Document (#30057)

Editor
Huysman, M. u. V. Wulf
Title
Social capital and information technology
Imprint
Cambridge, MA : MIT Press
Year
2004
Pages
416 S
Isbn
0-262-08331-0
Footnote
Rez. in: JASIST 57(2006) no.5, S.723-724 (P. Galloway): "This collection consists of 14 chapters that bring together the two universes of discourse named in the title. Social Capital and Information Technology, under the editorship of a sociologist (Marleen Huysman) and a computer scientist (Volker Wulf) who had both begun to see the importance of social ties to the success of knowledge management/ knowledge sharing systems when they met and shared their interests. Its aim is chiefly to introduce the concept of social capital to information scientists and to demonstrate through a series of case studies how it can serve to explain the success or failure of information and communication technology systems, and even to assist in the building or improvement of such systems. Case studies range across many fields: KarEllen Bear Dog breeders' databases, multiple-sport athletes' newsgroups. a network supporting Iranian NGOs, B2B software for geographical business clusters, and after-.school computer labs for children. Of the papers gathered here most were presented at an Amsterdam workshop in 2002 focused on knowledge management and social capital, whereas a few others, concentrating more directly on societal issues, were invited by the editors to leaven the mix. The result is a readable collection that marks a promising hybrid direction in information research, still characterized by what the Editors term an "absolute lack of closure." The influence of knowledge management and informal learning threads is dominant, because the unit of analysis in all the studies is a definable user community. Examples all assume networked environ-ments and computer-mediated communication. though they do not always prove that such technologies are the best way to solve problems. The network, however, is the bridging metaphor between the social and the technological.
The book is divided into three sections reflecting three main streams of research. After a cogent general review of the literature by the editors, the first section. "Social Capital in Civic Engagement.. shows how information technologies can alter existing social contexts, sometimes reinforcing existing ties, sometimes discouraging others. In this section the standout essay by Anita Blanched examines a newsgroup for multiple-sport athletes and shows that much of the continuing effectiveness of their technology-mediated communication stems from face-to-face contacts. established by some of the members, whose effects enter recursively into the ongoing online community dialogue. The second section, "Social Capital in Knowledge Sharing," is strong on the knowledge management problem of knowledge sharing: how to get people together who need to exchange knowledge hut have no prior awareness of each other. Bart van den Hooff. Jan de Ridder. and Eline Aukema in "Exploring the Eagerness to Share Knowledge." offer the interesting finding that knowledge sharing may depend more significantly on the eagerness of some members of a network to share than on the more passive willingness to share. More abstractly but quite fundamentally for the hook. Huysman offers an essay making the case for social capital analysis as a prerequisite for system design. effectively articulating the often compartmentalized information technology. management. and individual learning issues in the knowledge sharing problem. The final section, "Applications of IT." focuses on established applications, most involved with informal learning. ... Nevertheless. there is much in the volume of interest to information systems designers and students of information science. The general emphasis on the social context of information systems as a major element in their effectiveness, although not stunningly new, is nevertheless usefully operationalized through the concept of social capital, and the wealth of examples and compendium of references brought together in this hook make it a useful tool for gaining access to the approach and the relevant literature."

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