Social Informatics

About the Program

Discover what makes particular technologies relevant to people’s lives.

Why is it that some organizations make a tool such as instant-messaging a vital part of daily operations, while others see little use in it? How do specific documentation practices change the type and value of information that is preserved? How do privacy concerns vary among particular groups, and what effect does this have on information security? Questions like these have important implications for technology design and use, and they are representative of the issues that social informaticists explore.

Social informatics is an interdisciplinary field dedicated to studying the design, uses, and effects of information technology. Using the methods of the anthropologist, historian, and psychologist, we explore how cultural and social contexts shape both how technologies are designed and how they are used. By investigating the complex relationship between people and technology from multiple perspectives, social informaticists ultimately help create technological systems that work better and more humanely.


The social informatics track of the Ph.D. in Informatics is designed both for students with a background in social sciences and an interest in computing, as well as computer scientists with a deep interest in its social and ethical implications. The curriculum integrates theory, reflective practice, and technical knowledge that ultimately prepare you to contribute to the design, implementation, and use of new technologies.

Our current areas of interest include:

  • Collaborative and community knowledge practices
  • Comparative methodologies for social informatics
  • Human-robot interaction
  • Information and communications technologies (ICTs) and development
  • Gender and technology
  • History of ICTs
  • Political dimensions of ICTs
  • Privacy and security in pervasive technologies (especially health-related applications)
  • Scientific work practices

One of our most exciting research areas is the Ethical Technology in the Homes of Seniors (ETHOS) group. Funded by the National Science Foundation, this project centers on the Living Lab, a historic Bloomington cottage where faculty and students explore how technology can be used to improve the health and security of seniors in a home-based environment.

Academic Bulletins

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