Socially Robust and Enduring Computing

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= concept for a new Computing Regime proposed by David Hakken


David Hakken:

"many of computing's problems derive from failing to make CISs socially robust enough. That is, they don’t endure because of inadequate or improper attention to the social in one or more elements of the melange of design, implementation, and/or maintenance. This research suggests that greatly increasing their social robustness could mean significant improvement in how they work.

In our view, the failure to make computer-based information systems more socially robust and therefore more enduring is not a matter of oversight. Rather, it is connected to important aspects of how computing, in both disciplinary and “in practice” aspects, has come to be socially constructed. An almost exclusive focus on technical virtuosity, for example, has obscured the need for social virtuosity.

Given this professional history, computer-based information systems (CISs) will not become socially robust merely by recognizing that they are not and wishing them to become so;

- discussion of some recent forms of computing, notably Free/Libre and/or Open Source Software development projects, “Web 2.0” practices, and Participatory Design: We content that it is not enough, as systems in these forms do, to alternate some social with the predominantly technical moments. Even these quasi-socially robust forms of computing, while suggestive, remain insufficiently robust socially for reasons ultimately very similar to those hampering other CISs.

basic approaches to CISs need to be reconstructed if they are to become socially robust enough. To illustrate how this might be done, we present a conception of computing in which the social and the technical are effectively intercalated. This conception provides a vision powerful enough to base sufficiently socially robust computing. We draw on the Science, Technology, and Society literature to conceptualize a possible future relationship between social and the technical moments in these disciplines, that of “intercalation” [1]. In a state of intercalation, the various moments that make up a profession operate in mutual respect but often at some distance from each other. We argue that, as it would create enough conceptual space for more enduring information systems, intercalation of the social and the technical is the most plausible and yet still worthwhile condition for the computing disciplines to aim at" (iSchool poster proposal, 2010)