B  U  L  L  E  T  I  N

    of the American Society for Information Science and Technology         Vol. 31, No. 5        June/July 2005

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From the Editor’s Desktop

When I recently sent a plea to the Bulletin Advisory Board for possible topics, the one they most enthusiastically endorsed was social informatics. The excellent attendance at social informatics sessions at the 2004 Annual Meeting in Providence also indicates widespread interest.  But what is it? This plaintive cry came from a number of sources, so we are attempting to provide enlightenment.

Dave Penniman of the University at Buffalo agreed to put this issue together. He solicited excellent papers that range from general discussions of the field to examples of what social informaticians study, how they do it and what it all means to those of us involved in systems design, change management and other fields where we have the power to inflict technology on the unwary, albeit with the best of intentions.

Dave Penniman, Steve Sawyer and Alex Halavais tackle the field in general – the who, why and how of social informatics. Elisabeth Davenport looks at its application in the workplace, while Kristin Eschenfelder describes the findings of a case study that exemplifies the social aspects of the use of information and communications technologies. Specifically she and her colleagues explore why people continue to post DeCSS, a largely superceded program that broke the software-based protection system on commercial DVDs, on their websites.

An emerging subspecialty of social informatics is community informatics, in which researchers and practitioners single out the "community" as its unit of analysis.  In the next issue of the Bulletin, Ann Bishop and Chip Bruce will conclude our two-issue look at social informatics with an in-depth look at community informatics.

In other articles in this issue of the Bulletin, Andrew Dillon reports his impressions from the 6th IA Summit in Montreal, while our frequent contributor Lee Strickland – formerly the chief privacy officer for the CIA among other government posts and now a faculty member at University of Maryland College of Information Studies – contributes his perspective on the controversies surrounding the USA Patriot Act. While he focuses particularly on those authorizations that will expire at the end of 2005 unless they are renewed and on sections that affect libraries and other information providers, he also reviews key provisions that are not expiring and strategies that might provide better guarantees of protection against possible abuses of the act.

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