Important Note for Next Week

Next week we’ll be looking at the challenges to designing with the social in mind. Please note that we have swapped the two readings in the syllabus. The Ackerman reading is now assigned for Tuesday’s class, the Dourish reading for Thursday.


Add comment April 10th, 2008 judd

The Diffusion of Innovation (Week 7)

This week we are going to be focusing on the diffusion of innovations, with particular attention to the ways that this literature can inform the diffusion of information. The reading from Rogers is a classic, and is a great starting point for anyone who wants to understand the foundations of diffusion research. The reading from Geroski is especially relevant to us because it discusses how various models have been applied to the understanding of technology diffusion. Finally, on Thursday we will discuss a network approach to the diffusion of innovation by reading selected chapters from Valente’s dissertation on this topic. In each of these readings, we would like for you to focus on the arguments and assumptions in each model of diffusion. Our lectures will begin with a brief overview of the key concepts, but the majority of our time will be spent discussing the different assumptions, limitations and benefits of the various models of diffusion.

Add comment March 3rd, 2008 coye

Week 5 Readings: Social Networks, Social Structure, and Info Technology

Now that we have spent the first four weeks examining various overviews of research regarding the social issues of information, we are going to begin spending some quality time with specific research areas.  This week is all about the role of social networks and network structures, with a focus on how they apply to information and information technologies.  For Tuesday’s class we are reading one piece for a background in method and terminology (Wasserman and Faust).  The second article is a classic theoretical piece (Granovetter’s ‘Strenght of Weak Ties’) that has been used to legitimize just about every social networking site on the Internet.  We are going to get to the specifics of Granovetter’s argument and find out what the big deal is about these so-called ‘weak ties’. 

On Thursday we will read an article that describes another commonly used (and often misused) social networking concept: homophily.  McPherson, Smith-Lovin and Cook’s (2001) article is theoretically rigourous with excellent examples and supporting material.  We will talk about the major arguments in the article and then talk about how and why the principle of homophily is so important to those of us who care about issues like the adoption and use of information systems and technologies.

Add comment February 18th, 2008 coye

Some notes on Social Implications of the Internet (Readings for Week 3)

In week 3 we are going to start discussing specific research traditions, theories, and findings that help us make sense of the social implications of the Internet. Our Tuesday reading is an Annual Review piece by Paul DiMaggio, Eszter Hargattai, Russell Neuman and John Robinson. For many of you, this may be your first introduction to some social science concepts such as social capital, definitions of community, public-private distinctions, structural effects of technology, etc. This article is full of such terms– and part of what we are going to do in class on Tuesday is define and contextualize many of the key concepts that we want you to think more about in the coming weeks. Of course, we will also talk about the arguments in DiMaggio et al., and relate them to our discussion from the last two weeks.

While the Tuesday reading is a review of broader sociological issues and research surrounding the Internet, our Thursday reading is focused on some of the more micro-sociological implications of the Internet. In many ways this is a paper that tries to argue agains some of the most common beliefs about the Internet (i.e., that the Internet causes behavior; that identity and social interaction are somehow completely different on the Internet than in the ‘real’ world). We want you to think about the evidence that McKenna and Bargh present– do their arguments challenge any of your own assumptions about the interplay between the Internet and human behavior? As always, come prepared to discuss!

Add comment February 2nd, 2008 coye

Lessig Readings for Week 2

On Tuesday, Jan 29th we are going to discuss a few chapters from Lawrence Lessig’s book, “Code and other Laws of Cyberspace.” Lessig’s views have been an important part of the debates surrounding Internet copyright, IP, and privacy. It is also worth pointing out that Lessig writes in an incredibly accessible and engaging style. For the purposes of our course, we want you to read these chapters and think about the role that “code” plays in the social uses of the Internet and surrounding technologies. If you have any opinions at all about issues like open source software, net neutrality and/or digital surveillance, then you will likely find this reading quite interesting.

As Lessig argues, at opposite ends of the spectrum we can think of code as something that could enable perfect freedom, or at the other end—perfect regulation. Our goal will not be to debate copyright law and IP rights specifically (you will find that in our ischool law/policy course); rather, we want to talk about the relationship between the code and how it relates to users (and vice versa). To take it a step further, we then want to think about how this relationship might connect to the larger institutions that attempt to provide regulation and structure to digital information technologies.

Add comment January 26th, 2008 coye

More on the ‘Productivity Paradox’

A short follow-up to today’s great discussion. If you’re interested in learning a bit more about the so-called Productivity Paradox, check out this from the Communications of the ACM or this from the American Economic Review. Both, in their ways, point out how complex these issues are and how they are not nearly as unprecedented or surprising as we might think.

Also, one particularly interesting (IMHO) explanation for the paradox. Some of you may have heard of Edward Tufte, who wrote a couple of really great books on information vizualization. Tufte is on a mission against Powerpoint - I mean, the man hates it. Check out this Wired Mag. piece from a few years ago with the unambiguous title Powerpoint is Evil. He makes the point that practices around Powerpoint have evolved in ways that obscure information while giving it a sense of credibility because it adheres to a certain form. So, here we have an example of a piece of technology that might have increased productivity, but does not necessarily do so because its uses have evolved to suit other goals: status, power, authority. (i.e. people suck) But it’s an interesting example of the importance of social processes.

Add comment January 24th, 2008 judd

Welcome to i203!

Welcome to i203! Throughout the semester, Judd and I will be giving you a little bit of information about the readings for the coming week. For our first week, we are reading two chapters from Brown and Duguid’s ‘Social Life of Information’. These chapters offer an excellent introduction to the kinds of issues that we will explore in the course. Brown and Duguid offer a lot of excellent examples, so come prepared to discuss this text during our second day of class (thursday).

Add comment January 8th, 2008 coye


Time: Tues and Thurs, 12:30-2pm

Location: 202 South Hall

Instructor: Coye Cheshire
Office: 305A South Hall
Office Hours: Tu./Th. 4-5:30

GSI: Judd Antin
Office: 305A (or the PhD office)
Office Hours: TBD and by appt.