INFOSYS 204: Information Users and Society
Fall, 2002

Midterm Paper

updated 9/18 - expected length approx. 6800-7500 words

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In this paper, you will synthesize many of the readings and concepts from this course by applying them to a case study of your own devising.

Take an instance of the introduction of, or a change in, information technology  in a particular setting and analyze it using the readings from this part of the course.   This might be an instance of fairly radical change.  It might, however, be a case where the expectation was that the change would be minor and easy, but turned out other than expected. 

The best case describes an actual innovation in a real setting with which you have experience or about which considerable information is available. You may also address a proposed or even hypothetical innovation, but such cases requires that you speculate about future events, whereas actual cases often reveal unexpected relationships.

You are to address the actual (planned and unplanned) and possible impact of the innovation on the group or organization, its work, how people do their work, and the people involved on many different levels, as well as social and organizational issues that interact with the innovation, short and long-term, including:

Orlikowski's 1996 paper is a good example. Remember that we are concerned with information and not just information technology, and with sociotechnical systems, not just technological impacts.

You may put yourself in the position of an advisor to the group or organization that adopted the technology and is wondering to what extent it succeeded or failed, and why. Alternatively, you could cast yourself an advisor to a group that is considering a similar innovation.  In both cases, your clients need to know  (1) what were the intended and unintended outcomes, positive and negative (or neutral), at many different levels;  (2) what conditions or processes may have contributed to these outcomes, and (3) based on this experience, what lessons can you draw, what recommendations would you make?

You are not to consider this case only from the perspective of the organization, the participants, or a specific client.  In this course we are also interested in longer-term, large-scale social implications.

This is not simply your opinion of what happened. The emphasis is on synthesis, reflection, and understanding of the topic from a sociotechnical perspective, grounded in the readings. The case that you choose should be rich and complex enough to encompass many of the topics that we have addressed.  I don't expect you to do much research, but I do expect you to substantiate your claims.  For example, if you are writing about an actual case, I expect concrete examples of the points that you are making, not just generalizations.

There are at least three ways to approach this assignment:

You MUST ground your analysis in more than one topic from this part of the course, with explicit references to readings from at least three different topics addressed in this part of the course. The idea is not to present a laundry list of topics and readings from the course, but to use the case as a basis for synthesizing as many topics addressed in the course as possible. The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate your mastery of the course readings as well as your ability to apply them to a new situation.

EXPECTED LENGTH : Approximately 6800-7500 words.

On or before Mon., Sept. 23  Turn in an abstract describing your proposed topic.  The more detail, the better, but a paragraph is enough. 
on or before Fri, Oct. 4
I will review and comment on any work in progress that you give me;  an outline, a draft, a set of questions...whatever you can provide. (The more people who take advantage of this, the more lead time I need. Earlier is better; whether I can accept papers later depends on how many I get.)
Tues, Oct. 15, 5 pm Papers due.  Late papers will be docked 1/2 grade for every 24 hours they are late.
Please submit both on paper and electronically.

(1) Turn hardcopy  into SIMS office and ask staff to date stamp them.

(2) Email me electronic version in Word with your name as the filename.

Early papers will be welcome!


Added Advice

A good paper tells a good story or makes a strong, clear argument rooted in and explicitly referencing the readings and concepts of the course. It should be clear that you have thought about the conjunction of your topic and the course contents. Your experience or case could also be used to refute or point out the limitations of some of the readings, to introduce some new perspective(s) not included in our readings -- you don't have to agree with or limit yourself to the course readings.

The major difficulties with earlier years' papers were largely of three sorts:

Other advice based on earlier years' papers: