disciplinary requirements in large grants
   Computing In...
Practitioners and researchers
making sweet STS love
 Practitioners
   Can help by making data and experience available
   ...
How to make it happen
Mixed events like WikiSym, CHI, other ACM conferences
  But how to get the core social sciences invo...
These collaborations are
difficult, but they will be
worth it.
Final Thoughts
Take-aways
  Combine social and
  technical approaches
  Combine efforts of
  researchers and
  practitione...
The machine in the ghost: a socio-technical perspective...
The machine in the ghost: a socio-technical perspective...
The machine in the ghost: a socio-technical perspective...
The machine in the ghost: a socio-technical perspective...
The machine in the ghost: a socio-technical perspective...
The machine in the ghost: a socio-technical perspective...
The machine in the ghost: a socio-technical perspective...
The machine in the ghost: a socio-technical perspective...
The machine in the ghost: a socio-technical perspective...
The machine in the ghost: a socio-technical perspective...
The machine in the ghost: a socio-technical perspective...
The machine in the ghost: a socio-technical perspective...
The machine in the ghost: a socio-technical perspective...
The machine in the ghost: a socio-technical perspective...
The machine in the ghost: a socio-technical perspective...
The machine in the ghost: a socio-technical perspective...
The machine in the ghost: a socio-technical perspective...
The machine in the ghost: a socio-technical perspective...
The machine in the ghost: a socio-technical perspective...
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The machine in the ghost: a socio-technical perspective...

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

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

  1. 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. 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. 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. 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. 5. Sociotechnical systems Definition, examples, totally sweet diagrams
  6. 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. 7. Technical Social socio technical
  8. 8. Hardware Usability Groups Organizations Applications Technical socio Social technical Society Openness Design Interpersonal
  9. 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. 10. Some obvious examples of sociotechnical systems
  11. 11. Sociotechnical systems are the interrelation between technological and human systems.
  12. 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. 13. Some people who helped me think about sociotechnical systems
  14. 14. Lawrence Lessig A Dot’s Life
  15. 15. Paul Resnick Mark Ackerman Gary and Judy Olson Sociotechnical Sociotechnical Distance Matters capital gap
  16. 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. 17. Popular press discussions
  18. 18. A sordid history of sociotechnical systems I’ve researched
  19. 19. An even more sordid history of sites I’ve been helping to create
  20. 20. The MSU-INgage Collaboration
  21. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 27. The vitality of the online system itself is no longer a sufficient outcome.
  28. 28. In other words: Can STSs save the world?! * p.s. Let’s hope so...
  29. 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. 30. So what’s the hold up? Challenges to a sociotechnical perspective.
  31. 31. Social science vs. Computer science
  32. 32. The wisdom of XKCD
  33. 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. 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. 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. 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. 37. But it’s even harder than that... We also have to get the practitioners on board
  38. 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. 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. 40. How to encourage this approach Ways to combine the efforts of researchers in multiple fields, STS practitioners, and more general audiences.
  41. 41. Phenomena-based research
  42. 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. 43. Workshops
  44. 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. 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. 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. 47. These collaborations are difficult, but they will be worth it.
  48. 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

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