Critical dons fire at IT

March 16, 2001

A workshop at the London School of Economics will question whether too many businesses are taking a narrow, simplistic view of information technology and ignoring its wider social dimensions.

The criticism is one theme being explored during a two-day workshop opening on Monday, which aims to review the limits of IT research and to point the way towards future study.

Academics from a range of disciplines are expected to attend "The Social Study of IT" event to discuss the implications for social sciences, ranging from international relations, philosophy and economics to public policy.

Claudio Ciborra, head of the LSE's information systems department, said the workshop would explore the boundaries of a subject that was often confined by outdated attitudes.

"Emphasising control of resources is a thing of the past, but managers still try to align IT to reinforce management strategy. To make sense of what is happening today, we must realise how knowledge is shared," he said.

Among the speakers will be Richard Boland, of Case Western University, Ohio. In "The everyday experience of virtual worlds", he will argue that virtual worlds, with their problems of communication and trust, are not so different from our everyday world.

This means people must be realistic in their expectations of technology designed to build communities, better organisations and more knowledgeable managers.

Professor Boland predicts that the vocabulary used in connection with information systems will change from one based on space, observing and decision-making to one based on time, narration and designing.

"We are heading towards a radical user-centred view in which the individual actor will be more potent in inventing the world they inhabit, but at the same time more isolated and alone," he said.

Bo Dahlbom, president of the Swedish Research Institute for IT and professor of informatics, will analyse the prospects for the network society. Speakers from LSE will include Carsten Sorensen on "Interaction overload".

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