Wow. It was over year and a half ago that I committed myself to writing a chapter for this and now it is finally published. As always there is an excitingly random selection of pages available on google book search. I don’t recommend you run out and buy it. At a staggering 1000+ pages it is longer than a Neil Stephenson epic and the Â£300 price tag is also a little steep.
Press Release for:
Whitworth, B., & DeMoor, A. (Eds.). (2009). Handbook of Research on Socio-Technical Design and Social Networking Systems. Hershey PA: Information Science Reference.
A state-of-the-art summary of knowledge in an evolving, multi-disciplinary field, distinctive in its depth and breadth of scholarship, variety of international authors, and combination of practical and theoretical views.
Socio-technical systems have both social and technical aspects. Examples include Wikipedia, e-mail, chat, text-messages, instant messages, social networks (Facebook), online learning (Moodle), job markets (Monster), blogs, twitter, social bookmarks (Digg), online multi-player games (World of Warcraft), online simulations (Second Life), bit-torrent media sharing, online voting, online news, reputation systems, recommender systems, collaborative writing, and many other forms. The socio-technical evolution has massively changed the Internet as we know it.
This book is a breakthrough. Not just social factors in technology settings, or the effect of technology on society, the Handbook of Socio-Technical Design goes a step further. It asks how social ideas can inspire new technology forms, and how technology can empower new social forms. While common approaches are social or technical, the socio-technical vision is that people and computers are more than people or computers. Social and technical are separate domains with different ideologies, but they must work together for higher performance synergies.
This book is multi-disciplinary. The socio-technical approach is not an easy path, as it needs people with both social and technical knowledge and skills. Yet it is the only way for society and technology to move forward successfully. A society that rejects technology will fall behind. A technology that ignores social values will run rampant. Only their combination can succeed.
This book is timely. The Internet was initially coded as a technical system. Today it is increasingly a social system. E-mail spam is what happens when technical systems ignore social needs â€“ in this case the right to privacy. The socio-technical gap, between what computers do and what society wants, is why some argue we need a new Internet, as this one is â€œbrokenâ€ (see www.nytimes.com).
We need to replace current technical designs by socio-technical designs.
This book is important. In the socio-technical vision, social values must enclose technical power. Just as atom bomb technology made us choose world peace over mutually assured destruction (MAD), so social applications ask us to choose social good. The Internet can be for freedom or state control, can benefit millions or cheat them. Unless social values like privacy and democracy are explicit, technology cannot support them online, where â€œcode is lawâ€. Technology advances force us to choose our future, and this book is about making informed choices in the new global information society.