This website is a hub for sociotechnical systems research and teaching. The site is sponsored by the Consortium for the Science of Sociotechnical Systems, and is a home for community building, resource-sharing, and expanding the breadth, depth, impact and visibility of sociotechnical systems scholarship.

Latest sociotechnical systems research

Crisis informatics—New data for extraordinary times


Leysia Palen
Kenneth M. Anderson

Crisis informatics is a multidisciplinary field combining computing and social science knowledge of disasters; its central tenet is that people use personal information and communication technology to respond to disaster in creative ways to cope with uncertainty. We study and develop computational support for collection and sociobehavioral analysis of online participation (i.e., tweets and Facebook posts) to address challenges in disaster warning, response, and recovery. Because such data are rarely tidy, we offer lessons—learned the hard way, as we have made every mistake described below—with respect to the opportunities and limitations of social media research on crisis events. Focus on behaviors, not on fetishizing social media tools Focus on behaviors, not on fetishizing social media tools

A scholarly divide: Social media, Big Data, and unattainable scholarship

First Monday

Asta Zelenkauskaite
Erik P. Bucy

Recent decades have witnessed an increased growth in data generated by information, communication, and technological systems, giving birth to the ‘Big Data’ paradigm. Despite the profusion of raw data being captured by social media platforms, Big Data require specialized skills to parse and analyze — and even with the requisite skills, social media data are not readily available to download. Thus, the Big Data paradigm has not produced a coincidental explosion of research opportunities for the typical scholar. The promising world of unprecedented precision and predictive accuracy that Big Data conjure remains out of reach for most communication and technology researchers, a problem that traditional platforms, namely mass media, did not present. In this paper, we evaluate the system architecture that supports the storage and retrieval of big social data, distinguishing between overt and covert data types, and how both the cost and control of social media data limit opportunities for research. Ultimately, we illuminate a curious but growing ‘scholarly divide’ between researchers with the technical know-how, funding, or institutional connections to extract big social data and the mass of researchers who merely hear big social data invoked as the latest, exciting trend in unattainable scholarship.

Research synthesis: Social media analyses for social measurement

Public Opinion Quarterly

Michael F. Schober
Josh Pasek
Lauren Guggenheim
Cliff Lampe
Frederick G. Conrad

Demonstrations that analyses of social media content can align with measurement from sample surveys have raised the question of whether survey research can be supplemented or even replaced with less costly and burdensome data mining of already-existing or “found” social media content. But just how trustworthy such measurement can be—say, to replace official statistics—is unknown. Survey researchers and data scientists approach key questions from starting assumptions and analytic traditions that differ on, for example, the need for representative samples drawn from frames that fully cover the population. New conversations between these scholarly communities are needed to understand the potential points of alignment and non-alignment. Across these approaches, there are major differences in (a) how participants (survey respondents and social media posters) understand the activity they are engaged in; (b) the nature of the data produced by survey responses and social media posts, and the inferences that are legitimate given the data; and (c) practical and ethical considerations surrounding the use of the data. Estimates are likely to align to differing degrees depending on the research topic and the populations under consideration, the particular features of the surveys and social media sites involved, and the analytic techniques for extracting opinions and experiences from social media. Traditional population coverage may not be required for social media content to effectively predict social phenomena to the extent that social media content distills or summarizes broader conversations that are also measured by surveys.

Creating knowledge within a team: a socio-technical interaction perspective

Knowledge Management Research & Practice

Jinwon Hong
One-Ki (Daniel) Lee
Woojong Suh

Creating knowledge within a team for developing new products and services is considered a primary means for improving organizational performance. Drawing upon the socio-technical perspective, we investigate the blended effects of social (learning culture, teamwork quality, and knowledge complexity) and technical (IT support) factors on team-level knowledge creation and team performance. We propose a model that features synergetic interactions between social and technical factors in this knowledge creation process. The model was tested by utilizing data from a field survey of industry managers. The results show significant interactions between social and technical factors, which influence team-level knowledge creation and, in turn, team performance. Our findings can be used to develop socio-technical initiatives to enhance the process of creating team-level knowledge within firms.

Navigating the transition to sustainable bioenergy in Sweden and Brazil: Lessons learned in a European and International context

Energy Research & Social Science

Semida Silveira
Francis X. Johnson

This paper uses a socio-technical approach to explore why the transition towards modern bioenergy has achieved success in some segments and/or countries but not in others. We reflect on the availability of initial socio-technical resources in the form of established platforms, policy motivations, and the roles of different stakeholders. We analyse how socio-technical networks evolved over time in response to enabling policies and interest groups as well as opposition groups in four different bioenergy segments: solid biomass for district heating in Sweden, charcoal for iron and steel industry in Brazil, and ethanol for transport in both countries. The Swedish and Brazilian experiences illustrate the importance of coordinating policies between local and national levels and across sectors in order to advance modern bioenergy platforms. The focus on Sweden—an EU and global bioenergy pioneer—along with Brazil—a recognised global biofuels leader—helps to illustrate the linkages to regional and global markets that are important for European energy transitions. The analysis also emphasizes the need to look beyond the energy sector, considering actors and stakeholders' interests at large, as well as broad boundaries for socio-technical regimes. Our analysis draws on the established literature concerning socio-technical transitions, innovation systems and systems approaches.

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