Social and Professional Issues in Information Technology
Investigate Social Issue in Information Technology
From the pyramids of Egypt to the Internet of today, social synergy has been critical to
development of human civilized society for thousands of years. It is now also required
for socio-technical systems, information technologies that enable online communities.
Read the following paper on the social environment model:
Whitworth, B. and Sylla, C., A Social Environment Model of Socio-technical Performance,
International Journal for Networking and Virtual Organizations, Vol. 11, Number 12, p1-29 2012
It suggests why online communities flourish or fail, to improve socio-technical system
design and help developers. Key concepts are: system levels, social synergy, defection,
utility value, social failure, competence, cooperation, altruism, legitimate interactions,
community performance, social hijack, social dilemma, social health, technical vs.
social environment, freedom and social â€œgoodnessâ€
You have been asked to review technology support for synergy in three socio-technical
system applications within a genre, to help its designers. They should be relatively
recent and still developing, i.e. an online community has formed but is not yet
massive. Register your genre selection by sending an email to Brian, as each group
must investigate a different genre. Table 6 of the reference paper gives some options.
Your study will compare and contrast the applications and recommend changes. Base
your report on academic research and web data, not personal opinion. Reference all
sources. Any word-for-word sentences from other documents, whether online or not,
including the above paper, must be in quotes. Write the report in academic format, of
about ten pages not counting figures, as per the format outline below.
Summarize your report: explain the topic, a sentence say why it is important, summarize
what you found and give any conclusions or recommendations.
The introduction to our report (1-3 pages)
S2, SEAT – Page 1
What you write in this section defines the concepts used in the rest of the report. Donâ€™t
assume the reader has read the above paper. Define key ideas either in your own words
or by a quote from an academic paper.
Under an appropriate sub-heading, clarify the concept behind the term social synergy.
Give a definition, then describe a common example from the ordinary physical world
(not online), then describe a common example from the online world. Explain how
this concept relates to IT requirements analysis and design. Conclude by giving
software designers good reasons to understand and apply this concept in practice.
Repeat the above for four other terms from the main reference paper, each again under
an appropriate sub-heading.
[Main headings are TNR 14 Bold. Text is TNR 12, justified. Sub headings are TNR 12
Bold. Use sub-headings to break up the text and guide the reader. Give each a
meaningful name. A report’s heading structure is an important part of its quality.]
The main part of our report (3-6 text pages) Replace with meaningful words.
In this section, report the results of your web research on social synergy.
1. Describe your socio-technical genre, with a definition (quote a reference), a name
and links to least five well known examples. Do not be too general in your genre,
e.g. “information exchange systems” is too general. Possible examples include
social networks, social media, chats, twitters, discussion boards, wikis, online
games, social simulations, social bookmarkers, news and media sites, texting,
academic knowledge exchange sites, trading sites, job search sites, and others.
2. Analyse three different socio-technical applications in your genre. For each one:
a) Describe and link to the application, what users do, what the software does.
b) Competence. Describe the technology functions that alone (with no other user
input) increase individual user competence. Estimate the user benefit(s).
c) Synergy. Describe the technology functions that enable synergy gains between
community users. Cover both what users give and what they get in the synergy.
Estimate the community â€œuserâ€ benefits. Compare with b).
d) Defections. Describe defections that could destroy the synergy gains, i.e. how
can users â€œabuseâ€ the system? Be explicit on how exactly the defections harm
the community. How susceptible is the system to defections and how does it
defend its community? Describe the software functions that help this.
e) Social dilemma. Describe in non-technical terms a social dilemma that might
present to a user in this online community. Discuss the factors that affect how
they resolve it, both human and technical.
f) Social health. About how many users does this community have? About how
many of these contribute to its synergy? How many harm it? How many just
â€œlurkâ€ ? Estimate the social health as a % and justify your percentage.
g) Legitimacy rules. Name the social rules or â€œlawsâ€ the community espouses or
tries to follow to increase legitimate interactions. How does IT help here?
h) Screenshots. For each of a)-h) above, illustrate with at least one screenshot,
given as a numbered and titled Figure referenced in the text.
3. Summarize your findings in a numbered and titled Table referenced in the text.
Compare the applications on at least five key social requirements, including
synergy and defections, mentioned in your introduction.
4. Conclude with a list of main conclusions.
Discuss and recommend (1-4 pages)
1. Discuss your main conclusions, i.e. what do they mean in general? Are there any
big lessons here, for other socio-technical genres or physical society?
2. Suggest how IT system designers can design for community synergy in this genre:
a) Make at least five points, preferably more.
b) Be specific to the genre.
c) Be useful not vague, e.g. â€œIncrease synergyâ€ doesnâ€™t help.
d) Target your recommendations at IT software designers.
3. Recommend specific and feasible design improvements to each application based
on your suggestions, preferably with a screenshot.
S2, SEAT – Page 3
Personal report (1 page) Done individually.
Join and participate in any example of your genre that is of interest. Must not be the
same as another group member. List the actions you did to participate. In a page or
two, not counting any screen shots, summarize your experiences with reference to
your report. How did you feel towards the technology and the online community?
What features made you want to join or leave the community? Will you use it again?
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