Results of Searches for ‘Social Technology’ Years Ago

This page is very old, and represents some attempt so locate online references to social technology not long after the web was created.

Creating this page it involved a lot of searching for key phrases and collecting interesting URLs.   Currently [i.e. in 1997] I use the AltaVista search engine and search for the quoted phrase “social technology”.  Not all search engines permit searching for quoted phrases, but if you just enter the two words you get millions of irrelevant matches: all the pages that contain one or both of the words, whether or not combined in a phrase.  Wading through search engine results is rather labour intensive, so if anybody knows of any good social technology references or URLs, please e-mail me at the address shown below —  I will be grateful for any help.

I am particularly interested in documents you can read online or download.

What does ‘Social Technology’ mean?

I’ve been using the phrase ‘social technology’ for 20 years or so in writing and conversation, to mean the technological or engineering counterpart to the social sciences. But who else uses it, and what do they mean by it?

Because the concept is quite central to my own views of society, I have been using Alta Vista to search for the quoted phrase “social technology” from time to time, partly out of curiosity, and partly to avoid a conflict of terminology.

Until recently the only other use of the phrase that I found was by a group in Finland, North Karelian Social Technology Development Project a project funded by the European Union and the Finnish government. They seem to use it to mean technological aids for the elderly and handicapped, from wheel-chairs to speaking and reading machines, but some other sub-projects seem to take a broader view of the phrase.

Now there are many more web pages that include the phrase, from which I’ve collected just a few examples and quotes:

There are few academic institutions using the phrase, but one is the Institute of Social Technology at Suranaree Technical University in Thailand, which includes a School of Information Technology and a School of Management Technology.

Scholars and academics using the phrase ‘social technology’ include:

  • Karin Bijsterveld, a historian at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, who describes her research focus as: the modern welfare state and social technology; the history of noise as a part of a technological culture; technology and gender.
  • Rein de Wilde, a philosopher at Maastricht, whose research focus is the history and theory of social technology; philosophical, literary, and technological images of the future; democracy and the politics of technology.

The most widely cited paper using the phrase ‘social technology’ in the title is Sproull, L. and Faraj, S. (1995). “Atheism, sex, and databases: The Net as a social technology.” In B. Kahin and J. Keller (Eds.), Public access to the Internet, published by MIT Press, from whom I’d like to quote —

People on the net should be thought of not only as solitary information processors but also as social beings. People are not only looking for information; they are also looking for affiliation, support and affirmation.  
If we view people as social actors, then we should view the net as a social technology. A social technology is one that makes it possible to find people with common interests, to talk with them and listen to them, and to sustain connections with them over time.

A more recent work that also uses the phrase in the title but takes a less favourable view of the Internet is Kraut,R. Lundmark, V. et al, “Internet Paradox: A Social Technology That Reduces Social Involvement and Psychological Well-Being?”, published in the September 1998 issue of the American Psychologist, which can be read online.

A professional futurist who often writes and speaks about social technology is Ian Pearson, futurist for British Telecommunications. His home page is here , and his work may be seen here , or downloaded from his home page.

Further notes and references, together will clickable links whenever I can find them will be added to this page.

Copyright © 1998 Douglas P. Wilson

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