Professor of Informatics
Director, Social Informatics Program
Adjunct Professor of Anthropology, IUB
Visiting University Fellow, University of Trento, Italy
- Ph.D. in Anthropology at The American University, Washington, DC, 1978
- M.A. in Anthropology at The University of Chicago, 1972
- A.B. in History at Stanford University, 1968
Courses Taught at SOIC
- I303 Organizational Informatics
- I399 Community Informatics (Spring 2015)
- I453 I453 Computer and Information Ethics
- I528 Participatory Design
- I609 Advanced Seminar I in Informatics
- I651 Ethnography of Information
I see the program I direct, that of Social Informatics (SI), as the study of what happens when digital technologies (DTs) are used by people. In addition to four grants from the US National Science Foundation, one from the Social Science Research Council, two from the Fulbright Program, and two from IUB, my SI research and consulting have also been funded by the New York State Technology Foundation, the Resource Center for Independent Living, and other not-for-profit organizations and public social services. While teaching Anthropology and Information Studies at the State University of New York Institute of Technology, I ran the Institute’s Policy Center. I am a past president of the Society for the Anthropology of Work of the American Anthropological Association, the first recipient of the AAA’s Textor Prize in Anticipatory Anthropology, and recipient of the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activities. Besides several scholarly and popular articles, I have written four books on computing and co-edited another. My most recent book, the second with Routledge Press, The Knowledge Landscapes of Cyberspace, was published in 2003. My next Routledge book, tentatively entitled, After Capital? Values, Commons, Computing, and the Search for a Viable Future,is coming out in 2015.
Trained originally as a cultural anthropologist, I have had a long career doing ethnographic fieldwork, both in cyberspace and in real life. My abiding concern has been the complex ways in which social change, culture, and digital technologies (DTs) like computing, co-construct each other; that is, both how DTs shape, and how they are shaped by, culture. To this end, I have studied worker education, public policy, and workplace use of information technology in Britain and the United States; software development in Britain, the Nordic countries, the US, and Malaysia; social service and technology (especially assistive technology for people with disabilities) in the US and Italy; and techno-science in US, Chinese and Malaysian scholarship and higher education. My ultimate teaching and research goal is to promote DTs that expand, not undermine, human capabilities, a goal embodied in a program to promote Socially Robust and Enduring Computing.
Current Research Activities
- Several projects involving Participatory Design (PD), including one on PD and Assistive Robot Technologies for Seniors, another on the Culture Problem in PD, a third on participatory maintenance, and a fourth on participatory technology use in the Trentino region of Italy;
- Other health-related projects, including one on use of health information in Sweden and the use of technology to support independent Senior living in Italy;
- A project on DTs and organizational theory, including the implications for organizing of alternative computing approaches like Free/Libre and Open Source;
- A project on the role of computing and implications for its future of its role in the partial up-scaling of social formation reproduction (“The Cultural Construction of Demi-globalism”) and in the recent economic crisis; and
- A project summing up what my study of computing and social change suggests for the construction of a future based more on commons than market devises, the subject of the 2015 Routledge book.
- Since arriving at IUB in 2004, I have gotten involved in: