Finding a Research “Home” with #SocioTech at #iConf13

As a College of Information student, the learning technology department compliments a number of research areas emphasized within our iSchool and at the 2013 iConference. Andrew Miller (@findandrew), Leila Mills, Mark Evans and I proudly represented UNT as one of the 12 finalists for the Social Media Expo hosted by FUSE Labs of Microsoft Research at the iConference this year. After conducting our ethnographic study on the Denton Local Food System (LFS), we submitted a research paper, video, poster, and created an online space for the LFS community to share information, house knowledge and connect to local happenings within the community at FeedDenton.org.
#iConf13 Social Media Expo Finalists
  Social Media Expo poster @ 2013 iConference (#iConf13) with @findandrew

What I enjoyed most about attending the conference was the refreshing opportunities to engage about research methodology and conceptual frameworks that apply to my scholarly interests. It felt like I was coming “home” when talking shop with various academics and graduate students during the conference. The best part might have been the pre-conference session:  SocioTechnical Systems Research workshop (#CNFWSP2). This is where I was able to connect to other #sociotech researchers, and learn more about areas of inquiry coming out of the iSchools and various disciplines.

The pre-conference was a full day o’ fun that housed various speakers, discussions, and sharing of directions in socio-technical research, including

  • critical study and comparative study
  • considerations for multi-scale ethnographic research
  • artifacts that change communication in organizations
  • impacts of human and non-human delegation
  • shifts from visible to invisible networks (part of ANT)
  • organization as a constant communication
  • sustainable information practices
  • action-based research for informatic improvement
  • participation, community resilience, plurality, design

Later in the day, Steve Sawyer, conducted a master class to present various sociotechnical systems (STS) perspectives, which drew upon theories from Actor-Network to social construction. Everything is relational as new forms of social organization is occurring with new technical arrangements all around us. We talked about #sociotech in practice, specifically how to situate the phenomena (conceptual & empirical framing) and conceptualize sociotechnical systems (identify characteristics of the social, technical and interactions) by looking at this STS conceptual space mapping from Steve.

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This post is just the tip of the iceberg, as I have a number of notes, ideas, references, and research peers to turn to thanks to this workshop. I was not surprised to run into some of the #sociotech usual suspects in #iConf13 sessions such local communities, learning environments, or ethnographic studies of online communities. I appreciated the comments and dialogues brought to both the paper and notes sessions (I preferred the workshop space in the notes session better), and I am motivated to dig back into my own research and dissertation grind.

Want to read more about the 2013 iConference proceedings or connect to a few sociotechs? Here you go:

 

Reference:

Miller, A. J., Pasquini, L. A., Mills, L. A., & Evans, M. (2013). Towards a methodology of virtually augmenting a knowledge sharing community of practice: A case study of the local food system of Denton, Texas. iConference 2013 Proceedings (pp. 1095-1101). doi:10.9776/13527

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